The Resilient Registrar

Can you resonate with this Registrar’s feelings?

I am wondering if you find that, as Registrar, the majority of your job is trouble shooting and being the “bad guy”? Does this cause you stress? If so, I wonder how you personally deal with it?

 The reason I ask is that lately I have been finding myself very short of patience and easily frustrated. I think this might be due to the fact that most of what I deal with during the day is problems. Also, I find myself having to keep everyone to the rules and confronting those who don’t follow policy – sometimes it feels like I’m banging the same drum all the time.

 Several veterans of the registrarial underworld were faced with this question recently, and graciously allowed me to share their responses with you. I will share them in a series of posts over the next few days.

The first responder, Glenn Keeler, has recently transitioned to be the Associate VP of Institutional Research at The King’s University in Edmonton. He has obviously thought carefully about this and helpfully numbered his thoughts here:

Ouch! I empathize with the writer.

It does often feel like a Registrar is called to be the “bad guy” or the one who is sweeping up after policy and process have been ignored, with the predictable crash resulting. So here are some scattered reflections on my 20 years of dealing with that.

  1. You can tell I am an administrator because I am numbering my points. Other people are not drawn to administration by personality or training or gifting or whatever else it is that leads us down this road. So the first lesson I had to learn was that my focus on, and I would even say my joy in, an ordered system that both guides and protects the students and the institution is not shared by all. For reasons that are opaque others will launch out to do something in (willful?) ignorance of policy and procedure, or perhaps even in defiance of it.It took me quite a while to just accept that there are some who approach the task of getting things done in the institution from a perspective that distains what I prize. The hard part about that lesson is that it sometimes feels like a personal rejection. And sometimes it is because people frequently don’t distinguish between policy and those charged to enforce it. Nonetheless, if I can separate the relationship from the conflict that helped me handle this fundamental personality distinction.
  2. Problem-solving is also a fundamental mindset that I find common to Registrars. I love problem-solving; tracing out the routes of why something is not working, and modifying it to create the best outcome for all involved is a fabulous feeling. My best interactions with faculty and students were always when they approached me at an early enough point that we were answering the question “how can we do what you want within the system?” instead of “now that it is really screwed up, how do we put the wheels back on?”The best I could do with the latter group is to attempt to look at it as a teaching moment on how to deal with the next case. And then your task is more than fixing the problem, but rather teaching students to deal with large complex systems (which many have never done before arriving at your institution) or shaping a relationship with other staff around helping them fix problems before they are a mess.
  3. Dealing with the personal impact of this does require at least one more thing. A lesson I am repeatedly learning (perhaps I am a slow learner on this) is that every day I have to do something to reconnect with my centre. That is, I need to be reminded that my identity, my core being, is not grounded in what I do or what happened today or the last conflict situation I faced. For me I need to be reminded of my identity being rooted in Christ. So the day’s events, while important and significant, do not materially affect who I am.I just finished reading Erica Ariel Fox’s book Winning from Within where she puts it just that way, but this idea is readily found in Scripture and the Christian tradition. I have a long commute, and on the best commutes I let go of the day’s struggles so that by the time I arrive home I have also arrived back at my centre. Other commutes are not quite so effective! But the intent is to take who I am to work, work in a way that is consistent with who I am, and then to take who I am home, instead of taking my work home.

Hopefully there is a helpful thought in there.

Glenn Keeler
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One thought on “The Resilient Registrar

  1. Thank you so much, Glenn, for this post. I have read and re-read it many times. It is a wonderful reminder to me about the important things. I very much appreciate the time you put into these thoughts and reflections. Thank you, Grant, for this series. This was very timely and much needed.

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