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Collaborating with the Registrar’s Office: Organizational Leadership for Institutional Success

Collaboration is essential to institutional success, and that starts with the registrar’s office including other departments’ perspectives to improve the student experience. 

The relationship between the registrar’s office offer and other services offices on-campus offers an opportunity to grow with the university. Collaboration is key to encouraging colleagues to embrace and support innovation, change, divergent thinking and ideation of new ideas. Cross-office collaboration improves our work to accommodate the students’ needs, especially as some institutions face declining enrollment and reduced budgets. Synergetic connection among colleagues has the strength to move colleges and universities forward. In essence, we should all strive to create a village to improve student success.

As senior Will Carroll noted, working in the Office of the Registrar for the past two years, I can confidently say that I not only learned a lot about a premier institution’s inner workings. But understand that answering many questions the office receives requires intra-office collaboration. It’s common to work with other offices to answer questions for students, faculty, staff and especially parents. The registrar’s office pushes me to seek out answers to these questions, rather than transferring the call to other offices. To be successful, my professional goals are always to network and collaborate with those outside the office, providing better service to all.

The concept of collaboration also challenges individuals to reflect on current relationships and develop a self-consciousness of existing challenges and viewing these as an opportunity for growth. Leaders also have the power to create an office ideology among staff and student workers to say, this is not the responsibility of the registrar’s office. Let’s face it, it’s much easier to send those seeking answers to other offices, rather than expanding our education to help the campus.

In a world where change can come with a sentiment of dread, some colleagues will resist working together for the common good. For some, they may blame the registrar’s office for institutional change that creates a perception of increased workload. Having a reputation of innovation and change can deter collaboration, making those in the registrar’s office feel isolated. Often frustrated by the pace of higher education, during conversations I think, “I find your way of thinking archaic, embedded in your mind from a time long ago when the institution was different, still catechized from the day you started many years ago.” Some colleagues can be stubborn, refuse to budge and be misaligned with the collaboration needed to succeed. For those intent on working together, seek to understand frustrations and make a commitment to communicate effectively. In essence, start small—a rivulet knowing collaboration is key to building an institutional culture that embraces each other with meaningful support. Registrars have the power to create valuable relationships. Challenge your team to build bridges, while embracing the learning that will occur organically.

Collaboration with faculty is also important. As one department chair noted, “We are trenches with the technology the registrar’s office creates.” Department chairs are expected to use the student system to help maintain accurate student records, making them important allies. Allowing faculty to have input on system development gives them a voice to make systems and policies more effective and efficient. Related to this, one faculty member noted, “Time is money and time impacts things like life balance. I’ve always appreciated how the registrar’s office is willing to listen to ideas about to refine and develop tools to make faculty time more efficient. Advising software is one such example. The registrar’s office must work with faculty to understand what pieces could be improved and advocate for those investments.

“Collaboration means the registrar’s office continue to listen. As a past department chair, the ability to predict teaching needs one to two years in advance is a game-changer. We can see value in the system and advocate for these changes. I’ve thrown them ideas to improve existing systems, and they are quick to work with me to find creative solutions. I feel confident when I bring these things up, and legitimately being listened to makes a big difference in how I view collaboration with them.”

For those seeking a fresh start to building or rebuilding relationships, start by reflecting on whether you have already internalized negative thinking. Is this a mentality to start knowing the values of collaboration? Working with our colleagues and fellow services offices is essential. Bridging systems together will help in dealing with many registrarial rules, policies and deadlines all of us face. Working together will not only create a positive view of the registrar’s office, but it will also serve to lessen frustration and reduce the work impacted by all.