In an effort to improve the delivery of educational services on campus, two of MIT's principal student and faculty services offices have been consolidated into a single entity.
At last week's faculty meeting, Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education Rosalind Williams announced the establishment of the Office of Academic Services, combining the resources and services of the former Registrar's Office and the office of Undergraduate Academic Affairs.
"These two areas have always collaborated very closely, and there was a lot of overlap in mission, so it made sense to bring them together in this way," she said. "In a similar fashion, we are also integrating the former Bursar's and Student Financial Aid offices into a single organization -- Financial Services."
In making her announcement, Dean Williams said the new Academic Services office is being headed up by co-directors Mary Callahan, former associate registrar, and Peggy Enders, who is also associate dean for curriculum support. The two directors, she said, in collaboration with Dean for Undergraduate Curriculum Kip Hodges and Director of Academic and Financial Services David Weber, will embark upon a highly collaborative process to ensure the support and integration, where appropriate, of existing academic services carried out by the Registrar's Office and the UAA.
In addition, this new unit will take on three major projects in the near term: developing a student advisory system that features a stronger integration of academic, personal, and career advising; establishing a coordinated, web-based system of academic information for students and faculty; and developing a faculty educational services center that centralizes and strengthens services in support of faculty teaching and advising.
Four distinct units of Academic Services have been identified as initial focal points for the work of the newly combined offices:
The Academic Resource Center (ARC), which places particular emphasis on freshman-focused services and activities, having responsibility for new-student orientation; freshman-advisor recruitment, training and management; and freshman-year programming in general. ARC staff will work closely with personnel in other offices -- both in central student services and in academic departments -- to develop programs that will be of service to all undergraduates and their advisors.
Major anchor programs in the ARC (in addition to first-year programming and support to IAP) currently include the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program and the Office of the Writing Requirement, both soon moving from Building 20 to Rm 7-103. The ARC's operations will complement existing processes within the new Student Services Center and build on its potential wherever possible.
The Academic Record Office, which will provide the services most commonly thought of as the business of the former Registrar's Office -- that is, services to undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff and alumni/ae around the student academic record, including registration, cross-registration, degree audits, grades, transfer credit, adding/dropping of subjects, tuition questions, transcript and certification requests by current and former students, graduation and diplomas, and WebSIS mail.
The Office of Faculty Support Services. This new office centralizes and strengthens services and tools that support faculty in teaching and advising, and focuses on efforts that help faculty participate in curriculum development and reform. In addition, this area aims to consolidate the knowledge and expertise of the people who provide staff support to the faculty committee structure, and to further the understanding and assessment of the MIT educational experience.
This office will include services such as student, class and exam scheduling, classroom maintenance and improvement, on-line class schedule/subject listings, the academic calendar, the Office of Educational Research, MIT subject evaluation, and support to the activities of the Teaching and Learning Laboratory (including the Classroom Videotape Consulting Program, term-time and IAP seminars on teaching, the new faculty orientation program, and educational innovation and assessment).
Academic Information and Communications. This area of Academic Services coordinates academic information in MIT publications and assures its integrity and consistency. Staff will work toward establishing a coordinated, web-based system of academic information for students and faculty. Current projects include the development of publications for Orientation '98 and a new academic guide for undergraduates and their advisors.
A major goal of all areas of Academic Services is to strengthen partnerships with other student- and faculty-oriented offices around MIT, and most especially with academic departments. Ms. Callahan and Dean Enders said the consolidation and reorganization will benefit the Institute by placing the staffs of previously disparate offices under one umbrella organization.
"In this new atmosphere, questions of how, where and when things are done at MIT will receive prompt, accurate responses by any staff member of any of the groups," said Ms. Callahan.
The locations of people and offices in the former Registrar's Office and UAA will begin to change over the next few months. In addition to the move of UROP and the Writing Requirement to Building 7, all personnel from the Registrar's Office in E19 will have moved by the end of the summer -- some to Building 11 in the new Academic Record Office and some to Building 7, where they will join colleagues from the former UAA to establish the new Faculty Services Office. Although the changes will likely cause some confusion initially, the impetus behind the consolidation is to make it simpler for students, faculty and staff to obtain information and services.
"It's clear to us that some faculty don't know where to go for the answer to a simple question, and students also have to run all over the Institute to get information about academic programs and policies," said Dean Enders. "We want things to be better than they are now."
"I'm extremely grateful to the leadership team of Academic Services [Ms. Callahan, Dean Enders, Dean Hodges and Mr. Weber], but also to the members of the former Registrar's Office and UAA who have been so willing not only to accept but to catalyze major changes in their work," Dean WIlliams said. "They have done so in a spirit of experimentation and cooperation that is truly admirable.
"The creation of this office builds upon the most important principles of student services reengineering: the need to look beyond organizational boundaries in order to find efficiencies; the understanding that reliable, easy-to-access information is a vital resource for us all; the constant, primary focus on the needs of students and faculty; and the need to develop measurements and feedback loops so we know we are fulfilling those needs. Academic Services and Financial Services will provide well-publicized, distinct doorways for students and faculty to access the services we already provide -- and I hope we will be able to develop more services that are well-tuned to student and faculty academic needs," Dean Williams said.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 25, 1998.