Office of the President Howard University

Students First Campaign

Overview

On January 5, 2009, Howard University launched the Students First Campaign (SFC) as a presidential initiative in an effort to foster a student-centered learning environment, to implement measures to improve the quality of service delivery to our students, and to cultivate a culture where the student is valued as one of our greatest resources.

The Students First Campaign is designed to integrate the student-centered learning concept throughout all facets of the university in order to improve the overall “student experience.” All stakeholders within the university are charged to implement the SFC as a framework for continuous quality improvement of direct student services. Phase I of the initiative is spearheaded by a steering committee utilizing an interdisciplinary approach. The SFC Steering Committee makes critical recommendations to improve the student experience within the academic and extracurricular environments. The SFC Steering Committee, comprised of students, faculty, staff, and alumni, assesses the immediate, organizational, and long term improvements necessary to enhance the quality of student life and learning on campus and ultimately serve as the basis for policy development and resource allocation within the University.

Process

The SFC Steering Committee collected and synthesized data from key areas that have the most direct and immediate contact with students. The SFC Steering Committee under the leadership of a project administrator will utilize SWOT analysis, surveys, comment/customer satisfaction cards, focus groups and other performance indicators to measure improvements. The following key areas will serve as the focus areas for Phase I: Academic Advising, Admissions, Cashiers, Housing/Residence Life, Student Financial Services (Financial Aid and Student Accounts, Loans & Collections), Student Life and Activities, and Records.


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Framework

Phase I of the Students First Campaign (SFC). Phase I consisted of three concurrent project directives which include: (1) introduction and integration of SFC into the institutional framework, (2) assessment and analysis of the critical focus groups for process improvement, (3) survey and performance assessment and customer service training for staff.

Implementation


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Recommendations

Outlined below are the recommendations from Phase I of the Students First Campaign. Each recommendation will improve service levels and/or efficiency in one or more of eight (8) key target areas/functions that directly serve students. Some of these recommendations are being implemented now while others are being reviewed/planned by the managers of the respective units. In addition to the changes that will be implemented across all areas, many of the changes that apply to a specific area will already be having an effect when school resumes in Fall 2009. What follows below is a list of process and organizational improvements that apply to all eight target areas; following this is a separate list of key improvements for each of the individual target areas/functions.

Process and Organizational Improvements for All Eight (8) Target Areas

  • Provide staff development and customer service training to all staff -- 23 staff members are signed up for the “Five Star Service” course and 5 are signed up for the “Bolstering the Climate of Welcome, Comfortable, Understood, Important” course.
  • Design and implement data collection systems that track performance as seen by students (i.e., the “customers”). A system of “customer response cards” and on-line provision of data directly back to the units (and to higher levels for oversight of the functions) will be implemented. All employees in the SFC units will wear name tags. “Secret shoppers” will additionally help monitor the collection of accurate service data.
  • Managers will be trained to monitor customer service, use customer service data to assess unit performance and to increase (group and individual) accountability for providing high quality service

