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E-mail Hung V. Le

September 2002 October 2002 November 2002 December 2002 January 2003
February 2003 March 2003 April
June/July 2003




This program has recharged me... given new meaning and structure to my work. I have found new "language" to describe my hopes and dreams for what I do. My work in student services is already enhanced by my interactions with my cadre mates, my readings, my assignments, feedback from Margaret... My mind is constantly racing with all sorts of ideas. I am excited to focus my ARP on my work in the area of student administrative services. I want to learn how I can help us better serve our students... whether it is through the revising of policies, using technology better or smarter, understanding their needs more, or a combination thereof. There is so much to do, so I will need to focus...

I remember having a conversation with my college roommate about our ideal jobs. He had pictured me thriving in a business setting... I think I shocked him when I told him that my ideal job really would be in an educational setting of some kind... I remember describing my ideal job as a place where learning would be constant and continual... I wanted to be in place where I am encouraged to look beyond the immediate, to search for a better way, to help people... Ideally, I wanted to be in a university not unlike where I had been as an undergrad. I wanted to be an ombudsman for the students... to help open doors where there appears to be impasse... to facilitate the process of being a student... to make the total experience as good as it could be...

Perhaps it is because my undergrad experience was so lifechanging. There were so many people who went beyond what was expected of them to help me... to make my life better than what it was... to help me remove or overcome obstacles to the learning process... I had been helped so much along the way. I count myself fortunate to have been able to connect with such people. I now want to be that kind of person to has many students has possible.

For 8 years I worked in the student life area... enhancing the college experience through the co-curricular activities. Over three years ago, I moved to the administrative side... What attracted me to move were the numerous opportunities to still improve on the student experience. My desire to enhance the college experience was rekindled and recharged. Knowing very little about the various administrative areas, I dove in... asking questions after questions... slowly constructing for myself a picture of what a student would have to go through. It did not take long for me to realize that the structure of the process was a complex web which had been built up over the years to ensure proper following of procedures and to protect the system from ever being tampered with.

For the past three years, I have had the privilege of "tampering" with the system... It has been an incredibly rich experience... and it's just about to get richer... as I delve even deeper into the process by putting my experience under the microscope and learn more about the process.

So much that have been done in my work have been about achieving a product... getting the job done. This program will allow me to slow down... to reflect on the process... to make sense of what I do... and to perhaps be able to transfer the learning that I experience from one area to another...

So I begin this semester with great anticipation... I hope to learn... and to apply my learning to the processes that affect thousands of students on a daily basis... And perhaps be able to share this information with other professionals in my field as well.

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09/13/2002 - 09/22/2002

ARP ideas taking shape

Had a good meeting with my boss today. Shared with him the new learning through OMAET... He is very excited that I will be able to apply what I learn to my work... and to use my work as materials to enhance my learning in the program... This is so ideal!!! Also shared with him my ideas for my ARP, which will involve student services in one way or another:

I have also been meeting with people from throughout the university, brainstorming with them for ideas for initiatives for improvement of our services that we provide to our students. The focus thus far has been on the undergraduate student population... I hope to begin here and then branch out to our graduate programs as things develop...

The basic intention for my Action Research Project is to improve the quality of student services at the university level. My work in secondary education is in the area of student administrative services. I believe that students learn both inside and outside of the classroom. Their interactions and dealings with the university are lessons that are learned, whether those lessons are intentionally taught or not. Along that vein, I have several ideas that are taking shape.

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First idea and reflection...


For this project, I would like to create a comprehensive plan to centralize student services, which would minimize the runaround that is so prevalent in many students’ experiences when having to deal with the “business of being a student.” The plan would address student needs, discuss strategies for meeting the needs within the context of university policies procedures, examine inherent traditional practices and the “requirements” that led to their development and endurance. It would also lay out the process for planning, research, design, training, implementation, and assessment. Technology would be key components in assessing and implementing required changes for this process to take place.

This plan would serve as a prototype that any institution could pick up and adapt it to its own organization.

This project would be incredibly involved... Some of what we have done here at the university will serve as good beginning points for me. I will be able to use the power of hindsight to learn from our experiences in putting together OneStop... There is now structure for my learning. As we went through the process of creating OneStop, we learned from other people and from reading... But the new information had a hard time finding a place to be implanted and to readily flourish. This program has given me new tools and contexts to communicate ideas. I want to take the time to address this process as a learning facilitator rather than a director. I want to focus more on the process rather than just the product... There is still much to be learned from ourselves as well as from the other schools who have gone through or who are going through this process. I have been in touch with a major school in the South who is very interested in this concept. I have been asked to serve on their advisory board... At one time, I would have seen this as an opportunity to teach... to share what I have learned... At this point, I look forward to learning even more as I walk through this process with them, to share from my prior knowledge... and to learn from their questions and processes as they look at this afresh... Each time we look at a new process, I want to make it a goal to learn... and to make processes that had been previously revised even better... It is a continual process. I want to open that process... to encourage further learning... and perhaps to make us even better in serving our students.

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Second idea and reflection


For this project, I would like to build on the momentum of the quality improvement in the student services processes that are already in place by using technology to get us to take leaps forward in improving student services. I would assess the current structure and design of our online services, provide proper feedback to the appropriate parties, design more user-friendly or student-focused sites that can best meet their needs, as well as explore new possibilities for new online services. This project would take my area of work several steps further in development.

Oh, how I would love to be able to wave a magic wand over all of our systems... or to be able to speak my desires into being... It seems like the faster the technology changes come, the more slowly we respond to those changes... Perhaps it is all relative. For our organization, the systems are so intertwined... .and the process to change involve so many people... that it is often too 'cumbersome' to even try... Perhaps it is better to look at a philosophy of student-centered processes that are more intuitive rather than designing systems to fit our organizational structure and reporting hierarchies... This idea would involve a lot of staff outside of my functional area... It would be more difficult to organize and to propose changes... Must rethink this...

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Third idea and reflection








Much of our work is done in silos. I would like to provide avenues for us as professionals to share information more completely and more timely. The success of this project will mean that the philosophy of centralized student services will actually be lived out in every corner of the institution, that professionals will be empowered to serve students and to meet their needs, that serving students will actually be our job rather than an interruption to our job. Our community of practice of student services professionals will be enhanced as we collaborate our efforts, our resources, our information, and our expertise to best serve a wide array of students.

I could perhaps set some goals for some specific online student services to either improve or implement... This could tie in nicely with the centralized student services prototype. When we create a centralized place to take care of the students' needs, we must be able to change processes to allow students to better partake in the process... We must recognize that student information ultimately belongs to the student... Most of what we know, the student should have access to... The services that we can provide in person should somehow be able be done by the student for himself/herself... As with the classic view of learning... we may have to readjust our thinking about the "official view of student services" to the "classic view of student services." The business of being a student should not be difficult... It should make sense, intuitive, and easily learned... by the professional as well as by the student... I must center myself in this process... learning from established norms and procedures... transferring that knowledge to create new and better processes in context of online services and better f2f interactions...

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Beginning of idea for learning blueprint...

Had a good discussion with all of the student accounts consultants today. One school is having a really hard time with getting the refund checks to the students. The consultants worked overtime all week before school started, and even through the weekends to process the refunds... The checks were in the mail by the first day of school... and yet even today, some checks have not arrived... Students are getting irate as they need their money for rent and other expenses... We must revisit the direct deposit issue... This is a great opportunity for some new learning. The answer has always been "No, we can't do it." I'm committed to dig deeper into this process... and come out at least more learned about this topic... if not a whole new process... Will need to develop a plan... could become my learning blueprint for Mercedes' class... This process could also be a highlight function for my ARP... OK, now I'm getting excited!!!!! It's amazing when I reframe my to do list to learning opportunities what new energy I get... I love this!!!!!!!!

So now... some new learning opportunities (formerly known as to do's):

  • Document current refund process... figure out where we can use technology to help us within our own shop
  • Document consultants' concerns
  • Meet with IT and Accounts Payable to revisit idea of direct deposit... share with them the concerns of consultants and the ire of students
  • What's in it for IT and AP?!?!? How will this new process positively impact their world?
  • Document Financial Aid's concerns... since they are the ones giving out the loans that generate the refunds...

This is a good beginning... I need to become a learner before I can be a director... WOW! A new outlook...

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New inspiration...

Incorporating family into program

What a great morning!!!!!! My mind is so full right now. There are a zillion thoughts running through my head… The words are flowing a lot faster than these fingers can fly across this keyboard… I wish I had that voice to text program right now…

I had an inspiration this morning… Needless to say, for the past two months, my mind has been filled with ideas for the Action Research Project. What changes do I want to make to my actions as a practicioner in my workplace… how will those changes affect my community… my practice… etc… My focus has been on my workplace and my work in student administrative services. And why not?!?!? That is my community of practice. I have been thrilled about this program because it has become an incredible avenue through which I have been able to build some concrete structures for many of my ideas and thoughts. My readings and class work have given me new language to articulate so many things that I have been struggling to give word to. This program has been a Godsend… My mind is stretching so much that it literally hurts. I wake up at 4am with thoughts racing through my head… It has been such a great experience so far…and it has been only two months!!!!!!!!!

But this morning was different… My mind was filled with thoughts and ideas… but they were not focused on my work… Zachary came into our bed at 4am with a tummy ache. As I held him, my heart just ached. For the past two weeks, I have done little with him in the way of reading or helping with his homework. I have been so focused on work and school, that I have been neglecting my time with my kids.

Corinne and I have had long conversations about what this next year would be like… that we would have to cut back on our activities, say no to more things, and re-structure our lives… I knew that my time with the kids would be more limited… But just for one year… one year…

Yesterday, I found out that a young lady who works for our Real Estate Operations area is actually homeless. She has been sleeping in her car for a while now… I marveled at the extreme irony of the situation. Here she is, working for a real estate office, buying and selling homes… helping others find homes… and she is without a home. My mind went back to the summer of my freshman year when I worked for a week at a Christian conference, serving food… For that week, I had half a loaf of bread and four bananas. I had no money because I wasn’t going to get paid until the end of the week… I remember being so hungry while watching these people eat… It’s the typical case of the chef’s kids starving…

Those thought went through my head this morning as I held Zachary in my arms. My life for the past 12 years has been given to improving the students’ experience here at my university. I am in the midst of some of the greatest minds of our times. Learning is the centerpiece of my work. And now in this program, learning is paramount is all that we do. And as I held one of the most precious gifts God has given to me, I realized that all my work has been done outside of him… apart from him.

Sure I volunteer in his classes… I read to him (off and on)… I help him with his homework (when he gets stuck)…

These days cannot be recaptured. Zachary is now in 2nd Grade… Ben just started Kindergarten… Jaime, who is 3, always wants to be read to… Garrett is growing at warp speed… I can’t put their learning on hold while I am in school… I’ve relied on Corinne, who is the “professional educator” in our home to work with our kids…

This morning, I made a commitment to myself that I will learn and practice more intentional involvement in my children’s learning processes.

I have the privilege of being in a program with some incredible teachers and wonderful parents. I work in a place that has among its members some of the brightest minds on the earth. My professors are incredibly gifted at their crafts and really committed to their families… The web is filled with information. The kids’ school welcomes parent involvement and has a great cadre of teachers who has expressed strong desires for parents to do things to complement and enhance what goes on during the school days…

So… in addition to working on my ARP and area of inquiry that are directly related to my professional community of practice, I want to learn more about how I as a parent can have a positive influence and impact on my children’s learning. I want to be able to cultivate and foster a love for learning that is lifelong.

My experience in learning has been rooted in the official theory. Being raised in Vietnam for the first 11 years of my life, my education consisted mainly of rote memorization and being ranked. There was one way of learning… Points were granted for each assignment… and at the end of the term, all your points were added together and you were ranked from 1st to last… I thrived on the education here in America, where my teachers were concerned about my learning and my being… But being raised in foster families… moving from one to another… I have not had much parental modeling when it comes to the area of academic learning. But other motivations and desires have worked together to help me build a strong desire to learn more and learn new things…

I am going to start working on a plan for this 2nd digital portfolio… I am going to pick the brains of people I know… utilize resources available to me… find out new sources… and do whatever it takes to build this portfolio… And in the process, I will put into practice my learning through time with my children… They will be no longer apart from my work… They are a part of and the reason for my work…

I remember a conversation with Mercedes about my digital portfolio. As we ended, Mercedes reminded me, “Do this for you, Hung. Don’t do it for me or for anyone else. Do it for you!” This project is for me… I need to do this… I want to do this…

Margaret shared with me that I should “learn from this process” and that I need to “see how this change affects [my] practice and the community.” I am looking forward to learning from the process of being a better parent… and hoping that by doing so I will have a positive impact on the most important community to me… namely my family.

I will still work on my professional ARP and area of inquiry… There’s so much work in that arena that I want to do, and so I will… I want to be able to transfer my learning in the academic and professional context into the familial context… If my work is to impact the learning and experience of university students, I need to be able to have a positive impact on my children as well.

This new project is really stoking my fire… A new journey begins……….

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Blueprint progress: meeting with IT and Accounts Payable to begin the process outside of my area

Good support from VP for blueprint idea

Had 3 important meetings today:

  1. Online means for newly admitted students to submit their intent to enroll and to be able to pay for their tuition deposit online as well... Dean of Enrollment Management will submit written proposal. IT does not sound too positive about getting this done by January 2003... I must do what I can to remove obstacles to this process. One big obstacle is the license for e-commerce, which we just purchased this last summer. Another obstacle for the university will be the increase in merchant fees for increased credit card usage for deposits... This can be mitigated with e-checks... another one-time license fee... Will forward account number to IT to purchase this license... Now, it is a matter of IT making this a priority... Must get support from senior administration as well as showing added value to the rest of the university...
  2. Allowing students to have their refunds directly deposited to their bank accounts... This is the third year in a row that I have brought up this issue again... This time, I am changing the context of the request... I am framing it as a learning opportunity for me. I think I will use this as my learning blueprint... This will be a part of my ARP... I am coming as a learner, trying to understand the process... where it is a problem for the university... why it cannot be done... I will work on a written proposal to IT... This will be a wonderful opportunity for learning... Webmaster, who was present, is willing to develop website... IT and AP will need to look at the backend programming, the Student Information System and our Financial Reporting System to determine the scope of such a project... At least it's not a NO!!!
  3. Met with my VP (of finance and admin) and discussed the direct deposit initiative... He fully supports the idea, and likes the concept of approaching as a learning experince... This is a big breakthrough... Will need to meet with the VP over IT to garner support...

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Blogging entered my world... reflected on the difficulty we place on ourselves with technology... Renewed commitment to make authentication easier

Margaret gave new language for training...

Created site for and posted learning blueprint

Garnering more support for concept...

Looked at Marty DeWindt's site today... Really liked how her journal format looked. Until this point, I had been keeping my journal on MS Word... trying to figure out the best way to get the journal online. AIMed Marty and found out that she used BLOG... Called a friend who told me how to get on BLOGGER.COM. It took a long time to create a new blog... This was one of those times that I realized the adverse impact on learning by rote... or just completing a task rather than learning. We had set up our website at VirtCamp by following to the letter the instructions given to us... There was no time for us to understand what each of the commands and instructions meant. We had to get the site up... There was such chaos during the DreamWeaver session. I felt very accomplished in getting a website together. BLOGGER required that I knew the place where I wanted my blog to be ftp'd to... That took a long time to figure out...

Another thing that came out of the process of trying to get a blog was the hassle of having to remember another password. This has been an ongoing effort by several of us here... to have one set of password/PIN for the purposes of authentication. Right now, we have the password for the network, the user ID, two different email addresses that point to the same box, a PIN, and numerous passwords for various university systems... and then if you become a student, that number of passwords and PINs is doubled... It took me about 30 minutes before I realize that the password that BLOGGER was looking for was the password that we got at VirtCamp... a completely non-sense password that I would have to memorize... Still don't know how to change it. Frank Smith, in The Book of Learning and Forgetting, talked about the ease of learning... that things that we remember are generally not hard... they should be effortless in learning... This whole process has brought to my mind again how much work we put ourselves and others through in this technological age... The technology is difficult enough... we put more layers on and make it even more difficult to use and to understand... This will be a good project to pursue with IT...

Margaret shared with us the Bay Area program that teaches teachers how to teach writing... by making them write!!! This is wonderful new language for me to use in our training with our staff... We have been training staff through making them students... We now have an academic partner in this method... I am looking forward to learning more about this. This is a great discovery and a true gem!!! Yea for MM!!! Margaret also encouraged me to build on my strength and not get too down on areas that I still need help with (especially graphics...). Right now, I am focusing on the content of the learning processes...... I am really enjoying all the new theories and views of learning and of education... I am finding new structure and language for my work at the university... My quiver is getting fuller by the day!!!

Created website for Learning Blueprint!!! After talking with my boss today, I have decided to go with the idea of learning more about the direct deposit process and use that as the topic for my blueprint... I am excited to learn more about this process and hope to be able to contribute to the realization of a more efficient way to get our students monies in their hands... Surely with the technology that we have today, this is possible... It is now a matter of priority for our organization...

Financial aid directors are throwing their support this way for the direct deposit concept... One director is also working on getting input from other schools regarding the timeline for their refund process... More voices are joining in with our efforts...

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Another private university is beginning their centralized student services process... Met briefly with their executive vice president who is in charge of implementing this process... another opportunity to share and to learn... This prototype is sooooooooooooo needed!!!

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Submitted formal proposal to IT for direct deposit

Mindful vs. mindless

New journal format in Dreamweaver

Submitted formal written proposal to IT for the direct deposit process. Will need to post this to the web under the blueprint page...

Had a great discussion on Mindful Learning tonight on TI with Sue Talley. My head was pounding from spending more than 6 hours today working through some student services issues with people from our own org as well as 2 other universities who are implementing policies that have been drilled into them... Amazing how drilling forces one to focus on what has been done rather than what can be done... Policies are not questioned because they have always been that way... passed down from one generation to another... Mindful learning of these practices would have caused everyone to look at alternatives and new and different ways of viewing them... I love being able to find new language to express my thoughts and discoveries in this area... I will need to go back and write down specifics...

BLOGGING is not flexible enough for me... Getting to it required another sign-in process... By the tiem I get into it, some of my thoughts are fading... Also, I still cannot figure out how to post my past journals on those days... The only way I have been able to do it is to put it in a day which already has an entry and date the section... Not liking that... So, I'm using DreamWeaver and building the page as I go... Still trying to figure out how to deal with the length... How long will it take this page to load?!?!?!?

Had another good conversation with MM... Her encouragement is one key thing for me during this process... I still feel pretty inadequate when it comes to all the graphics design. She continues to asssure me that I am on the right track. It's past midnight now... I just posted my ARP topic on the new ARP website... I get to do the victory dance again!!!!!!! Yea!!! I like this new journal format. It works for me!!!!!!!!!

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Some great thoughts I heard today at the President's briefing:

  • "Humility precedes exaltation." E.W. McMillan
  • "Humility precedes wisdom." Bill Henegar (Pepperdine Associate VP)

Some really good thoughts about jobs that are applicable to the staffing portion of ARP are found in the book that Andy Benton mentioned, Whistling in the Dark by Frederick Buechner... a must read... Must remember to also use Parker Palmer's book, Let Your Life Speak, to enrich section on staffing.

Our view of our work is critical to our ability to deal with the enormous amount of changes that are necessary for growth in any line of work... What I see and experience in all of the readings and in our class discussions, although they mainly focus on the education arena, the concepts can be applied to almost any profession... in multiple contexts. For many people, work is what you put up with between the hours of 8am and 5pm so that you can do what you really want to do between the hours of 5pm and 8am... and on the weekends. Several years ago, I saw a bumper sticker that read "I live for weekends!" It was funny at first sight, but as I thought about it further, it became a really sad statement. We spend more awake minutes at our jobs than at any other thing in our lives... and if we spend those minutes just putting up, then what a sad existence... Our children pick up on this, and the cycle continues... Work is work... Pleasure is separate from it... Surely, we can't expect to be paid for doing something that we really like... And then the converse is also true... Some people take something they like, such as cooking, and open a restaurant and become miserable because they have replaced "cooking for joy" for "cooking for work." Surely, joy and work are not mutually exclusive...

When we find meaning in our work... when we see our work as our vocation, our calling... when we understand how we contribute to the functioning of society as a whole... when we realize that we are part of the chaos that is life... when we realize that the flutter of our wings can create a hurricane on the other side of the ocean... perhaps that is when work and joy and meaning can all be intertwined... that is when we live in each moment and not just for the weekends... that is when we embrace the concept of carpe diem, making the most of every moment, because we know what we do mean something... We no longer embrace routine and rote. We look for new ways to have positively impact our world... When we realize that just a flutter of our wings can send shock waves around the world, we then begin to wonder, "What if I wave my arms? What if I take a step forward? What if..." That's when changes begin to occur...

Why do I reflect on this here and now?!?!? It is because the process of centralizing student services is a change process... It has forced me out of my comfort zone and to call me to flutter my wings just a little harder, while learning to find ways to help others to at least budge their antennae... It is a journey that begins with a change in the outlook on work... a new view of work... and a better understanding of the chaos theory that is life...

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This section is going to be revised throughout the process... This is the first attempt to build some structure for my ARP... A different color scheme will make this one stand out... It's one I will be coming back to over and over again...

Wish I had just one full day to just go away and put all my ideas down on paper... to get a framework for my ARP... Some ideas are starting to gel... Here are some thoughts right now for sections of my ARP:

  • Background and history for the schools in my cohort group (or is it research team, working partners, extended community of practice... gotta come up with a name): what was the impetus? what led up to this? why do this at all?
  • How we view our students, staff, faculty, and other constitutents... and how do these views affect what we do and how we do it?!?!?!? How we view our jobs... and how does that view affect what we do and how we do it?!?!?!?
  • Staffing
    • structure (self-directed, hierarchical, combination thereof
    • personalities/temperaments/qualities/traits
    • where do these people fit in with the rest of the staff?
    • training... this is a biggie... and may need its own section!!! Use reading materials on learning to give language to methodologies
    • how do these people affect the community in which they serve... the students, the faculty, other staff, administration... how are they affected by what they do and what they are empowered to do
    • how are these people different from the traditional line staff?
    • what does this do to the traditional view of staffing an office?
    • Use readings for language that would describe effective assessment models
  • Functions... list some common functions and how a one stop shop handles them... share key examples... action research for highlighted functions...
  • Physical facilities and equipment... what do we communicate by what we physcially build and exhibit... How does environment and aesthetics affect the message we are sending and the service we are providing?
  • Purpose, Place and Philosophy... the rippling impact of centralized student services on the rest of the community
  • How does technology help in this process?!?!? What roles does tech play in all of this? What new demands does this whole concept place on the implementation of tech?
  • Can't vs. won't
  • Assessment

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Refund process documented, but knowledge cannot be captured on paper

Fits and Starts... How can I further this along? Struggles with the multimemberships nature of our work...

Had extensive phone conversations with all the student accounts consultants today. Our busy schedules have precluded us from meeting together, but I will work on coordinating a meeting with all of them to discuss the direct deposit issue. The process for issuing a refund has been documented. I must post this on the LB website. It became apparent to me as we discussed the process that although the "information" documented is clear, it lacks much of the knowledge that exists within each consultant. The knowledge which allows a consultant to know whether or not an account is correct is so complex that it is difficult to document.

This issue (knowledge vs. information) came up as we discussed the possibility of writing a computer program to handle the routine checks that consultants would make on an account prior to issuing a refund check. Although the process is the same for each account, the interpretation of the information in the system requires a quality assurance process, which involves the knowledge of the consultants.

The question comes back to what I can do to affect this change. It is apparent from speaking to staff members as well as with the student focus group that there is a strong desire and need for the refunds to be directly deposited to the students' bank account. Everyone so far agrees that there is a need, but to revise our current process and programs to make this happen seems nearly impossible.

Through my meetings with the Director of AP, I have come to understand the AP process better. The program to generate the checks is also the same program that can be revised to generate the direct deposit. The Webmaster has assured us that it is possible to design a website which allows students to input their information, which can be downloaded to the AP program. The good news is that the structure is present to make this process work... The bad news is finding the time in the schedules for the programmers and others in IT to give this the attention that it needs. This is the "fits and starts" that Mercedes talked about in our learning process.

I am learning that there is much negotiation that goes on even within this "community of practice" that has been developed out of this LB. The domain of our community remains intact, but the multimemberships that we all have with our functional areas as well as this community require that we balance... that I remain patient... and learn even in waiting...

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New support for direct deposit...

Breakthrough in understanding the resistance...

Good news!!!!!! Our VP has just instituted a "review" of the cash flow management process for our organization. One of the key points in his review is the need for direct deposit of the student refunds. This has generated more attention and interest in the subject of my LB.

The "consultant" doing the review expressed some puzzlement regarding the regularity of the "cutting of checks" from the Accounts Payable area. Most organizations pay their bills at a specific time during the month, which allows for much more efficient and effective cash management. But here, we make payments or cut checks three times a week, or everyday during the first month of each term.

An AHA! moment came during my meeting with the consultant. Our students, as far as AP was concerned, was considered in the same league as "vendors." So the checks that are cut to them are cut in the same way, and belong in the same flow process, as the checks to the vendors. So when I requested that the refund checks for the students be processed on a daily basis, I was committing our organization to pay our vendors in the same way. There was no cash management, per se. The vendor information and payment schedule resided in the same program as the student refunds (or vice versa). So what we change for the students, we also change for the vendors...

First step is to separate out students from vendors!!! Student refunds are not the same as payments to our vendors. No wonder the resistance has been so strong!!!!!!!! This is a major breakthrough!!!!!!!!

Now, we need to look at the COBOL program that is used to generate payments... Next hurdle to cross...

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From official practitioners to classic reformers...

The texts that we have been reading have given some wonderfully new and descriptive language that has generated some wonderful conversations. In my last conference call with two other student services directors who have implemented the one stop concept at their schools, we had an extensive discussion regarding the importance of the role of language in the transformational process in our respective organizations. We spent about twenty minutes discussing Frank Smith's comparison of the official vs. classic view of learning... There were a lot of "uh huh," "Yes!!!" "That makes sense..." "That's why..." My cohorts were not familiar with the terms "official or classic view of learning." This new language gave concrete structures to our thoughts. It is quite apparent how much of our thinking, our designing, and our practice is deeply rooted in the official view of learning. For the most part, we and our colleagues have been raised in the official view... So, when we come to the workplace, we bring ourselves and all the 'baggage' that we had accumulated through our educational experiences with us. We develop and continue practices that require work, that are fraught with frustrations, that are not intuitive... because we have come to believe and accept that "this is life... this is how things work..." Good process means complicated process. We layer one policy on top of another. To increase control or quality, we legislate... to the point where we lose sight of what it was that the policy was instituted to do originally.

I shared with them our discussion in newsgroup regarding medication. It has become fairly commonplace in today's society to develop quick fixes and quick cures for our ailments. Perhaps it is the nature of technology that has driven us to be accustomed to the immediacy of a response or a result. Afterall, we type in a keyword in Google, and it produces thousands of results... And whether the results are what we really wanted, they are results, afterall... So, this same concept has been applied to medication... We take medicine to cure one ill... The medicine, however, has side effects that require another set of medication to alleviate, which produces other side effects that require more medication... The cycle continues...

Our practice in student services have grown and developed in the same manner. We try to come up with "air tight" policies that are fair and controllable... And when one of the many factors come up as an exception to the rule, we create another policy to deal with the exception, and so on and so on... But even more troubling is the development of the territorialism that Wenger talked about in Cultivating Communities of Practice. Often, we protect our domain of practice from other groups by creating control points or guarded gates. We do this by setting up policies to limit access. In so doing, we require those whom we serve to be channelled through narrow tunnels of service and passing through many guarded gates, each time re-authenticating themselves, in order to get anything done. We do this all in the name of keeping the integrity of the process and the records.

The concepts of OneStop are fairly simple: shared knowledge, collaboration, trust, keep the student at the heart, intuition, and perhaps the key concept question to ask with each transaction, "If I were the student, how would I want to be treated?"

Although the concepts are simple and perhaps even obvious, their actual incorporation into our practice involve extensive de-construction of the traditional philosophy that has been so inveterately pervasive in our thinking and our practice for so many years. And in its place, new philosophy must be developed and constructed... with new language, new artifacts, new symbols... that we hope will promote a more classic view of service that is more intuitive, effortless, inconspicuous, and student or learner centered.

I shared with them my ARP project. We all discussed the reasons why there has not been much publications about the centralized student services concept... Perhaps because it is so personal to each institution... or perhaps because it is so simple... Or could it be because as we had spent bulk of our conference call discussing... it is more than just changing process, it is transforming philosophy... constructing new language, new artifacts, new symbols... Educational reformers have tried to infuse the schools with the classic view of learning for years, and with some success... But there is still strong resistance. The resistance that the classic reformers face with their efforts of school reforms is the same resistance that we face in our work...

And so, we ended our call with a new outlook... We see our roles now as classic reformers... We must find ways to model practice that reflect the classic forms of thinking and learning... and in so doing, become reformers and evangelists for this classic philosophy of student services...

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Direct Deposit... not as simple as we thought

We discussed at the beginning of this semester that learning involves fits and starts... that the process is not always linear, and that much learning can be accomplished during the fits and starts... in the midst of reconstruction... in the regressions and restarts... Today was one of those "fits" for the direct deposit process.

I had called together again our working group for the planning and implementation of this process. Up until today, there was an assurance from IT that the August 2003 deadline for implementation was a realistic date. I was still hoping that we could implement by January 2003, in time for the Spring semester. But our meeting revealed that there were still obstacles and new challenges that we must overcome in this process.

AP confirmed that although we do have the EFT process up and running (for years now) for the payroll process, the refund process was a different process with different ACH rules. Although we have had the program/module for the direct deposit of refunds since the implementation of SCT's Financial Reporting System, the University had not launched its use due to lack of interest at the beginning. Although I had made the first request to implement this process three years ago, the request came at a time when staff resources were dedicated to other more urgent needs (i.e. Y2K compliance). Since then, other priorities and demands on IT had continually kept this project on the back burner. Since this fall, when I made this a learning project, the team saw this as an opportunity to learn together and determine what if anything could be done to speed up the process of implementation.

AP had begun initial testing of the program by using our test system. This testing required the manual input of banking information, which the AP director insists that it cannot be done on a large scale. Manual inputting would require at least another 1.5 full-time employees to accomplish. Since increasing staff is not an option in our current budget scenario, this is a critical piece of information. I reminded everyone that my proposal involved the direct input of banking information by the students via the web. Our web and multi-media staff assured me that the design and implementation of the web page was a fairly simple task that could be done fairly quickly.

Important issues addressed:

  • VP approval needed: This project would involve the shifting of priorites within IT resources. Therefore, I will need to get signed approval from the VP from my division. The request would then need to go the VP for IT, who would make a determination of where it would fall in the priority list. I am confident that my VP will approve this project. IT informed me that they are designing a new form for me to submit my request on... More delays! My proposal, although received, needed to be translated into the new form. I expressed the need to get that form as soon as possible so we can continue to proceed with this process.
  • Budget: The question of budget was raised... who would pay for the costs associated with this process? IT could not determine what kind of costs would be involved here. I encouraged us to proceed with the planning, and once we could determine the specific costs, I will take the lead in finding the budget for them. At this time, we have all the tools. The only cost associated with the implementation process would be staff time, whose salaries had already been budgeted. So the issue comes back to priorities rather than budget. The only other possible cost would be if we decided to bypass IT and outsource the programming of this process. That is an option to be explored.
  • Where does the banking information reside once the students input it? SIS or FRS? From a non-technical standpoint, I see this as an important issue to resolve so that the program can be designed properly. But as an issue of information ownership, I see it as a non-issue. Where the information resides is of little importance as long as the program can access the information in order to process the refund request. This is an issue for the programmer to decide. The more important issues are who has access to update this information and the security of this information. I proposed that only the student should have access to the update capability of this information, and that only limited access to view be given to specific staff based on the need to know.

A critical issue to be addressed in all this is that the University is undergoing the process of Enterprise Resource Planning. This process will hopefully determine whether or not we should remain with our current information systems (which is not likely) or choose another system (very likely). Once we make that decision, if it is to acquire a new system, we will need to decide on which one. Since it is almost certain that we will be migrating to a new system, IT is reluctant to make any changes to our current system structure and programs to accomodate this new process. But if we wait for the new system, it may be as late as Fall 2007 before this process can be implemented. This is one of those "fits" that we discussed earlier. Waiting for a new system is like waiting for life to stand still before we take our first step. Change is constant, and technology is no exception. I really do believe that we must work with what we have now and adapt those changes to the new technology that will be available to us in the future. Ideally, we should anticipate the kinds of change that will come with the new systems and new technology and plan our process to at least meet a certain mark in the future. If we only plan based on what we know and have now, by the time we implement, our product/process will already be outdated... This is the role of R&D, who can help us determine what is already out there and not yet available to us.. but will soon be...

There is no hope for this process to be implemented by the end of this semester... and a good chance that we will not even make it by next fall. In the past, I would have become extremely discouraged and frustrated. But by seeing this as a learning process, the frustration level is much lower. Learning can still occur without immediate implementation. I will need to spend more time studying the process and determine where the resistance lies or what cannot be done with our current resources.

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Engaged expert in Direct Deposit Process

My original plan for learning about the direct deposit process as an enhancement to student services was to engage the expertise of the Vice President of Banking Relations for the bank which services our institution. However, when I shared my project with our treasurer, she advised me to contact a personal friend of hers, who is one of her professional colleagues, who happens to be the Vice President of Union Bank, in charge of university and college relations. In addition to his expertise in the banking industry, he has also had extensive experience with the California State University systems, where he worked prior to joining Union Bank. Our treasurer shared with me that this VP has worked with several schools to implement direct deposit, is familiar with SCT Plus (our student information system software), and most importantly, she would help me to get some constructive help from him. This can provide some important information that will help with the learning process as well as providing additional voices to our planning process. Our treasurer was excited about the process and is willing to help me make my case to senior administration for the implementation of direct deposit. We plan to continue our discussions...

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Question-posing exercise

Engaged in the question posing exercise with Margaret through Newsgroup... This has been one of the most difficult parts of the action research process... I know what I would like to do, but formulating the questions will determine the direction and path of my research. I am glad that Margaret is spending time with us on this...

She has helped me to see the difference between informational inquiries and research questions... First, the question needs to help me define my action... then I need to think about the possible reactions to that action... The reflection on the outcome will help me plan my next cycle of research...

Here is an informational inquiry which is a good question to ask to help me define my action: "In what ways can student administrative processes carry out the institution's student-centered mission?" At the end of my research, I will be able to answer my other question, which is, "How can student administrative professionals better facilitate and improve the student administrative experience of our students?"

The action research question is "If student administrative professionals be better trained, equipped and empowered to perform multiple and cross-functional tasks in order to meet the students' needs, how will that have a positive qualitative impact on the staff professionally and personally, on the students' overall experience, and ultimately on the fulfillment of our institution's student-centered mission?" In this question, Margaret shared with me that I am not really clear on the action. Margaret said, "Is the action 'better training to meet student needs.' What is the training that you are going to provide, or how are you going to empower the staff to perform cross-functional tasks?"

"How with that have..." is not the way to describe a reaction...

I have some work to do on asking research questions...

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Breakthrough in learning to ask ARP Questions and finding structure for research.

Engaging the aid of systems analysts in flowcharting direct deposit process... finding new structure for future problem solving

Engaging in constructivistic learning to build learning theory web site...

This was one of those breakthrough days for me in this program. It has been a crazy week at work... It is registration time for our undergraduate students, a time filled with high stress for the students as well as for the staff who work long hours to try and meet our students' needs. Part of my job is to handle all of the exceptions that need to be made to policies, arranging for new agreements with students, discussions with parents, negotiating with faculty... all to better serve our students. In the midst of all of this, I feel like I am at an impasse with all of my school-related projects that are coming due in just a few weeks. At one point during the day, I found myself saying to my wife on the phone, "I don't know if I can do this..." The sound of those words jolted me upright, calling me out of the pit of wallow... It does "get the darkest before dawn"! This must be the darkest part... I thought to myself...

And it turned out to be the darkest part... By the end of the day, I was able to do the victory dance THREE TIMES... one for each class!!!

For the past several months, I have done nothing but thought about and worked on my action research project. The most difficult part has been learning how to voice my question in an effective, clear and concise manner. I engaged in the question-posing exercise with Margaret in newsgroups and even spoke to her on the phone. I thought I had understood the process after our phone conversation, but for some reason, I just felt something missing. I wasn't completely confident about my questions and my process. After my phone conversation with Corinne, I decided to stop wallowing and start putting some structure to my thoughts and my work. I spent some time composing an email to Margaret about my questions. I wasn't sure what Margaret would say. I felt a total lack of confidence in my ability to voice my questions. I knew what I wanted to accomplish with my action research project, but I needed to find structure for the research portion of it.

Within two hours, Margaret responded to my email. It was one of the most incredible emails I had ever received. I feel so extremely blessed to be under the tutilage of such a nurturing and constructive cadre madre. This was a breakthrough email... She boosted my confidence by walking me through the process thoroughly and carefully, guiding and prodding without breaking my spirit... encouraging and affirming all along. She helped me to build a structure that made sense for my research. But more importantly, she renewed my confidence in my ability as a student, as a researcher, as a professional, and as a person!!! I am definitely on my way!!!

Another frustration I was dealing with was an apparent impasse regarding the progress of the direct deposit process. Since my last meeting with IT and AP, I have been trying to think of different ways of approaching this project. Once again, I sensed that this project would be pushed to the back of the proverbial burner due to lack to resources. It was as if the learning process took me back to where I began... which was "It cannot be done with our current system, infrastructure, and staff." But I was determined to learn more than that... What is it that we cannot do? What portion of the process needs to be modified? Is it our system or is it the actual modifications to our system?

In one of my morning meetings with the AP Director regarding another issue related to the students' accounts, I couldn't help but bring up the direct deposit project. What was an unintentional tangent to our meeting turned into a productive discussion in which he affirmed to me that we do have module in our financial reporting system which could be used to provide direct deposit to our students. He shared that there was some work that needed to be done to make modifications to the batch programming processes. He wasn't clear on those programs, but encouraged me to speak to the systems analysts for Finance to get more information.

Within minutes, I had the systems analysts in my office. I walked them through our project and brought them up to date on our discussions with AP and IT so far. Amazingly, they understood every word... They committed to me that they would work alongside me through this process and assist in the determination of what needs to be done in order for the implementation of direct deposit to take place. I asked one of the analysts to design a mock web page that would reside in the student portal which will allow the student to input their banking information. We discussed the process of direct deposit in detail, and after that, I asked another systems analyst to design a flow chart that would better communicate to IT, using their language, what the process entails, what tasks still needed to be accomplished, and what programs would be involved in these modifications. The analysts also assured me that the banking information could be collected from the web and stored in the AP system, where it would be more secured and only viewable by the director of AP; hence, security was ensured. By the end of the meeting, we had not only broke through some learning impasse, we had also designed a new process for project evaluation. In the future, we will work with the systems analysts to design detailed flowcharts that will show specific steps. Their knowledge of the systems, coupled with their understanding of our needs and process, will provide great knowledge to all involved in the projects. From the flowchart and task lists, we can determine exactly where in the process the difficulties lie... and from there we can determine who can work together to deal with those difficulties. Our language will become more speficic... allowing for better understanding! I got to dance again!!!!!!!!!!

The third dance came after my discussion with several of my cadre mates regarding our learning theory project. Kathy and Matthew offered to design a site using the Digital Squeeze platform of question and answer, allowing each of us to build the site through the posting of our answers to key questions pertaining to our theorists... We are learning not to only find answers, but to ask the pertinent questions that would guide our learning... Constructivism lives and breathes!!! Another major breakthrough in the learning process!!! So I dance... again!!!

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2 more outsourcing alternatives for direct deposit processing:

UBC Vice President Responds with offer to consult with us regarding direct deposit of student refunds

TouchNet to release new module for direct deposit next Spring... adding their voice and expertise to our desire for implementation of this service...


Received response from VP of Union Bank regarding my request for assistance and information regarding the direct deposit of student refunds. He was very willing to help. In fact, he has offered to come to our university for a consultation meeting with me, IT and AP. He mentioned that UBC has a module that we could purchase and install. I called him on the phone and discussed this possibility. He did mention that we would have to open a University account with UBC in order to use this module that he told me about. Beginning a relationship with a new bank involves much more than I am willing to engage in right now. However, at least we know that there is another option out there. He did confirm that SIS Plus can be used to implement direct deposit, but it does require some systems modifications in the interface batch processing programs. He is willing to consult with us on that as well.

I emailed the director of AP and the director of systems & programming regarding the VP's offer to meet with us. They both were pleased to meet with him, but their schedules between now and the end of the semester are quite full and do not seem to match up. We may try to do a conference call... if not, we will meet in January after the start of the semester.

The director of systems & programming also informed me that TouchNet, the vendor who provides the platform and software for our web credit card payments, is planning on introducing a module for direct deposit this coming Spring. That will be another option for us. The cost has not yet been determined... But it does appear that there is strong interest among universities for the kind of service we are hoping to be able to provide to our students. Our desires and requests are not so far-fetched anymore as more and more voices are being added to ours.

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Margaret and I have been exchanging email about my action research project. The question posing exercise with her and the my learning circle have helped to gel my thoughts and guide the direction for my research. Margaret encouraged me to begin specifically with an action, reflect on its outcome and then my next action will take shape based on my learning and reflection from the first action. I have been struggling with trying to do too much in one cycle, and thus the learning can be muddled. Therefore, as Margaret suggested, I need to simplify my action so that the research and its outcomes can be more clear. This is an incredibly valuable lesson in action research. This is one of those AHA! moments that is critical in my learning process.

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Embracing action research as a effective learning process...

Overcoming newness through the mentoring of my cadre madre

Creating the action research plan based on questions and cycles helped to gel process...

I have spent the last week putting together my questions and cycles for my action research. Margaret's guidance has been invaluable. It has been so helpful to follow her timeline, which has made the action research process clearer and less overwhelming. This is the first time in my life to be engaged in this formal and disciplined process. I have engaged in research before, but not via this method or process. The newness of this experience has generated a great deal of anxiety in me. I am constantly concerned with whether or not I am "doing it right." Margaret continues to remind me that this is my learning process, and that I am on the right track. She has been so very encouraging. It has taken me several months to finally accept Margaret's encouragement and take her word. Creating the questions and plans for my cycle have boosted my confidence. I have constructed my own research process and designed my own learning experience. This is a major breakthrough for me. Not having had much experience in the constructivist approach to learning and teaching in my academic experience until this program, I am struggling to truly experience the freedom and openness of learning with OMAET. With this action research project, in many ways, I am writing my own syllabus, based on my own stated learning objective. Margaret has been masterful at guiding me through this new experience. I think the most difficult part of this is trusting myself to be able to do this. Margaret has blessed me with her confidence and her encouragement, along with constructive feedback, all of which have allowed me to embark on this new learning journey.

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Planning for the first cycle


My first cycle will be to work with the Student Services Council to develop a comprehensive list of student services that can be delivered in an integrated manner, using the onestop approach. There is a list of these services that have been approved by the University Management Committee in 1998 when the onestop approach was introduced to the university. In many ways, the culture at our institution today in 2002 is much more receptive to the onestop concepts than they were in 1998. But I will need to make sure that this is truly a collaborative effort among the members of the Student Services Council. The delivery of student services has traditionally been carefully guarded via the established rules and practices of the silo-approach, entrenched in the segregated departments and functional units. This approach has served the "institutional side" of the process. Although the students have been required to be engaged in the complex web of activities, the segregated nature of the process has allowed for clear lines of accountability and control from the university deparmental viewpoint. One of the critical aspect to this whole process is to maintain that accountability and audit trail while providing more effective and efficient delivery to out students. I have to keep this at the center of our discussions.

