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Data Ambassadors
May 22, 2011 - 9:30pm

Regular readers of my contributions to this blog know I’m fiercely proud of the institution and role of the registrar in academia. I know the job has connotations of cranky women behind glass windows, churning out transcripts and denying students who try creative math with their degree requirements, but I see signs the role is changing.

Chuck Hurley, an Associate Registrar from Notre Dame sums it up nicely when he writes “The path [to becoming a successful Registrar] is to become an ambassador of data. One who collaboratively brings forward the fruit of student-faculty data thanks to a combined knowledge of records and information technology. These are people of strength who possess a comprehensive view of what it means to be a registrar.”

Like the evolving role of CIOs, registrars need to become more “Intelligence Officers” than merely concerned with the integrity of the academic record: “this CIO persona must improve business-user access to information. A key theme includes placing the right data to the right person at the right time on the right interface.” Replace “business-user” with faculty and/or dean, and that’s an accurate description of many registrars who welcome technology into their role.

The Registrar’s Office is often a nexus of information flowing from office to office, from student applications and admissions data to development and alumni relations. We interface with accrediting agencies, third parties such as the Clearinghouse, and are accountable to both student and academic reporting lines. I envision the Data Ambassador communicating the wealth of institutional data outwards into the parts of the university that could use clearer and more useful information to improve their portion of the strategic mission. I envision the Data Steward ensuring data are as accurate as possible. Recording grades becomes an analysis of grading patterns, which could evolve into a discussion about whether to record the average grade on the transcript (as the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill is exploring).

The above description could also describe the offices of Institutional Research, Information Technology, or even enrollment management - or in the case of the University of Nevada, a Provost-level position of a course concierge. Registrars can no longer hide between the tenets of FERPA and the narrow confines of the academic transcript. I know there are innovative individuals currently working cloud and mobile applications, which is a step towards meeting student expectations. But I want an attitude shift. I want Registrars to be the new uber-geek, like the new breed of information-savvy librarians with tattoos.

Hurley is right - the role of the Registrar has a “strong and influential history.” Like many other professions being transformed by the information age, registrars need to adapt and innovate, while staying true to the profession.

How would you like to see the registrar’s role change on your campus?

Heather Alderfer is one of the founding members of the editorial collective at University of Venus and is an Associate Registrar at Yale Law School.


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