Quality Endeavors Issue No. 125

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January 2010

Each year, the Office of Planning and Institutional Assessment contacts teams that worked on quality improvement during the past several years to find out some of the outcomes of the team’s work. This article highlights the work of three of these teams and describes some outcomes from their efforts.

The Behrend CQI Team for the Incomplete Registration Process met in spring 2008 to streamline processes Members of the Behrend CQI Team

David Christiansen, Sponsor
Bob Light, Leader/Facilitator
Mary Ellen Bayuk, Member
Jane Brady, Member
Biddy Brooks, Member
Tracy Claybaugh, Member
Randy Geering, Member
Kathy Noce, Member
Laura Plocido, Member
so that students could register more quickly. Team members represented many of the offices and departments which influenced or were impacted by incomplete registrations, areas such as housing, the controller’s office, the registrar’s office, admissions, financial aid, the adult learner center, and student affairs.

One method the team used to analyze the processes related to student registration was process mapping. Four processes were mapped: the admission and registration process, the financial aid process, the tuition reimbursement process and the housing process. Once the team members had documented and understood the steps in each process, they looked for ways to improve each process and came up with twenty-six recommendations.

The team found that informing and communicating with both parents and students was a central issue in improving the registration process. Another important issue centered on the availability of correct, up-to-date information when dealing with the students. For example, accurate information was significant for housing since they distribute information and process students on move-in day.

A number of the original recommendations have been completed. Some of these were easy to implement. Strategies such as the following were implemented within the first year:

  • including a post card explaining online access to semester bills, Bursar accounts, Hope/Lifetime tax credits and Plus Loan information in the folder which parents receive at FTCAP
  • asking faculty to inform the Registrar about students on their class lists who have never attended
  • asking the faculty not to add students to ANGEL who are not on their class lists
  • printing and mailing bills to students who are not joined to email.

The set of initial recommendations is updated on a regular basis to keep it current with changes in procedure or policy. The list has expanded to thirty-one recommendations which will help to ease the registration process for students. Some of the recently added recommendations involve such strategies as reviewing the billing process for non-Penn State summer students, and looking at students who pay their acceptance fees close to the start of a new semester.

To ensure continuous improvement, the team also recommended that a review of the student registration process be conducted every five years.

The Student Health Insurance Team began meeting in 2005 to develop an online system for graduate assistants and fellows to enroll in an insurance plan. The system is online and allows students to complete the application for insurance themselves. Members of the Student Health Insurance Team included: Karen Kline (Leader), Judy Bechman, Colleen McKay, and Jennifer Welch.

Prior to the online process, graduate assistants and fellows had to visit University Health Services (UHS) each fall to complete the paperwork required for enrolling dependents or declining insurance coverage. The new process saves graduate students time since they don’t have to visit UHS, but can instead complete the forms at their own convenience.

One outcome the team expected was to have more accurate information on the forms and this has been achieved. The team initially set a threshold of 99 percent accuracy of the data.This has been a benefit to the Graduate Assistants and Graduate Fellows, to the University Health Services staff, and to the UHS budget.

Karen Kline, Manager, Student Health Insurance, University Health Services
Analysis in 2007 found a 98.9 percent accuracy rate. In addition to greater accuracy, UHS has also experienced lower costs. Since students are completing their own forms, Student Health Insurance has also eliminated the costs of overtime for data entry which they experienced every August and September.

UHS screenshot

In May 2007, the Women in Materials Science and Engineering Task Force formed in order to evaluate the environment for women employees, students and faculty within the Department of Materials Science and Engineering in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. The task force made a number of recommendations to the department, including:

  • creation of an ombudsperson position
  • establishing and publicizing a statement on embracing gender, racial, and cultural diversity within the department
  • creating a more thorough graduate orientation for incoming students and developing a peer mentoring program for graduate students
  • proving better mechanisms for graduate student communication

The department has implemented many of the recommendations of the task force. It has created an ombudsperson position, which serves as a neutral party who is equally open and accessible to all parties including students, faculty, staff, and administrators in the department. Women in Materials Science and Engineering Task Force Members

Elizabeth Dickey, Leader
Long Chen, Member
Theresa Foley, Member
Chris Muhlstein, Member
Hyeran Noh, Member
Jennifer Ray-Sloppy, Member
Kathy Spicer, Member
Susan Trolier-McKinstry, Member
The department has also created a graduate student directory and developed a more thorough graduate orientation that addresses diversity and sexual harassment. The orientation also provides a social atmosphere to promote interactions among students and faculty. New graduate students can also take advantage of a peer mentoring program. The department also added a section on code of conduct and climate issues in its graduate handbook.

In order to continuously evaluate how well they are doing in meeting the diversity and climate issues of graduate students, the department reviews exit surveys for both undergraduate and graduate students.







More information on the ombudsperson can be found at http://www.matse.psu.edu/ombud/ombudsperson.html.