Monday, May 17, 2010

High tech

After some willful excess and embarrassing lack of control in recent years, the university is auditing all units that grant scholarship money. The auditor came by today to see what procedures we have for awarding scholarships and renewing them.

We set up a projector and demonstrated our extensive database application set for making admission decisions and tracking student progress. As we were going from screen to screen, report to report, I had the strange experience of suddenly seeing my everyday routine from the outside. I'm so used to having instant access to the data I need and to navigating complex workflows with proprietary, custom-built software that I forget not everyone has such a system. The auditors were duly impressed -- not just with the information technology we've developed, but with the procedures thereby supported.

The truth is that we couldn't make the kind of fine -- sometimes qualitative -- distinctions among applicants and students, based on the kind of difficult-to-evaluate data that we believe are the best indicators of success, without a sophisticated database and ways to use its content. All of our ambition to improve our recruiting, admissions, and retention is built on the availability of information. It's only when we're reminded that not everyone has built such mechanisms, either because they don't realize they should or because they don't have the resources to do so, that I realize how lucky we are to be able to do what we do -- and dream what we dream.

No comments: