Technical Support

Lonabocker says BC has much to teach, learn in student service

By Michael Seele
Chronicle Editor

Boston College has much to share with American colleges and universities when it comes to administrative technology, and many of them have a thing or two teach BC, says Associate Dean for Enrollment Management and University Registrar Louise Lonabocker.

She is co-editor and contributor to a new book, Breakthrough Systems: Student Access and Registration , which examines how a variety of schools are dealing with evolutionary changes in technology and student expectations.

Lonabocker and co-editor Donald Gwinn, Northwestern University registrar, have included a range of large universities and small colleges, both public and private, in their book. Representatives from these schools have included chapters on how their respective institutions have developed cutting-edge ways of dealing with different aspects of enrollment, advisement and information technology.

Today's college students, Lonabocker said, are increasingly accustomed to "no-stop shopping" when it comes to dealing with registration and enrollment processes, and colleges and universities must accommodate them in order to remain competitive.

"We have to think differently because of the students we're dealing with," she said. "They are used to doing things themselves [via computer or telephone]. And the younger ones coming along are going to want that even more."
Associate Dean for Enrollment Management and University Registrar Louise Lonabocker. (Photo by Gary Gilbert)

Lonabocker contributed two chapters to the book, which is aimed at enrollment management professionals and others working in higher education. One chapter, reflecting Boston College's efforts in Project Delta, focuses on re-engineering systems to meet the needs and expectations of today's students. The other chapter focuses on Agora, BC's campus-wide network.

Associate Vice President for Information Technology Bernard Gleason contributed a paper outlining his vision of how existing and emerging information technology systems will become an integral part of the higher education landscape, as they have already become at Boston College.

"When it comes to student access and networking, it's hard to beat us," said Lonabocker. "But there is still more we can do." She cited other initiatives included in the book, such as Indiana University's automated drop/add system and the University of Texas' interactive voice response system.

Gonzaga University uses automated voice registration and another smaller school, Williams College, is implementing a system where students will register for courses via computer.

"We tried to include the smaller schools because we recognized that not everyone wants to keep up with the big institutions. It's encouraging for smaller schools to know this is happening at [peer institutions]; the big ones have no choice."

Lonabocker hopes the book will provide "information for institutions still finding their way. At BC, we've been doing this for a long time and its become a way of life," but other schools are still doing this work the old, paper-intensive way. Institutions outside the United States, she added, "are not using this at all" and could find the book particularly useful.

Lonabocker acknowledged that "a lot of people are concerned about the loss of a personal touch" as systems become more automated. But technology-driven systems, she added, will free people from routine work and allow them to focus more time on students' problems and concerns that cannot be solved easily by a few keyboard strokes.

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