Process and Organizational Improvements for Each Individual Target Area

  • Financial Aid
    • Automated imaging system with electronic records to avoid misfiling, redundant requests to applicants, and faster/easier access to records – plan developed and to be submitted by the Provost in June 2008; may be able to use imaging equipment and systems being developed in other areas
    • Web site overhaul – To improve accuracy and significantly automate the provision of up-to-date information to students (thereby improving service and reducing cost), the Financial Aid office will redesign and update its Web site either doing its own maintenance or working out with ISAS a mechanism where they will do this on a timely basis
  • Records
    • Improve communications with the campus – (a) Improve the web site, (b) develop an information kiosk in the Administration building, (c) enhance the Bison page, (d) develop a “live” chat line to answer questions, and (e) consolidate and publish academic policies on-line
    • Improve internal consistency of operations and coordination with other units -- Develop an internal operations manual and train staff accordingly; work with administrative units (through workshops and other training) so they have accurate and up-to-date information; crate a Blackboard on-line site for administrative communications
  • Student Accounts, Loans and Collections
    • Improve student communications -- Create a Facebook group that sends messages alerting and updating students to increase the speed of student access to needed information; establish accountability for providing information correctly the first time; improve customer-friendliness
    • Revamping filing system – Redesign the current filing system and work towards an automated system of storage and retrieval of student records, including document imaging; as quickly as possible move to an automated system that that will produce accurate audit trails, eliminate lost paperwork and checks, and provide complete information to students about their status and next steps
  • Residence Life
    • Work with campus master-planning and participate in the proposed capital investment prioritization process – Conduct detailed assessment and participate in the development of a master plan to address deficiencies in the quality, availability and amenities of campus housing. This will include an evaluation of and recommendations about security and the potential use of a “one card” system.
    • Establish off-campus housing web site -- Site will provide external links and postings of opportunities/options as well as generic advice about “how to,” cautions, and resources
    • Share information – Increase student and parent information about housing policies and procedures and properly set expectations; review visitation policies; provide a mechanism so that student concerns or complaints can be received, tracked, and resolved, with information systematically shared with involved parties
  • Student Life and Activities
    • Improve “Student Friendliness” – Establish “student friendly” portals using current networking tools such as Facebook and Blackboard; create customer service performance standards; provide training on (a) developing teamwork and (b) conflict resolution
    • Establish Graduate and Professional Student Services Office – Assign one staff member to work with grad/professional students; work with other offices to improve the range and quality of services for grad/professional students (most grad/professional students see these offices as primarily serving undergraduates
  • Academic Advising
    • Improving Consistency – Establish a counseling advisory council to coordinate advisement across all schools/colleges; review curricula and other advising materials providing feedback to the Provost and SVP for Health Sciences about those materials/media that need to be updated
    • Access to information – Provide print and electronic access for catalog information, as well as university policies and procedures; provide college/school and department-specific information, logistics, and policies and procedures
  • Cashiers
    • Collect and use information more strategically and efficiently – Create a web page with basic information such as location, hours of information and services; cross-train staff and deploy personnel more flexibly so that wait times are reduced during busy periods; review hours of operation; use electronic notification of the availability of funds to be picked up; make forms electronic
  • Admissions
    • Improve speed and accuracy – Use technology including document imaging to reduce redundancy of requests and misfiled information; track applications electronically; prioritize the processing of applications
    • Increase effectiveness – Assist in rethinking/rewriting pre-application and applications materials including use of new media, modern marketing/advertising, and the Admissions web site; review the entire admissions cycle including communication with prospective Howard students at every stage prior to matriculation
    • Utilize a greater array of resources including volunteers – Broadly engage the campus in the outreach and recruitment process; use alumni and state clubs as recruiters; use sororities and fraternities; use students, faculty and staff in recruiting including department-specific recruiting; develop a tiered information/access/recruitment structure where prospective students are handed off to the next higher level as necessary.

Summary

There were more than 100 students representing all classifications, a variety of demographics and all schools/colleges, who participated directly in activities specifically related to Phase I of the Students First Campaign. The student breakdown included transfer students, international students, non-traditional students, continuing education students, undergraduate students, professional and graduate students, and alumni.  Invitations and opportunities to participate were given to all students, student leaders, student representatives, student employees, and staff members who are also students.  The data, feedback and recommended solutions included in this Executive Summary is a compilation of assessment data students provided through their participation in University/Institutional surveys, participation in the SWOT and RAPID work sessions, Speed Solutions Town Hall meetings, Volunteer trainings, correspondences via e-mail, phone and/or in person, issues/concerns and/or recommendations by student governments and/or councils that were shared with SFC Steering Committee.

The cultural reengineering process is continuous and ongoing and all students are part of the campaign! To truly develop and maintain a student-centered learning environment, the initiative must continually seek the opinions, assessments and recommendations of the students, staff, faculty, alumni to improve the processes that impact the student experience. Undergraduate and graduate students have to continue to get involved and take an active role in the opportunities provided by the Students First Campaign to ensure its success in improving Howard University.


June 9, 2009


Dr. Sidney A. Ribeau

President
 

Dr. Steven G. Johnson
Students First Campaign
Project Administrator
sgjohnson@howard.edu
2400 Sixth Street, NW
Suite 424
Washington, DC 20059
(202) 806-2637

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