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Student Services Council Meeting... engaging my colleagues in the first cycle of my action research

The Student Services Council met today. I will need to spend some time formally writing up detailed description of my first cycle of action. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the opening of school in January. We will close school at the end of this week, and the new students will arrive within two days of our return after the holiday break. So it was very critical that we engage in the exercise of checking and cross-checking to make sure that we are ready to serve the students when they arrive in January.

Our discussions regarding the opening of school led naturally into the various services that we provide to our students. I had made copies of the list of student services that have been determined to be able to be provided by OneStop in an integrated manner. I reminded everyone present that the list had been compiled by the original Student Services Council after a great deal of discussion among ourselves as well as within the home offices. This list was also brought before the University Management Committee and was formally approved. This list has served as a guiding post for the transformation of our practice in the last three years. The process has been a gradual one with constant negotiation and renegotiation. I shared with them that I would like to be engaged in a more formal approach of action research in order to determine whether or not the design of a "one stop" approach, which integrates the delivery of student services, be effective in meeting the organizational and administrative needs of the student and the university.

We carefully reviewed the list and preliminarily discussed how the delivery of those services have evolved in the last several years from the home offices' perspective. I shared with them my action research plan, and the response was extremely positive. Everyone concurred that it will be extremely helpful to have some concrete research data to back up our work, which has been based on assumptions, theories and prior knowledge so far. Current data collected through being engaged in this action research process, all agreed, will be invaluable as we continue to shape and mold our collective processes as student services departments as well as the practices of individual home offices.

We also spent a good amount of time brainstorming on other services that can be or are already actually being delivered (on an informal level) in the onestop manner and approach. I collected the input and offered to email the list to each member. I asked each member of the council to study the list carefully and to discuss the listed services with their home office staff. I asked that constructive feedback regarding the newly added services to the onestop list be emailed to the whole council for our further discussion by the second week of school.

The meeting was adjourned, and we all left with specific "homework." I did a victory dance in the empty conference room. I have engaged my colleagues in my action research project!!!!!!!!!!!! This is a great learning process!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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I'm starting to see it even more clearly now...

Next cycles are starting to take shape!!!

In just a couple hours, my vacation will begin!!! This has been an incredibly difficult semester as I juggled a full-time job with a full-time Master's program, and still try to be an effective father and husband... while trying to fulfill my obligations to the church and other outside activities... The break will be so needed and will be thoroughly enjoyed!!!

This last week , I received several phone calls from my Student Services Council colleagues expressing their support for the action research process. I feel vey empowered by all this. One of the themes that stood out among these conversations (which I consider to be the "meeting after the meeting") was the need for onestop to not just be in one place, but that it needed to be implemented across campus. The office managers for our two largest divisions, Business and Communication, have expressed to me during this last semester that their new building is away from the center of the campus. Their students are much less able to travel from office to office to manage their student services needs. They have asked for extra administrative support in their new building.

My conversations with these two office managers, coupled with the calls from this past week, along with my proposed plan of action are all coming together!!! What I mean by this is that I am prepared to propose to the council that the two office managers be designated to be the "trainees" that will be engaged in the action research process. I will offer to be their mentors, being engaged alongside them in this learning process!!!

My action research plan is becoming clearer by the day!!!

I will leave for vacation on cloud nine!!! Action research is active... I am engaged in this process!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Being overwhelmed and finding new meaning in the process through a new determination to learn with each opportunity

The desire for connectedness is key in my action research

Wow!!! What a week this has been. The first week of school is always crazy, but this week just seemed almost overwhelming. The combination of trying to meet the needs of our students as well as trying to take in all of the new information and requirements for OMAET nearly pushed me over the edge. Monday night I wrestled with major self-doubts, wondering if I can really do all this. One thing that this program has done for me is that it has really stretched me. And the process of being stretched has been painful at times. This last Monday night was one of the most painful yet. I was thankful to have had the various journals that we have been required to keep. I have spent the last week re-reading the journals, and in so doing have been able to remember how far I have come on this learning journey. I am trying to take this one step at a time, and not try to put my arms around everything at once. I chatted with Jason Askegreen one day this past week about this, and he encouraged me to do just that... one step at a time... I remember Margaret telling me the same thing. Her approach for us to our action research has been to be engaged... one step at a time... to truly reflect and learn from each process rather than just do everything at the same time. Because when we try to do too much, we end up not being very effective, and not learning much from anything. The focus ends up being on the doing and completing tasks rather than on the learning.

So, I have tried to learn something from this last week as we served our students. It is apparent that the need for the proliferation of the onestop concept is a strong need. There were three withdrawal cases that created some stir this past week. A staff member withdrew three students from their classes as per their requests. But the only thing this staff person did was to drop their classes on the system. She did what her department was supposed to do... drop their registration. But the process stopped right there. When the students' accounts were audited, it was determined that the students were still charged for tuition and room and board, but there were no classes on the system. We had to retraced the steps. Thank God for the audit trail capabilities of our information system, which allowed us to retrace the steps of these withdrawals. It took us over 6 hours to complete the withdrawal process backwards... It would have taken the staff person 2 minutes to have completed the integrated withdrawal process by notifying everyone up front. I was frustrated at first, but when I reminded myself that this is a great learning opportunity, I was heartened. This is part of my action research... This is part of the "problem" that I am trying to solve through this research project. The reframing of this problem is shedding new light on my work. I am encouraged once again to engage in the problem solving process with my colleagues.

It is amazing how we have set up our systems to be segregated and disconnected. We desire connectedness as much as those whom we serve. We understand the need for the connections to better serve our constituents. But the traditions are ingrained... and we need to break out beyond our barriers and reach beyond our particularities... free ourselves from the self-imposed silos and allow ourselves to be creative in our approach to the delivery of student services.

The thousands of face to face interactions that our student services professionals have engaged in this past week with our students have revealed once again to me that the need to simplify the process across campus is critical. This week, as overwhelming and tiring as it was, has given me new resolve to continue on this quest to improve the delivery of student services.

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Even more support for a more integrated means of delivering student services


Now that the dust has settled a bit from the first week of school, I am beginning to receive calls from student services staff from throughout the university regarding the problems with the first week. I had an extensive conversation with a staff member from one of our academic divisions who is crying out for help for more "support" in serving the students. After a long discussion, she and I came to a clear understanding that the complex web of activities that the students are required to be engaged in order to accomplish administrative tasks are not only hard on the students, but also on the staff as well. Since her division is located far away from the central administration building, requring the students to travel to various offices to get signatures, permissions, and information are doubly cumbersome and frustrating. I shared with her that the Student Services Council had approved a long list of services that can be centralized and be provided via an integrated process. I shared with her about my engagement in an action research process to determine the effectiveness of the integrative approach to delivering student services across the campus, not just in the central administration building. She was excited to hear of this process, and offered to help as much as possible. I shared with her my conversations regarding the training for the Business and Communication Division's Office Managers as a part of the action research process. Her response was, "Great! If you can figure out how it can work for our two largest divisions, then we can apply that to our division as well!"

She caught the vision!!! Necessity is indeed the mother of inventions! The support for campus wide onestop is building because the need for it is building. I need to spend this next month on my second cycle, which is to determine which of the services on the newly approved list is intuitive and which ones need for expressed training... This will lay the proper ground work for an effective training program for the Bus/Comm office managers.

At the same time, I will need to have discussions with the chairmen for those two divisions to get their buy-ins for the training of their office managers as I engage them in the onestop process. The relationships that will be formed through this process will also be part of the mentoring class with Greg.

There is so much work ahead in this next month!!! But I am seeing the map more clearly now.

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Summary allows for clarification and better focus

Got some great feedback from Margaret about my ARP summary page. I am so thankful for this exercise that Margaret had us do. The summary not only helped to concisely communicate to my new learning circle what my ARP was about, it also helped to refocus me on my work at hand. I didn't get a chance to share much about my ARP with the LC and Margaret last night, but it was good to be part of the discussion with Evelyn and Denise about their projects. I am glad to know that others are progressing as well. Amazing how this program have focused our attention on being change agents, not of just our environment, but of ourselves... and of our abilities to be effective change agents within our own learning environment.

I need to work on the usage of metaphors. Margaret is masterful at it, and I have a great deal to learn from her. I will need to make sure that I am detailed in my write up about the first cycle. Margaret reminded me that I need to remember to focus more on my role in the process and not just the process itself. This is as much about me learning about myself and how I operate as it is about being an effective change agent within my environment. It is good to be reminded.

There is so much to do in all of my classes. I am finding that it is easier to just plow through and get the work done, but I am constantly trying to find connections among everything that we do.

I am learning a great deal from Myles Horton. His passion and clear vision of action for the Highlander School have inspired me as I seek to change our environment. It is easy to let the distractions and the difficulties detract from my passion and vision... .and my main research question... But I must stay focused and glean from each experience something of worth so that I can enrich this whole learning process.

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New language found in A Simpler Way by Margaret Wheatley and Myron Kellner-Rogers

I have found even more new language for my action research process in a wonderful new book that we are reading for our mentoring class, A Simpler Way by Margaret Wheatley and Myron Kellner-Rogers. Their beliefs in simple and natural order of the universe and the workings of its parts and members are quite thought provoking. I found their views of connected and integration refreshing and affirming. Indeed, the Darwinian notion of life has colored much of what we do and how we feel about what we do. The notion that life is a constant struggle for survival... the survival of the fittest... has caused us to view life and all in it as one big competition. I must protect my domain, my territory lest I am made weaker and eventually destroyed.

Wheatley and Kellner-Rogers called us to view life more as symbiotic relationships, that we all have the desire to survive... that life naturally produces life rather than destroy it. The survival of life depends on life organizing and sustaining itself. Life cannot destroy itself. If one part hurts, the rest hurts and strive to make it whole. That is the nature of life!!! WOW!!! Those are profound beliefs!

This new life viewpoint is critical to the call of integrated work... of collaboration... of freedom to do what is "natural" in our service to the students. As student services professionals, we have engaged in our work to build up our institution and her students. Each person has understood and support the student-centered mission. There is great passion within each department to do our job as well as possible. Indeed, as Wheatley and Kellner-Rogers stated, "We see the depths of this passion whenever an organization invites its people to create the vision of that organization. Their vision is always grander than that of the leaders; their vision always includes more of the world in its embrace. But then we take this vital passion and institutionalize it. We create an organization [or I would even add here sub-organizations]. The people who loved the purpose grow to disdain the organization that was created to fulfill it. Passion mutates into procedures, into rules and roles. Instead of purpose, we focus on policies. Instead of being free to create, we impose constraints that squeezes the life out of us.."

I must remember this as I engage in this process of research and of change. I must remember the need to keep my passion from mutating into procedures... I must allow room for the freedom to create and to explore. Their words above aptly described what has happened to me and my colleagues. We spent over a year engaged in a process of articulating our mission and our vision, resulting in a new mission statement for our organization. The conversations sparked a new passion in us to serve our students. We embraced the mission with much verve and passion. And yet, in time, we allowed that passion to settle or mutate into procedures. It is tiring to live passionately all the time... so we think. So we settle for stale and rigid structures that strip us of our freedom to create. We retreated to our cocoons... As restricting as they were, those cocoons provided perceived safety. Freedom can be threatening because there is the fear of the unknown... The segregated structures may not be the most effective, but at least we know what to do...So we "color within the lines" and give up the freedom to create new structures because we believe that it is the safe thing to do... We are more concerned with survival than with growth... with the joy of surprises. We allow fears to dominate... Wheatley and Kellner-Rogers called us to a higher view of life... They called us to live life in a joyous dance of continual growth rather than in the huddles of survival.

This rich view of life is transforming. I pray that I can allow this view to permeate my life through my work in this program, my work professionally, and in all my various environments.

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Reflection on common themes arising from "meetings after meeting"

What re-engineering in the early 1990's produced...

Student services were improved through the re-engineering efforts, but why were the students still frustrated?

It is the first night in Florida for our face to face time. It is so good to actually "see" everyone again. In addition, being away from work is giving me some time and space to reflect on what has been happening with my action research of late. My first cycle of action continues to yield a myriad of reactions. The "meetings after meetings" have revealed to me the need for more formalized interviews of the Student Services Council members in order to gather critical data pertaining to the progression and acceptance of the notion of onestop or the integrated delivery of student services.

Some important themes that have emerged thus far in my conversations with the council members have been sanctioned changes, senior administration involved leadership, grassroots change efforts, committed time and personnel, smarter uses of technology, job security, direct student input, creativity, territorialism...

I am hoping to spend this next week reflecting on these themes and perhaps by the end of the week or next week to have designed interview questions for the council members and other critical players at our institution to gather critical data about those themes.

Several council members expressed to me that they were around in the early 1990's when the cry for re-engineering was being made. It was in the midst of some very critical as well as controversial changes within our institution. Re-engineering the process of serving our students' adminstrative needs was skeptically viewed along with all of the other changes going on. Frontline staff members and managers saw it as another attempt by senior administration to add more work while cutting their budgets. Though senior administration had a vision for the final product, the lack of buy-in from frontline managers prevented the examination of the process to occur. Each department accepted the challenge to engineer as an edict to examine their own departments and areas, to evaluate what each group was doing, to better their own processes. It was an exercise which further entrenched the silo-like mentality of a segregated institution. The administrative cutbacks added to the managers' protectionist view, which developed into a more isolationist stance. What the re-engineering efforts yielded was new (and some might argue better) processes for each of the functional areas. But there was not attention nor effort given to the linkages among the departments and the flow of information among areas of the university.

It was a time for departmental inward focus and thus entrenchment. The attention was placed more on strengthening the positions of the institutional functions rather than whom those functions serve. The complaints of the students about the complicated web of activities involved in the administrative processes were answered with the multiplicity of better processes. The established functional areas were sacred, with their own identities and purposes. How each area carried out its tasks and how polite and nice they were to the students were up for discussion. However, absent from the re-engineering efforts was the overlap of functionality and the complex web of activities from the students' standpoint. Each area could adeptly justify its own requirements for information authentication. Each can point to university and even governmental requirements for such information and processes that would yield that information. So processes for each department began with the assumption that it was the students' responsibility to begin a functional area's process with the requisite information already in hand. There was no real concern given to what the student had to go through to get to that beginnning requisite point. So, for example, by the time the student can begin the process of getting a transcript at the Registrar's Office, she would have had to visit the Office of Student Accounts to clear any financial holds, the cashier's office to pay for any charges, back to the Office of Student Accounts to confirm the hold clearance, and then back to the Cashier's Office to pay for the transcript. Each of those visits was for a separate purpose. And the student would have to remember the steps of this process and perform them in the prescribed manner... all before she can properly request her transcript. If she missed a step, she would be required to go back and engage in the processes for that step in order to continue with the transcript request process.

