Innovation in Admissions and Records

Article By: 

Jasmine Ruys
Director, Admissions, Records, and Online Services
College of the Canyons

Jasmine Ruys has been with College of the Canyons since 2001. She has been the Director of Admissions and Records since 2006. She is currently the Region 5/6 Representative for the California Association for Community College Registrars and Admissions Officers. Jasmine earned her Bachelor’s degree in History from California Lutheran University, Master of Science in Educational Counseling from University of La Verne, and is currently working on her Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership at University of La Verne. Jasmine is happily married to Steve Ruys and has two amazing children, Sophia and Olivia.

Author Image: 
Jasmine Ruys, Director, A & R and Online Services, College of the Canyons
Abstract: 

College of the Canyons Admissions and Records office implemented innovation in a small way that made a huge difference to the staff and students. This article walks the reader through the small steps taken to change how the Admissions and Records office welcomed students to their campus.
 

Article: 

Innovation can work in an environment where nothing changes. You just need some people willing to participate, a problem you all want to work on, and a little risk taking. As the leader, you will benefit from the success, but you also must take the blame if it does not work. Start with something safe; as ideas progress, you can get riskier.

In 2009, the Admissions and Records office at College of the Canyons was ready to try something new. We didn’t know what it was we needed, but we needed to put some new ideas on the table to deal with the influx of students. We needed a better way to serve our students, work faster, and enable the staff to stay motivated in their positions.  We knew what the problem was, but we did not know how to fix it. The Registration Innovation Team was born.

Students and staff were frustrated with long lines, inability to communicate effectively, and unprepared students. There were three issues we needed to have “fixed” before the rush of the fall term began; the lines needed to be shortened, students needed to learn to use the online system, and students needed to be prepared when they came to the counter to be helped. The Registration Team included A&R staff members and managers. This was not a mandatory team, it was completely voluntary and about half the staff joined the team. The ground rules of the team were easy; there were no bad ideas, everyone’s opinion was valued, and everyone participated.

The team met before the office opened for one hour, once a week. We brainstormed for the first few meetings. We knew our problem and began coming up with as many questions, answers, and ideas we could surrounding the problem. As the weeks progressed, we had a plan. We walked around the office, we drew out the layout of the office, we came up with new schedules, and we reported out to the rest of the office members as we progressed through our plan. Communication was key- we needed to get buy-in from the entire office. After meeting about 6 times, we had finished our plan, presented it to the entire office, had buy-in, and put it into place. We changed the entire way we welcomed students to the A&R office. We put together a computer kiosk for students to learn the online system, staffed the kiosk to help the students, created an information table for students to “check in” before getting in line, staffed the information table, and then staffed the counter to help students.

The staff all agreed to work the computer kiosk, information table, counter, and answer the phone lines while at their desk. It was their idea. They loved it. They had students who were prepared because they checked in at the information desk, students learning the online system, and the line went from being 3 hours long to 20 minutes. Our students were happy, the staff was happy, and the staff was proud of their hard work. We had fewer complaints than we ever had from students. The staff had more energy, and were able to do the jobs they love! We had more students use the online system in fall 2009 than fall 2008. Our innovation team was a success. Our staff was a success.

Because of our success, we created more innovation teams. We now have five innovation teams within the A&R office. The teams are staff driven and solve problems throughout the office. The staff is motivated, even during hard times. They are excited about their jobs again. I know this is due to their innovative ideas used in the office. Innovation can be put into place in any office. Innovation needs to be used now more than ever.

A great book to help you get started on using innovation in your office is The Art of Innovation by Tom Kelley. This book helped me to get innovation started. You can create innovation in any area of a campus. It can be small. Innovation does not have to be a game changer. It can be used to rejuvenate a tired staff, solve an on-going problem, or create the next best thing. The important part is to start.