A Fit of Nostalgia

Je me souviens!

Here in Canada we’re in the throes of a federal election, and that brought to mind the motto of Quebec. Je me souviens is a reminder of our jobs as leaders. The historian, Pierre-Georges Roy interpreted the phrase “which says so eloquently in three words, the past as well as the present and the future of the only French province of the confederation” [emphasis mine].

I had a fit of nostalgia this morning when I was talking with a former employee. We got talking about how and why we used to do things in the Registrar’s Office and just how much things have changed. Let’s take a walk down memory lane. It’ll be a short walk, I promise.

When I started as a Registrar, we were doing registration on computers, but it was manually entered by staff who typed in all the course selections. We staggered registration by year (4th years got to go first) and by number of credit hours (if you had one course left to graduate, you were first in line). The first person you met checked your form to see if you’d filled it out correctly, with no conflicts. If you’d filled it out incorrectly, it was back of the line for you! If all was well, you gained the privilege of standing in a second line to see a staff person who would take your form and type in your course selections into the legacy program we used as a database. If there was space left in your courses, you were good to go to the next line up to pay. If a course was full, and you had a back-up course already chosen, we would deal with it right then. If it was complicated and you didn’t know what to do, it was back of the line for you (again)! Usually things went well until about the middle of second year students. Then courses would fill up and life would get complicated and tough choices would have to be made. Staff were usually tired and a little bored/frustrated with having to answer the same question again and again. Students were sometimes in tears.

Students didn’t like it. Staff didn’t like it. I didn’t like it. Nobody liked it! Ahh, the good ol’ days, right? There were probably good reasons for doing things the way we did, but they’d clearly outlived their value, and we’d forgotten why.

So there was impetus to change. And the new-fangled contraption called the internet seems to have served us well with web-registration.

If you were to look back to that change in your institution (I assume you’re in the 21st century, yes?), what harbingers of change did you see? What caused people to choose to develop web registration? What frustrations were there? What dehumanizing processes did you use? Why did you change things?

Now, look at your current processes and systems and ask yourself the same questions. Why do you do what you do?

And don’t forget to look to the future. What’s coming that could change things up for you and give you a whole new level of insight/oversight/service/growth? Can you avoid the inevitable slide to “the good ol’ days”?

(And if you’re Canadian, VOTE!)

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2 thoughts on “A Fit of Nostalgia

  1. Oh the good old days! A thick volume to search through to plan your course schedule. Entire days spent running around UBC campus, lining up at every prof’s desk to see if there was still room, and collecting a computer punch card if there was. Then lining up for an eternity at the registrar’s office to turn them in and write a cheque. And then the longest line up of all, to buy textbooks. Would not go back to those good old days for anything!

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    1. I’d forgotten about the line-up to buy textbooks! Thanks for bringing back the bad memories 😉 It’s a little like listening to Archie Bunker and wife singing “Those Were the Days!” No, they weren’t… But hopefully we can learn from the past.

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