Was is any wonder that the students' fuse would be short by the time they would come before a student services staff member... from any department? So the senior administration's call for re-engineering was received as an institutionally and departmentally-centered call. It was understood and accepted that if we improved ourselves, then we can improve the students' experience. What we failed to realize was that the improvement of the departmental process must be made in light of and in the context of improving the whole student's experience and not just parts of it. It needed coordination and integration.

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Interviews... new cycle or new branch of my first cycle?

Common themes emerge through interviews...

I have spent approximately twenty hours during the last two weeks in interviews with 12 members of the Student Services Council. These meetings have yielded some critical information for my project. I have yet to do a numeric form of data analysis of this information, which will be important for my write up of this phase of my cycle. What has really interested me has been the consistent theme running through the interviewee's responses. I decided to interview 5 members who have managerial/directorial or oversight responsibilities in student services and 7 members who are line staff. 6 of these interviewees had been here since the early 1990's and all of those 6 were involved in the re-engineering efforts during that time. All interviewees, managers or line staff, have direct contact with the students. I decided to "formalize" the conversations we were having after the December meeting so that I can better assess the information being shared in a more "controlled" setting. By control, I am more concerned with the consistency of context. I wanted to be able to ask the same questions of all interviewees so that I can properly analyze the data.

My main interest in conducting these interviews is to determine what these council members viewed as the determining factors for the adoption of the integrated model of delivering student services at our institution. I also wanted to have each member speak of his/her "take" on the factors candidly without having their views influenced by other members of the group in a more open and shared setting. I assured each interviewee that this was for the purposes of my action research project only, that it was not coming from an administrative fiat. I also assured them that their responses would be analyzed and presented in a group context, that their anonymity would be protected. Since the membership of the Student Services Council is open to a large body of student services professionals, and the pool of interviewees is a representation of the whole body, the data would come from a good cross-section of the council. Hence, the issue of anonymity can be handled easily. Names and positions will not be published. The only distinguishing factor will be whether the interviewee is a line staff or a manager.

My main question was "What do you see as the determining factors in our adoption of the integrated model of delivering student services?" For those who had been present during the early 1990's re-engineering efforts, I also asked them to compare and contrast what happened in the late 1990's through the current time and reflect on the new determining factors that aided in our adoption of the integrated model of student services. Aside from clarifying questions, I allowed the interviewees to speak freely. The responses contained consistent themes that were brought up in our previous informal conversations.

Environmental Factors: Almost all of the interviewees cited in one form or another that the environment in the late 90's was much more open for change than they had seen in a long time. Some cited that Dr. Davenport's decision to step down as president served as a catalyst for changes to occur. One interviewee said, "The most stable thing that we have had in the past 15 years has been the presidency of the university. It was something that remained unchanged. But when Dr. Davenport expressed his desire for a change, for 'fresh blood and fresh ideas' to occupy that post, he was in a way giving us permission and a model to re-think everything. If our president can change, and if the presidency itself can change, than nothing we do should be immuned from change." Others cited the transition period as well as the transitional mood of the university provided the impetus for change. "Remember when Dr. Benton (our new and current president) brought in William Bridges to engage us in discussions about transitions?" began in interviewee. "He [Bridges] really explained our situation well then. We were basically in what he called the neutral zone, which was filled with what some may have called chaos... Everything was up in the air. I guess some could have really hunkered down and hung on to what they knew and had, and to some extent some of them did. Many people were bracing for changes... and understood that with a new administration there would be changes. With everything not so nailed-down anymore, changes could take place more easily. Bridges told us that in this neutral zone, most often the most creative ideas and innovations would come forth. I think that's what happened... We took advantage of this transtional period to do something that we couldn't do when things were stable and static."

Wow! Those comments are powerful indeed! Out of chaos can come great innovations. When we are taken out of our comfort zone, that is when we grow the most. This is true institutionally as well as personally. I have experienced that in both arenas. Chaos or the neutral zone is uncomfortable. We have little to rest on... There is a fluidity in motion. We cannot rest, so we tend to feel tired... and some can feel stressed... But in that reslessness or that forced motion, action occurs... innovations can result.

Committed involvement from leadership: This time, the call for change did not come in the form of a suggestion; rather, it came in the form of a fiat. Both the outgoing president as well as the incoming president made it publicly known that they wanted to see the delivery of student services become extensively more integrated. They recognized the grassroots efforts by various departments and managers, but they wanted to see an organized and committed effort to bring about this change. They set aside specific fundings, set up a steering committee which reported directly to both of them and the other senior administrators, empowered the University Management Committee to act quickly on matters pertaining to proposed changes in student services. They also provided necessary funding. And most importantly, they gave not only public philosophical support but hands-on regular involvement.

Empowerment of frontline professionals: Senior administration engaged the frontline professionals to take charge of the change process. They empowered managers to make changes to established university policies, even wiping them out if necessary. As long as we still followed the established governmental regulations, the university policies and practices were all up for discussion. One interviewee stated, "Nothing was nailed down anymore. When we would say 'Well, I don't think we are allowed to do that,' there was always someone coming back with 'Who's not allowing us to do that, the University or the government?' If it were the government, then we needed to clarify the regulation to determine if there is any room for maneuvering. If it were the university, then that point was up for discussion... and for change. The managers and staff felt much more empowered to make changes, as long as we can show that it is indeed effective in moving us toward a more integrated notion of delivering our services to the students.

Change policies so that we can change practices: Policy by policy in each area was examined and re-examined to determine its purpose. One big policy that was examined and eventually changed was the need for a physical signature from a student's advisor in order for the student to do any schedule changes. "Our policies turned our students into autograph seekers. They needed signatures for everything. People who signed those forms just mindlessly sign them many times. It just became an exercise. Those of us who wanted to help the students couldn't do anything without those signatures. The idea behind the signatures was that it signified that some kind of advising had occurred. But we knew, the students knew, and the advisors knew that most of the time, it was just a formality. But we all played the game, and the students ended up doing all the work. It put the students and us in adversarial relationships." After examining the policy and interviewing students and advisors about the actual practice, it was determined that we needed to change the policy. Advising was still necessary, but confirmation of advising can now be done via the student information system and through email.

Smarter uses of technology: Advancements in technology also aided in the adoption of the onestop model. The more extensive use of the web and email enabled a better sharing of information among offices and staff people. Online and phone registration allowed for more independent student transactions, freeing frontline staff to deal with the exceptions rather than the standard transactions. Prior to these technological advancements, students were required to be in contact with staff people for any adminstrative needs. Now, only students who desired human contact comes to see the staff... That factor alone changed the whole dynamic of human interaction. Email, faxes, live system updates also allow for more efficient and effective communication... The network of information went to work the moment the student initiates a transaction. There was no longer a need for the student to actually construct that web through engaging in a complex series of transactions.

Establishment of the Student Services Council: Open and shared communication was extensively discussed by all interviewees. "I felt like the mood of our workplace changed when we came together to share information. I can ask questions now for the sake of inquiry and learning without being afraid that other departments think that I am infringing on their job or their territory. There is a real mutual respect among the community members and a better understanding of what each department does. There is also a better understanding of the process as a whole. I know better now how my part fits into the whole picture, and how important it is for others to be able to see what I do and to understand why I do what I do," said one interviewee. The council has indeed been instrumental in allowing people to share openly and to be affirmed in their own expertise. It has lessened the isolation that comes from working in segregated and unconnected fashions. The culture is continually being shifted to a more integrated model while each area continues to fine tune its own processes to better fit in this integration as well as the better sharing of information.

Job Security: This one was a huge issue... During the transitional period, there was great concern by many over whether or not they would still have a job... For some, this fear caused them to be more actively engaged in the change process, because they felt that's what the senior administration wanted to see happen... It was an honest admission... action out of fear. For some people, the lack of security caused them to be further entrenched... maintain the status quo... stay low... "If they don't see me, then they won't think about getting rid of me," an interviewee admitted having had those thoughts during the transition period. When the process of change began to take shape, and job loss was not anywhere in the picture, more people were willing to be engaged in the process. In the last year, due to more budget cutbacks and another phase of re-organization had taken place, there is a renewed sense of fear... Losses in our endowment investments and other economic factors have necessitated more budget cutbacks. There is new uncertainty, so the willingness to be engaged in even more changes is waning.

Student input: Student focus groups, random phone surveys, and student comment sheets (collected at each office front counter) have yielded important information regarding their experience in light of their expectations. Almost all of the interviewees had stories to share about various interactions with students. During the process of these interviews, I have been reading the book Who Learns What from Cases and How?. This book, coupled with the stories that I have heard in these interviews have inspired me to add a new "branch" to this cycle... I will engage some selected staff members in developing written cases of student interactions and situations that would provide more complete, illustrative and instructive data for my project.

There is so much more to document... I need to be thinking about the actual "product" that I will produce from these interviews... I also need to do the numeric data analysis on these interviews as well... The project continues...

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The beginning of cases development

4 people have agfreed to work with me to develop cases: Student finance, student withdrawal, changing of major, transcript acquisitions. These four people have powerful stories to share. This will be a wonderful opportunity to illustrate how effective student service can really enhance a student's learning process. It is also an opportunity to show how unexamined policies and practices can hinder the student's learning process or negatively impact a student's college experience at our institution.

Now, all I have to do is find the time to write up these cases...

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Mentoring... my second cycle action and reflection beginning on 01/27/2003

I have been struggling since Florida over what is probably so unimportant... Maybe I am just too concerned with product over process... In re-reading my journal, I have realized that I have begun by second cycle, but I have not included my journals for that cycle here at all... I have been keeping that journal under my Mentoring process journal. I had posted the URL for that journal in newsgroup, but I have been vacillating over whether or not to include the portions that directly pertain to my ARP in here... that way everything ARP related would be kept under the one journal heading... and in the end, all the information would be centralized... I don't know why this was such a hard thing for me to decide on... It is most likely my fear of "doing this wrong." OK... I am releasing myself from that fear... and will just include those journal entries here...

As I plan for my action research project, it has become apparent for the need for the onestop concept to be distributed throughout the undergraduate college. With the new communication/business building, about half of our students have moved from central campus to what we call "Heaven"... a lot far removed from central campus. When the students need to perform an admininstrative task, they are now required to walk a long distance to reach the administrative building. Because of this, it is imperative that we provide the services where the students are.

Each division has what we call an "office manager". These are people who administratively "run" the division. They know the in's and out's of processes; they know faculty policies and needs, they understand their students better than most others in the institution. They possess a wealth of knowledge!

For this mentoring project, I have asked two office manager to engage with me in a mentoring relationship. For the purposes of this journal, I will call them John and Kate. They are two people for whom I have a great deal of respect. They care deeply about the students. They are very competent in their jobs. They are always looking for ways to better serve the students. Their jobs require that they provide a great deal of service to the faculty members and tend to the many administrative details of the academic divisions. But the knowledge and skills that they possess are invaluable to the students. They are, in essence, the one stop for the division.

Traditional views of office managers have often thwarted their efforts in helping the students. For example, they have been told that they "cannot academically advise students" because they are not "qualified" to do so. Although they know more than most of the sanctioned advisors, they cannot "officially" advise the students. Their access to the student information system is limited, in order to prevent them from stepping outside of their bounds.

In our first meeting last Friday, I expressed to these two people how much I have come to rely on them. I shared with them how valuable they are to our institution and to the student-centered mission of our institution. I reflected with them my goal to enhance student services through the empowerment of the "knowers" like them, to effectively use the knowledge that they possess to help our students have a better educational experience.

I saw the glimmer in their eyes. To be recognized as a critical player in the institution was very empowering to them. Our first conversation opened flood gates of feelings and emotions of people who have felt under-appreciated and disempowered. There was such a willingness and desire to serve students. The frustrations of being held back by bureaucracy were being poured out.

I listened as they talked, as they shared. They were both very excited at the prospects of being engaged in a process that would involve shared problem-solving, better understanding of how the "system" works, and to share knowledge with one another.

I shared with them that I will work with them to determine the most appropriate roles for them to play in the enhancement of student services. We will rely on each other's knowledge and means of access to design and implement changes that will make even more meaningful our work and our relationships with the students, the faculty, and the administration.

It is amazing how empowering it is when your experience and knowledge are acknowledged and valued. This is a critical component of this relationship.

There is some groundwork to be laid in order to get this relationship to be blessed and formalized in our institution. The first step is completed. They have agreed to be engaged in this process. Now, I will go to the chairmen and the dean to get the appropriate approvals.

This has been an "upside down" process for our institution. Usually, I would have gone to the dean and chairmen first to get permission. Then the chairs would contact the office managers and TELL them what would happen... By turning the process upside down, and going to the office managers first, I have given them the opportunity to choose to be engaged rather than being told to be engaged. They have taken ownership of this process. That is very critical!!!

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Establishing expectations and direction for the mentoring relationship

Spent much of today's mentoring meeting discussing more of the details of the office managers' job duties. I am continually amazed at how much they know and how much they do. I began our time together with one phrase, "Please tell me what you do." That opened the floodgate for them to begin to share. At first it was a series of lists of job duties, and then they began to share on a much more affective level how they felt about their job and their place in this institution. These are such incredibly loyal employees! I spent much of the time listening, allowing them to direct the course of the discussion. Most of my comments were reserved for clarification purposes. At one point, one of them asked me, "Are we giving you the information you need?" I assured them that what they were doing was just what we needed to be doing. I was there to learn from them first. We all would have critical parts in shaping this mentoring process. This was our opportunity to get to know one another as well as ourselves better.

An AHA! moment came when John said, (paraphrase) "I haven't really given much thought to how much information is in my head! Our jobs have evolved in such a way that it is not really what we were hired to do in the first place. I guess when we need to do something, we figure out how to do it and then it becomes a part of what we do... and I guess a part of who we are." Kate added, "Yes, necessity is the mother of inventions."

As I listen to them, I couldn't help but think about Brown and Duguid's book, The Social Life of Information, in which he talks about knowledge vs. information. It would be very difficult to try and document and categorize all of the information that is in the heads of John and Kate. And even if we were able to do so, there would be some big gaps in the linking of the seemingly disparate pieces of information. It is their knowledge, developed through a combination of almost three decades of experience, which provides the bridges, connections or synapses that bring critical information to life and make them useful in the service of students, staff and faculty. The knowledge indeed does reside in the knower. And we cannot underestimate the power of the knower. If we are to change the environment, we must engage the knowers in the process. They are not pawns to be moved around on the chess board or pieces of a machine that are interchangeable. They are much more complex and have profound impact in the whole than what they appear to be on a flat and sterile organizational chart.

