The Best-Managed University

Campanella discusses Project Delta's past and future, and the need to adapt to constant change

As the academic year concludes, Executive Vice President Frank B. Campanella sat down with Public Affairs Director Jack Dunn and Chronicle Editor Michael Seele last week to discuss Project Delta. A relaxed and genial Campanella outlined progress Delta has made, as well as what is likely to happen in the future, both before and after Delta is completed.

CHRONICLE: At the outset of Project Delta in 1996, you indicated that the goal of the effort is to make Boston College the best-managed university in the country. What progress have we made since then and how close are we to that goal?

CAMPANELLA: We've made significant progress in a number of areas. The creation of the Student Services organization, with its goal of providing superior service to our students, is one example. I think we've come a long way there. The other major initiative we've partially implemented is the Local Service Centers. The first part of that is the deployment of the technology consultants, who are out there working to provide immediate tech support to faculty and staff. The Activity Value Analysis studies, which are systematic self-studies for the departments that are not impacted by the other processes, are moving along as well, with 14 such studies implemented or underway.

I feel that universities in general do not focus on good management and I think we have an opportunity to take a leadership role in demonstrating that a university can be more effectively managed. It was the level of public concern and criticism on this issue that moved Congress to establish the National Commission on the Cost of Higher Education.

Executive Vice President Frank B. Campanella discusses Project Delta in his office last week.

CHRONICLE: You also noted at the time that the gap between the cost of a Boston College education and families' ability to pay had widened. Is Delta helping to close that gap?

CAMPANELLA: That is still a very, very big issue at Boston College and elsewhere. Essentially, what we're trying to do with Delta, in addition to providing better service, is to redirect resources to fund new academic initiatives and to increase financial aid, while at the same time holding tuition down. We are seeing progress there and we expect that to continue.

CHRONICLE: With the University's recently announced investment in 2,500 new computers for faculty and staff, technology obviously will play a central role in how BC is managed in the future. In what ways will this major investment pay off?

CAMPANELLA: The primary way is that we will develop more Web-based services through Agora. We will have modern technology on the desktops of faculty to help them with their teaching and research, and on the desktops of administrators so both can avail themselves of these Web-based services. We expect to operate more efficiently and people's time will be spent more productively. A side benefit is that with standard platforms and software, IT will be able to provide more advanced support to faculty and administrators, while spending less time on the myriad redundant problems occasioned by myriad basic hardware and software systems that can readily be standardized. I am aware of the viewpoint that the University should support whatever a faculty member might choose to have on the desk. It doesn't take an economist to argue that in dealing with a valued and scarce resource, more is better. However, in an environment constrained by limited resources, that proposition alone is in "never-never land" and cannot be considered s eriously until you introduce the notion of "tradeoffs." It's the old guns vs. butter problem.

CHRONICLE: One of Delta's larger initiatives thus far has been the creation of the Student Services organization. How is that working and can we expect other consolidations of related functions elsewhere on campus?

CAMPANELLA: Let's start with Student Services. First off, the students love it. The idea of self-service, of one-stop shopping, of avoiding lines has drawn a very positive response.

The change for the staff, however, has been difficult. What you have here is a new organization that was put into place at the same time all the day-to-day work has had to go on. That is the nature of change in an on-going organization. The staff is learning and doing at the same time. But, despite this tremendous challenge, the registration for this semester went off very, very smoothly. They handled all of the work that had to be done with record numbers of students applying, record numbers of students coming in and record numbers of financial aid applications. They rose to the occasion and you really have to be proud of them. And now, as they're becoming more familiar with their responsibilities, they're just going to get better and better.

As far as the future's concerned, we're just beginning to work on a project plan to introduce Local Service Centers, which will consolidate the administrative functions that presently are carried out in the departments. We will have highly trained people in the LSCs who will handle human resources management, budget administration, travel, payroll and conference organization for departments so they can focus on their primary missions. We're hoping to implement a pilot project this summer after further discussion with departmental chairs and after conducting a number of focus groups, hopefully in June and after, involving department chairs and administrators. Both, by the way, will also be invited to participate in the early stages of the LSC design.

CHRONICLE: You have described some Delta initiatives we can expect to see in the coming months. What is Project Delta's long-term future?

CAMPANELLA: We have set an end date of June 6, 2000 for Project Delta, but one of the important objectives of Delta is to leave behind the seeds for continuing change and to make people comfortable with change so they won't be threatened by it. I think at first, some people were afraid they were going to lose their jobs because of Delta, because that's the corporate model. But I think that they're convinced now of what we said up front, that no one was going to involuntarily lose a job because of Delta.

We will probably create a permanent AVA office so that every so many years your department will go through an AVA study. As times change, some of the work you're doing now won't be necessary, so you need a mechanism to pull it out of the system. We'll do the same thing on the business-processes side. The idea is that things will be reviewed constantly so we won't have to go through another Delta.

CHRONICLE: Overall, what have been Project Delta's greatest accomplishments to date?

CAMPANELLA: Beyond the obvious things, I am proudest of the way that Delta has created opportunities for people to demonstrate all that they can do. Look at the people who are doing the heavy lifting in Delta; it's not an army of consultants, it's BC employees. They have really risen to the occasion amid tremendous challenges. The leadership abilities they have shown, the communication skills, the ability to deal with conflict, the ability to hang in there when they've taken a lot of flack is extraordinary. You have to really be proud of those people. And I believe Delta has provided good development opportunities for them, in turn.

CHRONICLE: Looking back, is there anything you would do differently?

CAMPANELLA: Yes. One is communications. At the very beginning, we did a lot of face-to-face meetings, and they were successful. But overall, we did not have an effective communications strategy. We're changing that. Another is training and we're going to be doing more of that as well. For example, in Student Services, with hindsight, we should have had more training before we reorganized.

CHRONICLE: Given that people are Boston College's most valuable resource, how are they being utilized to reinvent the University in ways that would not be possible without Project Delta?

CAMPANELLA: Delta has proven to be a much tougher job than I thought it was going to be at the beginning and its success to date is due to the talents and very hard work of the people we have here. There's a can-do attitude among the people here, there's a lot of trust in the BC environment and I think there's a willingness to give new ways a chance. Most people feel a sense of esprit about Boston College and want to help the best they can.

CHRONICLE: You mentioned June 6 as the Delta end date. Any correlation to the historical significance of that date?

CAMPANELLA: Yes, it's D-Day.

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