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Business Officer Magazine
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Business Briefs

Short news articles based on research surveys and peers’ business experiences that can benefit institutions

TECHNOLOGY
Inventing an All-Inclusive Online Campus Calendar

More Study Green Subjects

100

The estimated number of new majors, minors, or certificates in energy- and sustainability-focused programs in 2008, up from just three programs added in 2005.

$430M

The amount of grants and gifts U.S. and Canadian higher education institutions received for sustainability and research projects.

40

The number of colleges and universities that hired sustainability professors, officers, or support staff in 2008, up from 16 in 2007.

52%

Projected growth in the number of jobs in energy- and environmental-related occupations from 2000 through 2016, versus 14 percent for all other occupations.  

Sources: “As Colleges Add More Green Majors and Minors, Classes Fill Up” (USA Today, Dec. 27, 2009); Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, AASHE Digest 2008.

 

College campuses are likely suspects when it comes to organizations with multiple constituent groups that must each manage a rich schedule of events. Communicating these activities to diverse target audiences (including individual schools, colleges, programs, and campus groups) results in a huge number of independent calendars and messaging systems. Confusion, overlapping events, double booking of resources, and difficulty in locating particular events often ensues.

This was clearly the case at Creighton University, Omaha, before the information technology department's leadership issued an “insourcing” challenge to the IT staff. 

Look Within for a Win

We announced this internal challenge to all IT staff and students to encourage them to find potential solutions to the calendar problem—and to reward the best idea.

Through a self-selection process, five teams came together and began to brainstorm ways to create a single calendar to meet all needs. The winning team would be awarded a stipend for each member, and the name of each team member would appear on the patent should the solution be unique enough to be eligible for a patent—which it was.

An Innovative Solution

The various teams submitted their ideas to the executive leadership team, consisting of the chief information officer and his cabinet. One plan stood out as having tremendous promise and was approved for development. A team, consisting of programmer Stuart Zimmerman, applications developer Damien Holzapfel, and project manager Tadd Martin, suggested that the IT department create a unified online calendar system that could be customized for any campus, business, or community.

The calendar was created from scratch using open source languages and platforms. The project took shape gradually over an eight-month period—taking an estimated several hundred hours of personnel time. The team developed the product outside regular hours, working during lunches and other off hours; and we continue to enhance the product as we go. During the process, the project team scheduled meetings to engage participating staff and solicit feedback from each area on campus. The nature of these meetings was to determine how to incorporate functionality in this new solution to best suit the university and its clients.

Several administrators across campus have responsibility for posting calendar events. Each school and department has one or more administrators who keep their particular area's content up-to-date. Many have the ability to post events on multiple calendar sections.

You can view the calendar on our site. You'll see that you can select specific calendars from the directory and use the right-hand navigation to select related items, add events to other calendars, share calendars, and so forth.

Feature-Friendly Format

We launched the calendar in August 2008. Since that time, users have reported the following characteristics and features:

  • Informative. Users can set up reminders for events via e-mail or text message.
  • User-friendly. The calendar allows for seamless maintenance, such as adding, modifying, canceling, and deleting events. The system is tied to Creighton's active directory system, allowing Creighton user names and passwords for access. Beyond that, a calendar administrator grants users administrator rights for each calendar category. There is also a guest account option.
  • Easily found by search engines. Large amounts of traffic come from Google, MSN, and Yahoo search engines, thanks to the system's refined design. Since the program is set up for optimal indexing by Google, a search for a phrase such as “Creighton classes begin” allows for the item to be easily found—often appearing as the first item on the list of search results.
  • Highly customizable. Users can select specific calendars they want to see and can add the entire calendar or specific events to their iGoogle, Outlook, or other calendars.
  • Scalable. The online calendar and its various customizable functions adapt well to existing Web environments.
  • Functional. The calendar Web site allows its various audiences to learn about upcoming events, times, and locations.
  • Popular. Statistics show that this tool is widely used not only for intended audiences (those on campus) but for external audiences as well (parents, alumni, and others) from all over the United States and even from several other countries. We use Google Analytics to gather statistics on site usage.
  • Smart. The calendar adapts to an individual user's event preferences and suggests upcoming events based on prior activity.
  • Maintainable. The calendar's concise, streamlined design makes it simple to add new features as needs arise. A recent addition is a “user-defined” function in which an individual can create a category, such as “diversity,” then tag events that are related to this topic and bring them together on one Web page.

Raves and Revisions

Creighton's online calendar was an immediate hit campuswide. In fact, it was so well received that every area wanted its own space on the calendar; external businesses and universities expressed interest as well. Wanting to support the sense of community, the project team allowed each area its own calendar or filter upon request.

Within a couple of weeks, the university's board of directors expressed concern that the overall calendar was at risk of becoming too complicated and cumbersome. As a result, the project team met with senior management from each area on campus and developed a composite set of calendars that encompassed all major activities on campus. The balance of information and access seems to be working.

We've received a number of positive comments about the program's flexibility and usefulness. One of our university deans provided the following feedback: “I am incredibly impressed by the Creighton Campus Calendar. I didn't realize that it had been done entirely in-house. It's intuitive, functional, and uncluttered&dmash;all the things a layperson like me needs and wants.”

Creighton is happy to share its solution with other colleges and universities.

SUBMITTED BY Brian A. Young, vice president and chief information officer, Creighton University, Omaha

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SPOTLIGHT: SMALL INSTITUTIONS
A Shared-Service Approach to Campus Safety

t's often smart to build on existing relationships. That's why Massachusetts' colleges Mount Holyoke, Smith, and Hampshire decided to leverage a long-standing consortium and combine our three institutions' public safety departments to save money and improve services. (The original consortium, Five Colleges Inc., also includes Amherst College and the University of Massachusetts–Amherst).