I asked them to come up with a list of things that they would like to learn how to do as well as be empowered to do. From our conversations I have understood that there are some institutional barriers embedded in the processes that prevent them from fully utilizing their skills. These barriers are rooted in the traditional silos-model of institutional organization, where each department is responsible for specific tasks, where each worker knows his/her place, where jobs are unrelated and segregated. There is a strong emphasis on personal and departmental accountability. Embedded in this emphasis is a punitive rather than developmental view of assessment. Mistakes are scorned and to be avoided at all cost. So, to minimize mistakes, we "simplify", we categorize, we segregrate so that we can link the mistake to the mistake-maker. And so we are taught to "do our job"... Going beyond the job description would go outside of the established boundaries, within which there are clearly delineated tasks with specifics procedures, to which we can point and blame if there is a problem. We can put the blame on "institutional policies and procedures," rather than accepting responsibility for the choices that we make. Kate expressed it well today when she said, "Sometimes I feel like it is our main job to follow the procedures and maintain policies, even if they don't make sense, even if they are cumbersome and repetitious. We teach our students to be critical thinkers, but when it comes to serving them, we distrust critical thinking because that may make us move outside of the established bounds!" WOW!!! That was an awesome insight!!!

There is so much to think about from today!!! I need to prepare for FETC... and there is so much to do for that! This has been a wonderful meeting today. The dance has been engaged. John and Kate were so animated today. As we were wrapping things up, John said, "Thank you for just listening. It's good just to have someone listen sometimes!"

And perhaps that is one of the key elements of this relationship... it is one of the critical jobs for me as a mentor... I need to listen!!! Indeed that is an expectation, which will not necessarily be listed on the list that I have asked them to compile... But John's comments spoke loud and clear... and I have heard... and have listened.

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Resistance from administrators...

I experienced some resistance this week from administrators who are afraid that this mentoring process will create more work for the office managers, taking them away from their administrative duties that are a part of their job. Spent much time in discussions and meetings with these administrators to better understand their views of what an office manager is and what (s)he is expected to do for the division. They all understand the great value that these office managers provide in the areas of student adminstrative services, but they see that as secondary to their administrative duties to the division, the faculty and the chairs. I shared with them some preliminary thoughts about the arduous processes that the office managers have had to go through to perform simple tasks for students due to the lack of access to information and information systems. It is my hope that through this process, we can help find ways for them to be more effective in serving students without having to sacrifice their contribution to the division, faculty and chairs.

As I reflected on these meetings, I am appreciating more the role of the mentor as one who paves the way for the mentee to grow and to experience new experiences. I am committed to these two people... committed to enhancing their professional experience... which involves making it more visible to various parties their contribution to the whole process. Through my interactions with these administrators, I have been able to map out some of the critical areas (landmines, so to speak) that I will need to assist my mentees carefully navigate around, and when needed, to be addressed straight on.

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Seeing an ARP metaphor in my side yard...

As I walked out the door this morning, I caught a glimpse of the Calle Lilies that the boys and I planted in our side yard on the Lunar New Year day. It occurred to me that our process for planting those flowers and the bouganvilla bushes is a wonderful metaphor for the environmental changes that the members of the Student Services Council cited as important factors that impacted the change in culture that allowed for a better acceptance of the integrated model for delivering student services.

It had been almost seven months since we moved to our home. The side yard had not been tended to for years. The dirt was compact... There were rocks and weeds. Whole rows of dead Boston ferns lined the sides of the walkway. It was ugly, but we could live with it. Beautifying it would take time and effort, both of which are being spent on OMAET right now... We knew it needed work, but there were other priorities that were more important and pressing than taking care of the side yard... It was good enough for now.

That was pretty much the view that many of us took with the state of affairs in student services. We knew that it needed work. The students had voiced their frustrations, and we felt their frustrations. But there were always the urgent issues that needed immediate attention. Each time we looked at the process, it just seemed overwhelming. So we look away. It was "good enough" for now.

A few days before the Lunar New Year, one of the boys fell on the dead ferns. The hard, dead branches pierced the skin... It wasn't horrible, but the sight of blood made him cry hard. That was an impetus for me to do something about it. I began to pull up the dead plants... As I began to pull, I realized that the whole row was connected... that it was quite easy to uproot these dead plants... I kept pulling and pulling. Before I knew it, I was covered in dirt. Dead plants were strewn everywhere... And four hours later, I had cleared the walk way of all the dead plants. The grounds where the dead plants had been were stirred up. What was once appeared to be hard, rocky soil now displayed dark, rich, and loose soil. I could see earthworms and rolie polies, ants and spiders, sprouts of greens throughout. It was full of life.

The sight of the opened and loosened soil inspired me to have grand thoughts of flowers and of live plants. But there were still the rocks and the weeds... I knew it would not be easy... But the ground had been broken. It was easier now than it had been prior to the clearing of the dead brush. Indeed, it was possible to make this side yard lively and brilliant. On New Year's Day, I visited the local hardware store, and found some beautiful Calle Lillies and bouganvilla bushes... hardy and low maintenance plants that would fit well in the side yard. I brought them home and for the rest of the day, our whole family worked to beautify, to plant, to bring to life a dead space.

Indeed, that process is a metaphor for the period of transition of administrations. For a long time, we operated under one scenario. It worked for us. There was no real push or immediate reason to make any drastic changes. We had enough work to do without having to go through major changes. Dr. Davenport's leaving was the piercing of the skin that drew blood, so to speak. For me, it was a painful loss...But it served as a catalyst for change. It allowed us to dig up old ways of doing things, and recognize that there is indeed fertile ground that would support and sustain the new life which comes from new practices.

We are still in the process of choosing, of clearing, of raking, of smoothing... But we are in the process. We have a vision of a new place, with new ways of doing things... The ground has been broken and is much more ready to receive newness than it had been before.

The challenge with the side yard is now we have to regularly water it. I didn't have to worry about that before... But it's worth it!!!

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Finding ways to work smarter...

The resistance to change is as inveterate to our organization's culture as our commitment to impacting students' lives. John, Kate and I spent some time this week discussing the resistance that I have been getting from some administrators over this mentoring project. I believe that I need to be open with them about what I am going through, especially when it has an impact on their experience. After all, they are integral parts of this process. Our conversations have been very productive because I sense a real sense of equity among the three of us. The institutional hierarchy does not come into play in our mentoring community. We value each other's input. We listen to one another. We may have differing views, but we are willing to learn... and even to change... as we engage in learning with one another.

When I began to share some of the resistance that I had experienced, both John and Kate quickly responded with comments that appear "ready-made", comments based on years of experience... rooted in memory. "Yeah, they have a hard time seeing us as much more than secretary," said John. "They want us to do more... just as long as it doesn't mean that it will take away from them." There was cynicism in their voices... I listened as they recounted examples and experiences of feeling belittled, disempowered, misunderstood... Most of these came from as far back as a decade ago. And as they talked, Kate had an epiphany, "You know most of this comes from us feeling like we have to deal with the difficult cases without being given the authority to make any changes or information to really know how to handle the issues." She and John then spent most of the meeting talking about instances when new policies were instituted without their knowing, but they were the ones who had to enforce those policies. Indeed, this has been a problem that is very typical of our institution. The staff climate surveys that are conducted every other year always shows that communication is a problem that is viewed by many staff members. The interpretation of that word communication has been problemmatic for those who want to address the issue. Most of the time, it is interpreted as "the people want to know," so the focus of addressing the communication issue is on the transmission of information. What John and Kate were talking about here is really the issue of the construction of that information. Managers have been encouraged, cajoled, forced, expected to share information with their staff. Meetings that were reserved for managers only are now opened to the whole staff, so that anyone who wants to know can go to those meetings. But the focus remains on the transmission of information to a passive group of people. What John and Kate represent is the need for not just receiving information, but to be engaged in the discussions that lead to the final product of the communicated information. So perhaps the problem is not lack of communication; rather, it is lack of engagement.

I checked this out with John and Kate, and it was as if they had found gold!!! Their eyes lit up, and the whole mood of the room changed. "That's it!" exclaimed John, "I am not talking about us not knowing about something. I get all the memos... I just would like for someone to just ask us how this would affect us and our ability to do our job... our ability to serve our students and faculty."

"Yes," said Kate, "If we are to carry out policies, I would really like to understand the process behind the policies. Students really don't take to me telling them 'That's university policy!' They want to know why. They want to know the reasons behind it. When I haven't been involved in the process, I am inadequate to handle those kinds of issues."

I shared with them some of my reflections on the resistance from the administrators. Indeed, with the current climate in which significant changes have been taking place across our organization, situated in an uncertain economic environment, any change is viewed with suspicion. There is a history of budget cutbacks with promises that we will do less, followed by fiats to do even more with even less. The resistance from these administrators are to such changes. They are really trying to "protect" staff such as John and Kate from becoming the bearers of burdens of doing more with less.

"But that's not what we are asking for," said John. "We are engaged in this to work smarter, to provide better service to our students than what we have been allowed to do until now. We are not taking on any more jobs. We are trying to do the jobs we have better."

I assured them that was the same message that I have given to the adminstrators. And they have received them well. They just need time to adjust to the ideas, to mull over them... In principle, there is support. But they want to make sure that this is not just another attempt to increase work while decreasing budget.

As we ended our time together, I asked John and Kate to reflect on the role of memory in institutional dialogue and change efforts. We will discuss this at our next meeting...

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A list is compiled...

Had a great meeting with John and Kate today! We came up with a list of specific things that they would like to be able to do that will really help in their ability to better serve the students. They were reluctant to form a list with me at first. I encouraged them to just dream with me and allow themselves to really think about how they might better serve the students, what will make their job better... I shared with them that I see this as a learning process, and that we don't actually have to come to an immediate resolution... I wanted us to think out loud together first and not worry about the possible obstacles in the way. Indeed, if we are concerned about the obstacles up front, we may never get started. I recommitted myself to them that I will remain engaged in this process, that they do not have to feel alone in this.

By the end of the meeting, we had come up with a wonderful list of needed information access and specific training goals. It was a very doable list!!! My job now is to go and pave the way for this all to happen. I will now run interference and work with home offices to get them access to the needed information as well las the appropriate training.

The mood was upbeat throughout our meeting. I can sense a feeling of encouragement from both Kate and John building as the meeting progressed. Out of the list that John and Kate helped to develop, the most difficult one to get permission and access will be the updating of a student's academic minors and concentrations, along with updating the Oncourse database. Right now, those functions are reserved specifically for our Registrar's Office. I assured them that I would meet with our Registrar and make case for their being able to do these things. There were enough other things on the list that will give us ample materials to cover through their training. I am pleased with this progress!

After we ended the meeting, I remembered that I wanted us to discuss the role of "memory" in our institutional communication... The time we spent didn't lend itself to this discussion... I am glad I didn't break the flow just to fulfill a planned task... There will be other opportunities for this discussion...

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Training can begin!!! We got semi-approval. Progress!!!

I am doing the victory dance right now!!! I just met with a director about what John and Kate would like to do... I shared with this director that this was part of my action research, that I would like to determine the effectiveness of a distributed version of Onestop throughout the college, that John and Kate are the beginning of that distribution process. I then asked this director for permission to give them access to critical student information that is currently maintained by her office. I also asked for approrpriate training that will allow them to properly carry out these functions.

We discussed the need for quality assurance to ensure that John and Kate would indeed be able to perform these tasks effectively. I could sense a concern over the completeness and correctness of student information, so I addressed that concern directly by engaging this director in a discussion about quality assurance, and discussing this situtation alongside her to collaboratively design an effective quality assurance process.

She was very open to the idea, and promised me that she would discuss this with her associate director and several staff members. She was very amicable to the ideas presented and was very supportive!!! I am thankful for this very productive meeting. It is powerful to enter a conversation with the spirit of "making the other person look good" and protecting their "rights and dignity" while being able to move the process forward as well. That was how I saw the meeting today!!!

I will wait for her final response... But this deserves a victory dance!!!

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There is power in the telling and re-telling of stories...

Had a very "fun" meeting today with two of my "case study" collaborators. We spent most of the time sharing stories about meeting student needs through the years. I think it was cathartic for all of us just to talk through our experiences. The stories are so varied, but the theme that runs through them thus far have been "complications and frustrations", from both the students as well as the staff. One of the staff member mused, "There were so many times that I felt like I was 'cheating' by helping the students. Nothing I did was illegal or immoral. I was just going beyond my job description. But it just didn't make sense to keep the students running around when we can just take care of it right then and there."

"Yes, we were always told, 'play by the rules until the rules change'! I'm glad the rules are changing. They didn't make sense before. And they make even less sense now looking back at them."

The conversations we had revealed to me how dysfunctional we have allowed ourselves to become in our work. We have come to allow the "policies" that we put in place to control us. We have learned to deal with the urgent rather than the important. We spend much of our days putting out fires, much of which are the result of the systems and policies that we have put in place. We try to "simplify" the process through adding on rather than stripping away. And even when we try to "strip" away, we create new "stripping away" policies. So, we tire ourselves out by dealing with those urgent matters. We know intuitively and cognitively that departmental policies and practices often times work against one another, but we are afraid to "step on others' toes" or to "meddle in others' businesses", so we remain silent. Worse yet, we are afraid that if we focus on others' problems, it might bring attention to problems within our own areas.

The improved dialogue among the student services staff has allowed for us to acknowledge that there are some policies and practices that we needed to address within our own areas. We came together to share our desire to change what we do within our own 'shop', but we know that those changes will affect and involve other areas as well. But when we come to the table owning our own shortcomings and acknowledging our own need for changes, the defenses are down, and people are more apt to work with us. And in so doing, the real change process can really take place. When each person or each department takes a defensive posture, there is great reluctance for anyone to go to the "center" of the process for fear that we may lose control of what we have. But when we realize that what we have is worth losing for the sake of gaining something better, that realization results in powerful actions that have real tranformational effects.

There are some great stories out there... We have a good list of ideas for these cases. I do need to work on writing up the cases, but the process of telling and re-telling these stories are indeed affirming to what we are trying to do.

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Invited to speak at Tulane

The Vice President for Information Technology at Tulane, John Lawson, called me today to talk to me about coming out there to meet with the president's cabinet about the concept of one stop. The VP used to be the CIO here at Pepperdine, and I had the privilege of working closely with him. I have really missed him since he left here. He is a wonderful asset for Tulane, and I am glad for this new opportunity for him. He has stayed in touch since he left here last June. I had told him about my experience with OMAET and shared with him the topic for my action research project. I emailed him the URL to my homepage last Fall. Without my knowing it, he had been following along with my progress. We talked toward the end of the Fall semester, and he told me how much he was enjoying reading about all I was doing. I came to appreciate the "public" nature of the web even more. He had suggested that I consider coming out to Tulane for a visit and to share some of my work with the administration there. My initial response was "Maybe after graduation. I can't imagine adding something else to my plate right now.

When I shared this with Margaret in Florida, she really encouraged me to consider going to Tulane to make the presentation. She told me that this is part of the action research process, that my presentation to those interested is an important part of sharing the knowledge that I gain through the action research process. Margaret's encouragement gave me the courage to consider going to Tulane.

