Delta To Phase In Services Initiative

By Sean Smith
Staff Writer

Project Delta has announced an implementation plan that will lead to new ways of providing student services and faculty and staff support.

The first phase, which will cover the next 12 to 18 months, includes a series of initiatives aimed at improving academic and non-academic services for students and increasing faculty and staff use of technology.

These initiatives include the establishment of a redefined student services organization which brings together the service components of the Financial Aid Office, Student Accounts, Student Loans, the Registrar's Office and other, ancillary services. They also include the introduction of local technology consultants throughout campus and a simplified process for faculty to pursue and manage external research funding.

Delta Project Manager James Kreinbring said these efforts will foster visible and widespread changes in Boston College's methods of operation.

"As these projects are implemented within the next year," Kreinbring said, "the BC community will get a better sense of what these new models really mean. The models are conceptual, but the changes we are working on this year are very real. They are based on the objectives articulated in the Delta direction statement: centralized services for students, creative use of technology, and better support - particularly in technology areas - for staff and faculty.

"We've said before that the changes will not be completely painless," he added. "But we are confident that the University is moving in the right direction with the phased implementation plan. The phase one initiatives will get us closer to the Project Delta vision of a Boston College equipped and ready for the next century."

A Delta team led by Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Associate Dean Patricia DeLeeuw developed the set of faculty and staff support initiatives, which includes "The Office of the Future." This features a World Wide Web-type of computer interface geared to the individual user's characteristics and needs, DeLeeuw explained.

For example, after logging onto the system a faculty member could, through a simple "point and click" process, access class lists and e-mail addresses, place book orders and make library requisitions on line, even schedule a film or video showing for a class.

"The system is designed so as to be easily navigable, attractive and seamless," DeLeeuw said. "Where a person now might have to make several phone calls over a couple of hours to accomplish one task - or have to arrange for someone else to do it - he or she will be able to do the work on their own in a matter of minutes, just by clicking the mouse."

The "Office of the Future" system will be made available to faculty members over the next year, DeLeeuw said, and to staff the following year.

A related initiative involves the appointment of "technology integrators" to serve clusters of offices, departments and other administrative units. These full-time personnel will provide high-level technology support, DeLeeuw said, and assist in developing or adopting technological resources to improve office or departmental productivity.

"We hope to use current, qualified University employees for these positions wherever possible and appropriate," DeLeeuw said. The exact number of integrators, as well as how and when they will be assigned, will be addressed in the coming months, she said.

During the coming year, DeLeeuw noted, the faculty and staff support team will examine the University's current methods for identifying, obtaining and administering external research funds. The team will develop a proposal that, as with other Delta initiatives, employs technology, data-sharing and other means to streamline the process.

"One key aspect of these projects is how they dovetail with the University Academic Planning Council report," DeLeeuw said, referring to the University's recently announced $260 million investment in academic programs and resources. "If we want 50 percent of our faculty using technology in the classroom, then we need to provide the necessary tools and support. If we want to be a high-level national research institution, we need to offer faculty services that enhance their ability to find external funding."

Enrollment Systems Director Rita Owens, who heads the Delta team working on student services initiatives, said the team's proposal focuses on fashioning new processes and a new organization "that bring together core student services." This project began over the summer with the relocation of most student parking and identification services to the Registrar's Office, and will continue during the next several months as some functions related to areas like student accounts, meal plans and financial aid also are shifted.

"The idea," Owens said, "is to bring the service elements together so that it's easier for students to access them, and through technology even make it possible for students to perform some of these tasks themselves."

Similarly, over the next year the team will redesign the Student Affairs administrative division to deliver its services more efficiently, Owens said. Also, the team will meet with academic administrators and students in preparation for creating a pilot program on student advisement.

"Again, the idea here is to see what functions and services are unnecessarily replicated in different areas, how we might reduce paperwork and encourage some self-service," Owens said. "This is vital to making BC a place where students feel their non-academic needs are met as effectively as their academic needs."

Further details on Delta initiatives will be available through the Delta Web site and the next edition of its newsletter, which is expected to be released in mid-October.

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