Dazed and Confused in the Registrar’s Office

(Thanks to Stefanie Ivan at Grant MacEwan University for sending me the inspiration for this post)

“My university has a large number of registrars. While there is one main person who is in charge of everyone, it can be very confusing to go into the registrar’s office. There are so many people in the office and it can be difficult to figure out who can help with what sort of problem.”

Do you remember your first day of being a student at university? Mine was in 1987, and it was a bit of a blur. First, we couldn’t figure out where were allowed to park on Ring Road (oh, did I just give away where I went?). After driving five times around the circle we went back out of the university grounds and parked on a nearby street and walked. Then we found line-ups in which to stand while hoping we were in the right place. I hated it and vowed never to return to the Registrar’s Office. Unfortunately, I had to replay that scenario once a year until I graduated, but I vowed that it would never be more than once per year if I could help it.

One of the hazards of working in the Registrar’s Office for any length of time is that we can become conditioned to the environment and forget what it’s like to be a student. I walk into my office these days and it feels a bit like home. It’s comfortable; I know exactly where to go to get an answer or a service; it’s second nature to me. But then, I’ve been a Registrar for 16 years – I’ve put my less-than-good student experiences behind me.

One of the hazards of being a student is that they are not yet conditioned to university life. When they need help, or need to access our services, they WILL feel like that student in the quote above.

So how to go about changing things?

  • You may not be able to change your building space, but then again, maybe you can. Is it worth asking?
  • Would you, in the interest of improving your service, consider hiring a secret shopper?
  • What about holding a focus group of freshmen students to give you feedback on their experience with your office?
  • Do you have a business program on your campus? I’ll bet there would be some eager students and faculty willing to help.
  • When you need to access a service in a busy environment, what do you appreciate most?

It’s one thing to have others in the business do an external review of your shop. It’s another thing altogether to have someone who doesn’t know you from Adam to do a review. I dare say their experiences and advice would be quite different.

What have we done? We have a receptionist for the building right at the front entrance. Wendy is well-known around campus and she is quite good at greeting and directing people who come into our office. Then we’ve established an open-office area with front-line staff who work at their stations out in the open. They greet students as they come in. We also have a designated assistant who watches for when there are line-ups. He goes out to the line-up and asks students what they need. Many times they’re standing in the queue because they think they should (I would have too), but they need something else altogether. He gets them forms or points them to the computer kiosks for web-services, or what have you. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start.

What about you? What service ideas do you have? Share! Leave a comment.




2 thoughts on “Dazed and Confused in the Registrar’s Office

  1. I have experienced Wendy as I came in and this is a great idea not only for students but for anyone entering the university. You are not left wondering “where do I go from here” and being frustrated as you wait in line ups.


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