I shared this with John and we began to discuss some real dates. Today, he asked if I could come out there for a meeting on May 22. The president's cabinet had a meeting that day, and it would be a good time for me to make my presentation. I told him that it would be a good time for me as well. We would work out the details of my travels as the date gets closer. For now, I am on their agenda!

This will be a wonderful experience! I must begin to gather my thoughts and cull down my information to make an effective presentation that would be most appropriate for this audience. I will work closely with John to tailor this presentation.

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Garnering support from another critical player in the process...

I came across another hurdle today in the mentoring process for John and Kate. I had thought I had cleared all the permissional issues with all the appropriate administrators, but there was one key person left: the coordinator for all of the office managers! I had gone up all the "chain of command" but neglected the coordinating branch! I called the coordinator and apologized for the oversight and assured her that it was not intended to be a slight of any kind. We spent a long time discussing my purpose for engaging John and Kate in this mentoring and training process. Having worked closely with the coordinator for over 12 years, and having known her even when I was here as a student, our established relationship provided for credible grounds on which I was able to make my case. I assured her that it not at all a matter of passing more work onto the office managers; rather, it was a means of empowering some very key players in our institution who are invaluable to effectively serving our student body. I shared with her my intention to provide this kind of training and mentoring to all of the office managers who express the desire to have more access to information, technology and means to better serve our students. I stress over and over again the idea that this will make the work flow a better process. She was comforted to know that the office managers had a big part in initiating this process, that they are owing this process. I assured her that I would keep her apprised of the progress and encouraged her to contact me any time if she had any concerns. Again, our ongoing working relationship had already proven to her my accessbility, and our process of communication has been a healthy one. I spent much of the time asking for her input regarding what she thought would be most helpful to the office managers from her standpoint. She has a wealth of information and a great deal of experience. It will be good to engage her in this process!

The coordinator gave her blessing! Another vote of confidence in the process!!! This will pave the way for future training and transformation of the process throughout the campus!!!

With the coordinator's blessing, I proceeded to request for increased systems access for John and Kate. Both of them had asked for training in the areas of student finances and more complete information on various "holds" on the students' records and registration. Their current information access only allows them to see whether or not a student has a records hold, but it does not allow them to know which office "owns" those holds, what caused those holds to be placed, and how the holds may be lifted. This really handicaps them in their ability to properly advise and serve the students. As the registration period approaches, the need for this information increases. The process for granting them this information was much easier than I thought. I merely took one email request from me to IT personnel, which honored my request within a couple of hours. John and Kate's system profiles were updated, and voila! They now have access! My next step will be to meet with them to train them on accessing and using this information.

The cooperation that we have been receiving throughout the university has been encouraging. I personally have felt empowered throught this process of developing the means for John and Kate to be empowered to better serve our students. There is an apparent trust to the process that I have proposed and have engaged in with John and Kate, and that trust is empowering to me indeed. There is an openness to try new things and to be more effective in our work. I see it in John and Kate, and I see it in each person we come into contact as we engage in this process together. The mentoring relationship with John and Kate involves many people from throughout the University. It is not done nor does the relationship exist in a vaccuum. Each step along the process involves multiple players and multiple levels! It is part of the whole system, seeking to connect... as it is naturally intended to occur.

The more engaged I am in this process, the more I have come to believe that the segregation of functional areas is actually the "unnatural" antithesis the natural whole of the systems of student services, that is part of the whole of the University. The integrative approach to delivering student services is actually not a new phenomenon; rather, it is an effort to seek an order that is naturally inherent in the wholeness of our system, an order which the system seeks to organize itself, as Margaret Wheatley would describe it.

I am encouraged!!!

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Approval given for training! Yea!!!

I received official word earlier today that John and Kate, along with myself and my staff will indeed be given the opportunity to be trained thoroughly in several key registration and other administrative academic processes that have traditionally been held in sanctum by specific areas! This is indeed very very good news! One of those processes is the change and addition of majors, minors, specializations, course substitutions, and other issues pertaining to a student's course of study. Up until now, only two people in the whole college had access to the change process for these matters. It was always believed that it was too "complicated" and involved to allow too many people to be engaged in this process. This protectiveness has served the institution much better than it has served the students. Due to the limited staff's access, the students have had to wait for days, sometimes up to months, for what might be "simple" changes to be made to the system, which would trigger other changes in the student records. Discussions with the director in charge of these processes revealed the possibilites for well-trained staff from throughout the university to be engaged in this process. In addition, our smarter uses of the current technology available to us is allowing us better tracking ability of changes and exceptions to the changes; hence, the accountability is better addressed. This allows for the director to have more confidence in allowing these change processes to be distributed and shared among multiple staff members.

As much as I would like to begin the training process, it will need to wait until after the registration period is over, which will be another couple of weeks. By then, all of us will have more time to focus on training and learning new processes now available to us!!!

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Engaging in a powerful collaborative change process...

WOW!!! What a day today has been!!! My head is still spinning. It is now past midnight, and I am exhausted. But I need to at least post some notes here in my journal while the thoughts are still fresh!

I spent all day today in an intensive seminar facilitated by the consulting firm of Cap Gemini Ernst & Young (CGEY) at their Accelerated Solutions Environment facilities in El Segundo, California. This was a part of the development of a charter for our University's Enterprise Resource Planning Project, a project which, if successful, will yield new backend information systems for the whole institution. It is an overwhelming process which involves every aspect of university life. Technology has so permeated our culture that none of us can escape it.

Over 50 participants from throughout the University, from all 5 schools and numerous departments from within each school as well as from central administration, converged to develop this charter... together!!! Here are some powerful highlights:

  • Each of us was expected to use our expertise, rely on our experiences to enrich the learning process and the decision making process
  • At the same time, we were asked to think beyond what we know and what we need, and look to what will best serve the institution... in the context of all of us working together, sharing information with one another
  • Moving out of what we own and working in the "free space", allowing for new ideas and new possibilities to develop!!! (Isaac's Order Between)
  • All were considered to be experts and novices at the same time
  • Positions became less and less important as discussions for effective solutions were engaged! No one asked where you worked or what you did! What was important was that we contributed.
  • Round table discussions were the norm. Didactic teaching and telling others what to do were not allowed
  • We remained engaged together in the learning and development process. We decomposed process and allowed each other to help inform and reshape the process
  • Commonalities among us were much more readily apparent and available than we had previously thought
  • Letting go of traditional ways of doing things was the key part of learning... We asked questions to understand rather than to undermine each other.

There were so many more things that I experienced today, but the above are key issues that are standing out for me right now. So many of the elements of my experience today with my colleague tie directly into my mentoring relationship with John and Kate! I will need to share my thoughts with them the next time we meet.

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John is leaving us!!!

It has been a bittersweet day today! John called this morning to share with me that he had been offered a wonderful position working with the Student Development staff at a major university in southern California! My first reaction, and definitely my strongest reaction even now, was that I was very excited for John! He will be able to have such strong impact on the students' experiences there. He will be working with their orientation programs, which have such incredible possibilities for positive impact on a student's overall experience with the University. I was doubly pleased to learn of this because I had been able to work with John in our own orientation programs when he was a student. He was one of the finest orientation counselors, with whom I had worked closely. He had applied for this position a long time ago but never heard from their VP for Student Development. The job offer came as quite a surprise to John. It was a surprise that he could not turn down.

He spent some time during our conversation expressing his regret for not being able to remain engaged in the process that we had started. I assured him that I would remain available for him, that he would still have access to our relationship, and that I would be more than happy to be a sounding board for him as he experiences newness in this new adventure. I offered him my eight years of designing, coordinating, and executing orientation programs. It was important for me to not let go of this relationship even if the context is changing. John and I now have a new and different dimension to our mentoring relationship. He will be here through the registration period. It is indeed a bittersweet moment. I am thrilled for John, but I do mourn the loss of our established working and mentoring relationship here at our University.

I am resolved to engage John's replacement in this mentoring and training process that John, Kate and I have critically started and have been engaged in. This is a twist... or a kink... in my action research process, but it is part of the learning process.

I called Kate as soon as I got off the phone with John. Kate had found out the news before I did. She was excited for John, but like me, will miss him profoundly. The two of them have shared many of the frustrations and victories since John started in his division. "There's a great deal of knowledge and experience that will leave with John," said Kate. She is correct. I assured her that we would continue with our process, that I am still as committed to her as ever. She was concerned with how this change will affect my action research. It was quite kind of her to be so concerned with me. I shared with her that although one of the purposes for our mentoring relationship is to provide critical information for my action research, it was not the whole purpose. I reminded her again of my commitment to her and her learning, to her empowerment, to our growth as people and as professionals.

As we ended our phone conversation, Kate said, "Hung, just know that I am here for you!"

"Likewise," I replied.

Being there... now that's a critical element to mentoring! Kate and I will discuss this further!

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Saying good-bye to John...

John came down to say good-bye at the end of the day. We hugged and tried to say our "professional" good-byes in front of a long line of students waiting to be helped. We promised to remain in touch and to stay engaged in our "mentoring" process, even though the context has changed. I will miss John... in so many ways I will miss John. As he walked out of my office, I mourned the loss of incredible knowledge to our insitution. Sure, he was a great documenter (if I may coin a word). He documented everything he did. His processes are outlined and explained. The person who comes after him will be blessed because of his thoroughness. But what he was unable to document is what I would call his ability to work in Isaacs' "order between" or the empty space that is not occupied by rules or policies. John was always looking for those opportunities and worked well in them. That ability comes through experience, through working within the channels so well that you understand the dynamism interconnecting all those channels. That knowledge allows you to be a much more effective knowledge worker who can comfortably and effectively work outside of the boundaries. John and Kate are such wonderful people to work with because they are so filled with wonderful knowledge. They are like teachers who are so well-grounded in their subject matters that they can so very easily and naturally extend their teaching abilities, methods and techniques beyond the established norms. Some of this comes naturally because they are gifted, but much of it comes from years of experience and of questioning process and refusing to believe that the areas inside the line are all there is.

I don't think you can document that kind of ability... It comes with experience... It comes through being engaged in the process and not just focus on the product. It comes from not settling for the easy or the explained. It comes through questioning and inquiring.

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Reflecting on re-engineering and empowerment...

In the midst of the craziness of this past week, I was also steeped in various meetings for our Enterprise Resource Planning project, a project which hopes to yield new back-end information systems for our institution. In the middle of this process is the business redesign process, which our consultants have told us would be necessary to more effectively use the systems available to us. I have tended to be from the school of thought that our business practices should drive the software design to enhance the practice. But this process seems to be the other way around, that the systems will drive how we need to do our business. In either case, it is healthy for us to re-examine how we do business from time to time. I thought of Kate and John this week as the word "re-engineering" is repeated over and over again.

In Isaacs' book on dialogue, he shared Thomas Davenport's reasons for the failure of many company's reengineering efforts. Davenport, who was one of the founders of the reengineering process, had written that reengineering "didn't start out has a code word for mindless corporate bloodshed. It wasn't supposed to be the last grasp of the Industrial Age Management". But as Isaacs pointed out, at the time of his writing his book, "The CSC Index's "State of Reengineering Report" reported that 73% of the companies that participated in the study said they were reengineering to eliminate jobs, and 67% said that reengineering efforts produced mediocre, marginal or failed results." I wonder if our institution participated in that study back in the 90's! For those who "survived" the reengineering efforts of the 90's, they are much more suspicious of new words coined for change processes. ERP... or Enterprise Resource Planning, for example, is a signal to many that positions will be cut. It's another form of reengineering for the early 21st century. Kate is one of those survivors. If not for the extensive experience that we had shared at our institution and the trust built up in our relationship, my efforts to engage her in the development of the distributive version of one stop would be futile with her.

She has expressed concerns over the ERP. And I share in her concerns. Indeed, the reengineering processes was started as "an ideal solution to a modern business problem: how to link technological and computer-based shifts in the ways people worked with the insights of the Total Quality Movement." (Isaacs, 1999:186). But what we have experienced with previous reengineering efforts has been to use the technology to be much more efficient at being ineffective. When reengineering's goal is to trim staff, the focus of those process reengineering efforts tended to be on efficiency. Because the more efficient you are with the computers, the less human capital you would need. But if your focus is only on efficiency, and attention is not adequately given to the effectiveness of the process, the the change will just allow you to be ineffective at a faster pace.

This is what I must guard against as Kate and I (and hopefully John's replacement) go through this training process and as we shape the way we deliver student services. We must always seek to provide effective service to our students in the most efficient way possible. Empowering people like Kate means much more than teaching them to do things more quickly. It involves allowing her to use her experience and expertise to shape the processes in ways that best incorporate new technology with processes that make sense to the people for whom the service was intended to serve. It involves being willing to let go of the notion of total efficiency when effectiveness is at stake. Kate's experience is invaluable in the shaping of this process!

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New date for Tulane presentation

John Lawson contacted me today to ask if we could move my presentation to a later date in June. The retreat for the senior administration of Tulane will take place some time from mid to late June. John thought that we would have more time for my presentation during the retreat than during a regular cabinet meeting. I told him that I would try and work with the June date... But there is a part of me that is dreading committing to something as late as middle to late June. That will be the end of the semester... when I should be spending time finalizing projects, not the least of which will be my ARP... I am reluctant to add any more to my plate during such a critical time. But how can I pass up this opportunity?!?!?

Will need to discuss this with Margaret and my cadre mates!!!

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Training is going well!!!

With the registration period behind us, we were able to finally schedule training with the Associate Registrar to train Kate and staff members from the Student Administrative Services area on the complete processes involved with changing a student's major, minor, specializations and concentrations. We also learned the steps to input and make adjustments to substitutions and notes on the student's academic progress records. This allows for someone like Kate to fully address and meet the students' needs when it comes to matters pertaining to their academic progress records. Training was easily accomplished since Kate and the other staff members involved were already extensively familiar with the student information systems and its syntax. They were also well-versed in the critical elements of the change processes. What they had lacked was access to the areas of the systems to make these changes as well as the view to pieces of the information system that would give them a complete picture of the students' records. Training was like discovering the missing pieces of the puzzle. The willingness to share information and knowledge was refreshing! Our extensive work in garnering buy-in and acquiring the proper permission from the proper authorities made for a smooth training process. Kate was very much in her element. Aside from catching on to the Associate Registrar's directions quickly, Kate also displayed a healthy and practical outlook on the student services process. She asked good questions, probing for deeper understanding of the concepts rather than just mere procedural questions. I was very encouraged by this.

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More training... this is awesome!!!

John called today as Kate and I began our meeting to go over the financial screens in the student information systems. We spent a little bit of time catching up. He had some questions for me regarding Pepperdine's orientation and the mechanics of it.We talked briefly about the challenges and opportunities that come with a new working and learning environment. Although he began the conversations asking about the mechanics and details of orientation, the crux of the dialogue was about getting re-connected and reveling with us over the approved training from several key home offices.

