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Fall 2004

Students to Benefit Most from New Student System

Charlie Grisham’s primary goal in selectingand implementing a studentinformation system to replaceISIS is to make it easyand comprehensive fromthe students’ perspective.That will be his task overthe next 5 years as Directorof the Student System Project,the third element of theUniversity’s IntegratedSystem.

“ISIS has served us relatively well over the past 15 years,” says Grisham, “but it does not and cannot provide the functionality students and faculty need. Students should not have to skip classes to sit at their computer, hitting the submit button over and over until someone drops a class.”

Fifteen years ago, universities had no choice but to build their own systems. Now there are options out there, reports Grisham. “One of our tasks will be to identify the system best suited to the University of Virginia.”

Grisham has spent his first few weeks on the job beginning the task of reviewing and documenting current administrative processes across Grounds with the aim of identifying the areas that must be served and improved by a new system. He has found a great number of areas ripe for business process redesign.

“Look at just one example,” he says, laying out a flow chart of how grades are submitted for graduating seniors in the College of Arts and Sciences. “There are over 60 separate steps in this process. Four of those are 'value-added.' We should be able to eliminate much non-value-added work with a good student information system, not just for grade submission, but in admissions, class registration, classroom scheduling, degree audit, financial aid, and the myriad areas that fall within the realm of ‘student administration.’”

Grisham’s enthusiasm for helping to build a system that assists rather than obstructs the people who use it stems from a 30-year career as a U.Va. Chemistry professor, who has also served as PI on 4 educational technology grants from the National Science Foundation. From 2001 through 2004, he served as chief technology officer for the College of Arts and Sciences, designing electronic solutions to administrative processes in the College.

“After 30 years of interacting with students, I have come to see things their way. I see inefficiencies and want to fix them,” he asserts. “I see how things could be done more easily or faster, and I want to make that happen. This project provides an opportunity to build efficiencies, ease, and speed into processes that need not be so cumbersome. Our goal should be to eliminate frustration and improve productivity.”

There are quite a few steps and a fair amount of time between now and then, as Grisham outlines.

“I expect the business process review and redesign phase of the project to take about ten months,” he says. “During that time we will also be evaluating and visiting peer universities to see what this project will require in terms of hardware, software, staffing, time, and budget. In addition we will be evaluating the systems on the market relative to U.Va. requirements.”

The fact-gathering phase will be followed by an RFP (Request for Proposal) phase to select a software vendor and a consulting partner. Then comes the design and implementation of the system.

“I anticipate that the implementation will be done in phases, to be completed within two years of the initial deployment,” estimates Grisham. “Admissions would be a likely first step, though this is yet to be determined.”

“I am counting on the University community to play a major role in this implementation,” says Grisham. “We will want staff, faculty, and students heavily involved in testing and providing feedback. We want to feel confident prior to go-live that the system will be and do what we want and expect from it, and the only way to accomplish that is through extensive involvement by its future users.”

A new Student System website will provide ongoing information on the development and implementation of an integrated student information system.