The Strategically Placed Registrar
In my opinion, the Registrar’s Office is a unique and necessary office in the life of a college or university. Our office has the ability to see the inner and outer workings of the institution at the same time, and has a rare perspective as a result.
As students approach graduation, our office completes what we call “Degree Audits”, which basically means we look at how a student’s courses apply towards a degree. We take the degree requirements and the student’s transcript, and try to fill in all the degree requirements with the courses on the transcript. It is our office’s responsibility to issue the degree parchment, and as a result, when it comes to degree audits, our office is THE FINAL AUTHORITY! [Did you hear that booming voice too?]
Sure, it’s stressful. Yes, we have parents phone to yell at us about how mean we are for not letting Johnny or Sue graduate. Like you, we work long hours trying to make sense of what students are doing. We end up having to phone department chairs and deans for clarification of academic policy when we’d much rather have lunch. I don’t know about you, but I find it too easy to get mired in the minutiae. It takes a lot of energy to ignore the pressing throngs (emails, phone calls, walk-ins, etc.) for a few minutes and reflect on the opportunity this brings.
No, I don’t mean the opportunity to go on stress leave! I mean the opportunity to see trends and give feedback to departments, schools, and faculties.
One thing I’ve noticed is how ridiculously complicated our programs are. We have staff who do degree audits all year ‘round and are considered experts at their job, yet it still takes 20 minutes with a program checklist, a transcript and an academic calendar (or catalogue for you US readers) in hand to complete one audit on one student. And we’re supposed to be a Liberal Arts university! This is the time it takes an expert to do the job. Can you imagine how difficult it is for students to figure out how to graduate?
When things get this complicated and stressful, it’s time for me to climb the tallest tree and spy out the direction we should be going.
Fortunately, I’m linked in to the important decision-makers through various councils and committees. I am building my case, and will make a presentation soon. I’ll have plenty of examples and some pointed challenges to make. I will ask for action to be taken to make programs less complex, more open to choice, less rules-based, more learner-centric.
Yes, I know there are more degree audits to be done. Yes, the message light on my phone is still blinking. Yes, I know the emails are stacking up so high I have to scroll and scroll and scroll. Yes, your needs are urgent too. But if you don’t take advantage of your strategic placement, you’ll be in this thick forest the rest of your life.
Got your climbing spurs on and rope in hand? Find a tall tree, quick! Your life and career depend on it.