Since I was quite familiar with the workings of these screens, I decided to work with Kate directly during this portion of the training program. Kate was not as familiar with the finance screens as she was last week on the oncourse program and the student academic records. But I enjoyed the one on one attention with Kate. Again, she asked important questions regarding the students' financial obligations, what we do with delinquent accounts, how to handle students' situations where their owing balance will prevent them from continuing going to school. We waxed philosophical for about 45 mintes over some of these difficult issues. Since Kate's time was limited, I wanted to make sure that she at least gets the basic understanding of the student accounts and financial aid pages, which would provide Kate with even more access to information systems that will allow Kate to provide effective and complete service.

Over and over again, we discussed the issue of working harder versus working smarter. It is my goal to empower Kate effiectively, so that she will have the knowledge and expertise necessary to show the rest of the division and even throughout the process what they can really do. It is a continual process of building and waning trust, with other home offices as well as the administrators who directly oversee Kate in the pecking order or the organizational chart(s). What Kate asked for was not extraordinary, we did not violate any laws. We merely questionsed and created an environment in which grappling is encouraged.

We decided that with the wealth of information available to Kate, she will need to take the time to be engaged in the service process, and in so doing she will learn and help others through her learning process that is now complete. On-the-job-training is an important if not critical role to the professional development process for someone like Kate.

What a great day!!!

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Anecdotal evidence of the effectiveness of the integrated delivery of student services

Had a nice meeting with Kate today. Much of this last week was spent by Kate taking care of end of the semester adminstrative matters for the division. Registration is mostly completed for the students, so there were not a great deal of student contact for her since we last met. She did, however, shared with me two instances where she was able to assist the students with things beyond what her job would normally had allowed her to do.

One student was completing her portfolio for a job interview. The missing piece was her academic transcript, which she was unable to access due to a records hold. In the past, the most Kate would have been able to do for the student was to send her to the Thornton Administrative Center to try and figure this out on her own. Because of her recent training and increased view access to the student information system, Kate was able to determine that it was a financial hold, at which point, Kate reviewed the student's financial records, contacted the Office of Student Accounts to explain the situation to the consultant. Because Kate was able to do the preliminary review and was able to share that information with Student Accounts, the consultant was able to quickly lift the hold and even offered to contact the Registrar's Office to let them know that the hold was cleared. The Registrar's Office processed the transcript request and the student was able to pick it up within the hour on her way to her interview. It was a great example of how Kate's training and empowerment enhanced the way the student was served as well as making possible efficient and effective workflow for university offices.

In another instance, a student had decided to add a Communication minor. In the past, Kate would have had to either send the student to TAC to complete the task or send the paperwork via campus mail to the Office of the Registrar and wait for the process to take place, which could take up to two weeks. Because Kate had been trained to complete this process from her own PC through the Pepperdine network, she was able to complete the addition of the minor, print out the new Degree Audit Report (DAR), scheduled a meeting with the student's advisor within minutes. The student was able to meet with her advisor with her new DAR in hand, which made for a much more productive meeting for both parties. This was all done within the same day. The student was also able to adjust her Fall schedule with Kate and went home for the Summer knowing that her registration was complete.

These two instances are encouraging examples of how integrated services are important to the enhancement of the student experience. These are anecdotal evidence to confirm the effectiveness of this method of service delivery for both the student and the university. My next cycle will involve the collection and analysis of formal evidence which will either affirm or disaffirm the effectiveness assumptions.

For now, Kate is thrilled with her new abilities and access to information. She feels very empowered to effectively serve her division's students.

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Formal surveys for students designed and sent...

I have spent the past week talking to the Student Adminstrative Services advisors about a survey for students to gather formal feedback regarding the integrated services being provided to them. Some key points for me to consider:

  • Surveys need to be short and succinct: We are entering into a stressful period for our students who are generally overwhelmed with their final projects and preparing for final exams. We are basically asking them for a "favor" to give us some of their precious time and mental energies to give us feedback. It is important to make sure that this survey will not take an inordinate amount of time to complete or we will see very little results returned to us.
  • The Student Adminstrative Services advisors want to know the students' understanding of effectiveness and efficiency. Our understanding and definition might be different than theirs; therefore, it is important to allow them to define these critical terms in their responses.
  • Sample must be random: We had some discussion over how we might distribute the surveys. The first suggestion was to ask each student we serve to complete a survey. The disadvantage to that is that we will only get those who actually come in to see us, whom we would most likely be able to already determine how well we have been able to meet their needs through the interaction. What we really want to find out is how they feel once they leave the point of contact. It was finally decided that we would randomly select 100 - 150 students. Surveys would be sent via campus mail where all official university mail is sent.
  • Anonymity is protected: It is important that the survey responses are anonymous, allowing for students to give candid feedback without concerns of reprisals or hard feelings.
  • Purpose of feedback is for assessment rather than personnel job evaluation: We need to communicate to students that their responses will be used to assess the process rather than the personnel. Many students are reluctant to give feedback if they feel what they say may jeopardize someone'e livelihood.

At noon today, the surveys were placed in 150 students' mailboxes. I am looking forward to getting their responses

In designing the survey, it occurred to me that it would also be extremely helpful to dialogue with students regarding the nature and the value of integrated services. The limitation of a survey does not allow for in-depth discussion. I thought that when the students return in the Fall, I would convene focus groups to dialogue on this topic. That will be another project for me to work on over the Summer.

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Building the framework for evaluating whether or not integrated services are effective to meet the administrative needs and requirements of the university...

The student surveys trickled in last week. I was hoping for at least a 50% return rate, so far I have received 32 surveys, which is still encouraging. Last week was finals week for our students, so I am thrilled that we received as many as we did. I am still hoping that some students will mail in their surveys once they get home. I am not counting on too many more coming in from those who actually left campus. Maybe those who are staying around for summer school will take some time and complete the survey and return it to me.

While I wait for the return of the student surveys, I have been working with three student administrative services staff members to make decisions regarding evaluating student records and processes to determine the effectiveness for the university. After lengthy discussions over a period of four days, we concluded that the withdrawal process would be an ideal process to audit and evaluate for the purposes of my action research. It is a process which involves all the main adminstrative home offices (Registrar, Financial Assistance, Student Accounts, Account Resolution, Housing, International Programs, Divisional Office, Dean of Students, and faculty advisor). It is also a process which has traditionally required the withdrawing student to spend a great deal of time traversing the campus to visit all the home offices. The integrated method of services has lessened the number of stops a student must make in order to complete all the critical and official administrative steps in order to fulfill the university requirements for a complete withdrawal.

The student administrative services advisors have agreed to assist me in auditing 50 records of students who have withdrawn during this last semester. They will audit their university records available on the student information system as well as in the permanent files housed in the various home offices. We worked together to come up with a list of all the places on the information system that require specific input of information pertaining to a withdrawal transaction. A checklist of all the critical information was created. Each student record will be audited for the completeness and availability of such information. This audit will yield for us important information regarding whether or not the workflow that is triggered with the onestop withdrawal transaction effectively provides for complete information as required by university and governmental regulations. At the same time, one of the student administrative services staff suggested that we send out a brief email to all the home offices to ask for their feedback regarding the workflow process, whether or not it was effective in meeting their adminstrative needs for the withdrawal process.

The auditing process will be fairly involved. The assumption is that the official withdrawal notice which is emailed to all the home offices from a student administrative services staff person is a trigger which sets into motion a series of administrative steps that are required to assist the student in completing the withdrawal process while providing for the means to gather the necessary information as required by policy. Several of the home offices cannot act immediately on the information received. This audit will allow me to determine whether or not our assumptions are correct and where in the process we will need to provide further support, explanation and/or clarification. It will also allow me to have a better view of the bigger picture of the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the integrated method of student services delivery.

Another process that we decided to audit was the student refund process. The main reason for this is that in order to produce a refund, a comprehensive and thorough audit of the student account must be conducted by the onestop generalist. We want to determine whether or not the generalists are effective in their ability to conduct these audits and to effect the process to provide the student his/her refund in a timely manner.

The process which I will go through to conduct these audits is as follow:

  • Randomly choose 30 students who received refunds during the semester
  • Reconstruct the account audit process based on the date of the request; compare my refund amount with refund calculated by the onestop generalist
  • At the same time, a student accounts consultant will conduct the same audits.
  • The two of us will compare our results for consistency.
  • Check for proper documentation in student information system regarding request date, method of delivery, and any third party checks if applicable.
  • Determine the number of days it took for the checks to be ready for the students from the date of request.

By the end of this student accounts audit, three comprehensive audits will have been conducted on each of the chosen accounts. If all three audits result in the same amount, then I will be confident in my assumption that the process is indeed effective in providing for both the student's needs as well as for the university requirements.

There is a great deal of work ahead in this cycle!!! But the framework is built!!! Yea!!!

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Student surveys reflect a positive response to our service...

More surveys are trickling in... We are now up to 45... The ones we received this past week have been arriving by regular mail rather than on-campus mail, so that is heartening... Students are actually sending them from home... There is still hope that more will come in. I have enjoyed reading through them. The responses have been quite positive. As I expected, there are not a great deal of written comments. The respondents are much more willing to check off boxes than to come up with words... I am thankful for the examples that Margaret and Scott have provided for me with their surveys. Most of the questions in my survey involved the student making choices that are spelled out for them. While the narratives may provide more qualitative feedback, the choices will help to quantify some important evidence regarding the students' perception and understanding of what we are trying to do. The focus groups in the past have yielded some important comments that might not be captured in a survey, so I will need to work on that this Fall.

The comments and words that were written down by the students in the surveys returned were quite interesting. The adjectives that they used to describe the advisors were very personal in nature. The traditional adminstrative persona of impersonal paper pushing is being replaced by a much warmer and approachable image. It was also good to see how some students shared instances of when their needs were well met. One of my favorite comments is from a student whose mother insisted that he let us know how pleased she was with the help she got when she called us... His comments affirmed our efforts to effectively serve our constituents. These survey results yield critical information which is affirming my assumptions regarding the effectiveness of the integrated delivery of student services... But even more importantly, they provide such an affirming feedback for the staff who work so hard to serve our students. I am looking forward to sharing these findings with them.

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New technology supports student-centered model of student services

I have spent the last two days watching one of the software vendors demonstrate their enterprise resource planning software to our university community. Over 75 people from the university are attending these demonstrations. It is hard not to get too excited over the amazing new capabilities that new technology provides. I am trying hard, very hard, not to worry about the pains involved in implementing changes... For now, I am amazed at what this software can do...

The catch word for the past two days has been "workflow." The new software is designed with the students in mind as a critical component of the "end users" community. When our current system was put in place in 1987, the end users at that time were considered to be adminstrative staff... and even within that community, only a portion of those staff members were considered real users of the information systems. The system was designed to support adminstrative functions that were separated by staff and by organizational structure. The limitations of technology at the time shaped the limitations of the way functional areas worked together and shared information. Such technology was based on the silo-nature of each area. Information was considered to be owned and protected. This kind of system supports the traditional model of student service, which s is based on the assumption that administrative information is "deposited" by the student to disparate information banks, who then take such information and make it proprietary unto itself. When the student needs that information, she needs to visit the respective information bank and follow established steps to "borrow" that information. Since each bank is its own separate entity, there are no established channels for the sharing of proprietary information. It is up to the student to take her cache of information from bank to bank, depositing and borrowing from each, independent of the other.

My excitement is based on the fact that the new technology supports a student-centered service philosophy, wherein the student is the heart of the process, a critical end-user of the system, who relies on the cross-fuctionality nature of shared information to effectively make a whole process more intuitive and real. Students are much more information-savvy and have come to expect that we operate more with a one-firm concept rather than disparate areas who don't know what their neighbors know or do. "Not-my-job...not-in-my-shop" may have been an acceptable answer in the past, but in this age of exploding technology, the students have come to have different expectations... They rely on us as information brokers who can help navigate them through our processes. A new day is upon us!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Withdrawal Audits Completed

Most of my week this last week has been spent working on the enterprise resource planning project, so I have had as much time to work with the advisors on the withdrawal audits... I have been thankful for their amazing and incredible efforts in this audit. It has taken a great deal of time to look through each record, to search for documentation, etc... The findings so far have been very consistent across the board... the student records are complete (with the exception of a small handful where we were unable to locate the notifications in the student file). The missing documents are a concern for us, but the risk of not having them was mitigated by the availability of other documents that confirmed the students' intention to enroll. I decided to stop the audit at 35 records. The audit have revealed such consistent evidence with 35 that I felt comfortable enough to make my conclusion from there. The time factor also played an important part in my decision.

The email responses from the functional areas provided more encouragement. They all agreed that the one stop process for withdrawals was indeed effective for them. One email from the Accounts Resolution area originally raised some concerns for me. The respondent acknowledged that the trigger email was pretty much ignored by them because they only take action as soon as they get the files from Financial Assistance. I met with the director of Financial Assistance to confirm their process and the timing of the file transfer. She confirmed for me that they do indeed send the file over within a couple of days of getting the trigger email from the student adminstrative services advisor. I also met with the director of Account Resolution to confirm that the reason they receive the trigger email is to be aware of the impending file transfer, that if they do not see the file within a week, that it is important for them to engage in conversation with Financial Assistance to determine when they would get the file. The process which has been put in place is a workflow, which comprises a series of steps that trigger other steps... The notification sets up the structure so that people within that structure can help move along the process should there be a bottleneck which occurs.

There have been several staff changes that took place since this process has been put in place. It will be important for us to reconvene the directors to walk through the process and its intent again. But overall, this has been a very effective process.

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Yea!!! Evaluation Action Complete!!!

Yea!!!!!!!!!! Victory Dance!!!!!!!!!! After several long nights... and a whole weekend of compiling data... I think I am done with the compilation of the student survey results... By last Saturday, we had received a total of 66 surveys, not quite 50%, but it was a significant return rate. I spent much of the weekend tallying and noting the comments. While I was out this week at the ERP demonstrations, two more came in... Thank God for the computer... I added the changes this morning... and will work on the write up in the next few days...

The most tedious and arduous part of this evaluation so far has been the review of the 30 student refunds... I had to re-calculate the refund amount... In order to properly do so, because of our "blended accounts", I had to recreate the status of the account at the point the refund was created. Since I do not calculate refunds on a regular basis, it took me much longer than an experienced person. But I did it!!! And the refunds were indeed properly calculated. The documentation was thorough, and the refunds were timely generated.

I did notice that there was no organized means of notifying the students of the availability of the refunds. That is a critical step which is currently missing. I will need to work with the Office of Student Accounts to build that step. In addition, this review has made it much more clear to me the need for direct deposit... Both of the ERP vendors that we looked at during the past two weeks promise that module... Chances are, we will not be spending time or money on that module right now while we wait for the new ERP to be implemented... So we have to wait...

But for now, I will celebrate... The evaluative action steps are complete... I will need to work on the write-up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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