Originally driven by the need to contain costs, the public safety collaboration created opportunities for us to think outside the spatial boundary of each campus and imagine new ways of using our combined resources to do a better job at all three colleges.

The first step in the process, which occurred in 2003, was the sharing of one director of public safety between two institutions (Mount Holyoke and Smith), although the departments remained independent in other ways. In 2008, Hampshire and Mount Holyoke merged their two departments under one director. When that arrangement proved to be workable, Smith was brought into the group in 2009.

Scope and Savings

The plan involved four components: (1) create a central dispatch center, (2) streamline operations by sharing administrative staff, (3) reduce costs—especially overtime—for patrol, and (4) provide specialized services more effectively.

We estimated the first year's collective savings to be at least $300,000, balanced against one major expense—costs associated with setting up the new central dispatch center. The sources of expense reduction included:

Administrative costs. We now have one director for the collaborative rather than one director for each of the three campuses. The director supervises three associate directors; each knows the entire system but retains responsibility for operations on his or her particular campus.

Patrol officers work primarily on one campus, while command staff can cover one or more campuses at a time as needed. This allows the department to share staff across campuses, providing internal mutual aid to cover large events and respond to emergencies.

Centralizing dispatch services on one campus. This change provided immediate cost reductions for labor. Instead of one dispatcher on duty on each campus 24/7, two dispatchers now work together to handle all three campuses.

Losses and Gains

The transition to a shared public safety department did not come without growing pains. Students noted the loss of their local dispatch office, and other campus departments resisted providing services that local dispatch used to cover, such as taking in lost-and-found items and handing out keys. As in most transitions that involve changes for staff, you can expect employee morale to be compromised for a while.

Despite some negative dynamics, other benefits evolved. For example, the patrol staffs from all three departments decided to affiliate with the same union, enabling negotiation of a single new contract. At the same time, we transitioned all staff members to become employees of Mount Holyoke College, allowing for consistency in policies, procedures, pay, and benefits.

The combined department structure also enables the sharing of IT, detective, outreach coordinator, and trainer services across all campuses. This type of organization, notes Mary Jo Maydew, vice president of finance and administration at Mount Holyoke College, “requires a focused supervisory group that also has a clear understanding of the differences between the campuses and can deliver flexible responses depending on the campus.”

SUBMITTED BY Paul Ominsky, director of public safety, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey (formerly of Mount Holyoke College); and Elizabeth Cahn, planning and community outreach coordinator, Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Massachusetts

FOR MORE on consortia, see "All for One, One for All" in the February 2010 issue of Business Officer. FOR MORE on campus safety and security, see "Ever Ready" in the November 2009 issue of Business Officer.

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BUDGETING
Tight Budgets Call for Focus on Academic Program Review

“When we consider academic reform, there are two realities,” said Robert Dickeson, president emeritus, University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, and former senior vice president of the Lumina Foundation. In the January 19 NACUBO webcast “Prioritizing Academic Programs and Services,” Dickeson described those two realities as: (1) the need to rethink our purposes, strategies, and programs, and (2) the recognition that the most likely way that higher education leaders will close budget gaps “is by reallocating the resources they already have.”

Using the new edition of his book Prioritizing Academic Programs and Services: Reallocating Resources to Achieve Strategic Balance (John Wiley & Sons, 2010) as a framework for the webcast, Dickeson facilitated a discussion with presenters Victoria Payseur, vice president for business and finance and treasurer, Drake University, Des Moines; and Richard Staisloff, vice president for finance and administration, College of Notre Dame of Maryland, Baltimore.

Review and Reallocate

Payseur outlined the many pressures on institution budgets, including the ever-expanding range of student services. “We provide everything from psychological counseling to Pilates—along with country club-level services,” she noted.

When considering ways to handle tightening budgets, Payseur said, “We've historically dealt with shortfalls by making across-the-board cuts.” Instead, beginning in 2000, Drake University developed a review process based on the earlier edition of Dickeson's book. While the initial work focused on administrative programs, the reason to focus also on academic programs, explained Payseur, is that “they are the heart of the institution and drive all costs.” In addition, some programs have grown despite questions of their relative worth; campuses are trying to do too much; and “just because a program or project is funded,” said Payseur, “doesn't mean it is part of our mission.”

Recognize Areas of Resistance

Dickeson noted that many barriers clearly exist. Focus is on the nonacademic side, because leaders think that a comprehensive academic review is politically impossible. A related polling question asked of the webcast audience was “What issues do you anticipate if your campus were to try this [academic program review]?” For five challenges they might face to conducting such a review, the following numbers reflect the percentage of the 130 participating sites that indicated they would encounter each particular pushback:

Faculty resistance............... 89.3 percent

Process issues................... 78.6 percent

Data issues........................... 72.0 percent

Leadership issues.............. 58.6 percent

Other issues......................... 33.3 percent

Regardless, Drake has been methodically conducting its program review for the past 10 years. “It's worth it in the long run,” said Payseur, “and deep program review has allowed us to plan for a positive future.”

Richard Staisloff, of the College of Notre Dame of Maryland, underscored the fact that “these are difficult conversations and you must base discussions on facts and data so that you don't get into politics.” He also noted that a combination of carrots and sticks can be effective.

Dickeson suggested that the dynamic for initiating the process comes from the president, the board, the provost, or the chief financial officer. “The CFO,” he said, “is perhaps best of all, since he or she can see the total picture and work the numbers.”

RESOURCE LINK This and other NACUBO on-demand webcasts can be found on NACUBO's Web site.

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