Over the past few years, the College of Engineering has had the opportunity to pilot a number of initiatives for UTSA that have led to great successes for our students, faculty and staff. Two examples include:
- Associate Dean Mark Appleford led the implementation of the EAB platform for student success. Its data analytics were used to target efforts in key courses for greatest impact on our students’ progress towards degrees. Results after one year included cutting DFW rates in key classes in half and increasing graduation rates by over 10%.
- Assistant Dean Jill Ford is piloting college-led recruitment of undergraduate students with the hiring of Jennifer McDaniel as Director of Recruitment for the college. This will allow us to spread the word of the great opportunities for engineering education at UTSA. With the new budget model being implemented across campus, recruiting qualified students for our growing programs is more critical than ever.
We are excited about the newest initiative being piloted by the College of Engineering (COE), which will provide ease of processing for the departments in both the financial and human resources areas of responsibility. In this pilot program, resources from the departments will be consolidated into a single COE Business Service Center. Financial services and appointments will be centrally processed. The departments will have staff positions to provide managerial and program support. This concept has been successfully implemented by other universities, including UC Berkeley, UC Riverside, UC Irvine, UCLA, John Hopkins, University of Kansas, University of Michigan, University of New Hampshire, and others, and we are consulting with them on their structure and process.
Based on the feedback we have received, we expect the following improvements through the implementation of a COE Business Service Center:
- Accurate and timely reconciliation of all accounts. While the College has helped departments fill gaps in service, many accounting errors (leading to negative balances) must be corrected. Researchers are struggling to get accurate reconciliations of their research accounts, and are often operating 6-9 months without accurate accounting. A COE Business Service Center will have a dedicated staff who reconcile all accounts for the college monthly, providing accurate and timely data for strategic decisions.
- Appointing students and staff to ensure timely paychecks. Often, due to large workloads, appointments are entered late resulting in delayed paychecks to our students and staff. A COE Business Service Center will have dedicated staff specialists highly trained in appointment requirements to be able to meet tight deadlines with large workloads. Because their focus will be on the entire college, they will have more experience and expertise than what currently exists.
- Continuity of service. Over the past year, two departments underwent an extended period without staff, resulting in a loss of service for department faculty and students and an increased workload for college staff. A COE Business Service Center would enable cross-trained staff to assist by filling in when staff are on leave, vacation, or absent for any other reason.
- Dedication of department staff to address key initiatives. Once the accounting and appointment services are centralized in the COE Business Service Center, the remaining department manager and program staff will handle other (more limited) tasks associated with finances and human resources. Time saved by department staff will enable them to concentrate on strategic initiatives critical to growing the academic and research success of their department such as recruitment and mentoring. The COE Business Service Center will allow department staff to be more focused, creative, innovative, and effective in helping departments achieve their strategic goals.
- Greater job satisfaction for our staff completing business tasks in the college. By grouping our business staff together, we will allow them to support each other, build community, and cross-train each other in multiple processes. The COE Business Service Center will create a better working environment for the staff.
These changes will require re-alignment of several staff positions in the college to different opportunities in the service center. Understandably, there may be some concern about future roles and responsibilities. We will provide several opportunities for feedback before, during and after the implementation of this new model, including:
- Direct communication to the planning committee consisting of the department chairs and college deans. In addition, a team from UTSA Human Resources is assisting, including Barbara Centeno, David Diaz, Judy Verdon, and Denise Moore. Please feel free to discuss your ideas and concerns with anyone in these groups.
- Note to the planning committee. Email your concerns to Jill Larson at firstname.lastname@example.org; please indicate if you would like your name associated with the content when shared with the planning committee.
- College forum. We will be discussing the COE Business Service Center at our first college forum in the beginning of the school year.
- Surveys of constituents. Following the initiation of the new Center, we will be conducting surveys to assess the success of the implementation and level of service being provided.
- Metrics Dashboard. The college will be implementing a Dashboard to follow the key performance measures of the College relative to our strategic plans in addition to operational metrics. This will enable all constituents to view our progress towards our goals.
Although we are early in the planning process, we intend to implement the new COE Business Service Center by November 1, 2018. Since we are in the planning stages, the only concrete information we have to share is in this document. As the Planning Committee discusses developments at each Monday meeting, we will keep you apprised on a regular basis of our progress.
Thank you for your support of our mission to educate the next generation of engineering professionals. Through your efforts, our students, staff, and faculty achieve increasingly higher levels of success!