Institutional tour gives AACRAO Annual Meeting attendees first-hand insight

In addition to hosting AACRAO’s 2016 Annual Meeting, Phoenix, Arizona, is also home to the headquarters of University of Phoenix. On the last day of the Annual Meeting conference, some attendees took a tour of operations and student-facing centers of the University of Phoenix, approximately a 10-minute bus ride from the Phoenix Convention center where the Annual Meeting was held.

Processing volume

The tour began in the Office of Admissions and Records, the centralized Admissions and Registrar’s Office which serves all University of Phoenix students at more than 110 campuses and in 132 countries.

According to the Office of Admissions and Evaluation, one of the stops during the first part of the tour, the University, which has rolling enrollment beginning at the start of each month, processed 172,552 applications last year, and 98 percent of students matriculated within 28 days of their first course start date. In addition:

  • 64% of transcripts for incoming students are ordered electronically on their behalf
  • 42% of transcripts for incoming students are received electronically, and
  • 11% of transcripts for incoming students are received via Electronic Data Interchange (EDI).

The first leg of the tour took participants through the Classroom Operations wing, which ensures student and faculty access to classes and monitors class attendance and grades; the Admissions and Records Service Center and Student Records, which processed more than 300,000 official transcripts in 2015; Program and Policy Implementation, which maintains the SIS and produced 61 academic catalogues last year; and Quality Control, which supports the Registrar’s Office using risk assessment and routine audits.

“It was good to see some similarities, but also good to see what possibilities exist,” said Tricia Westergaard, Senior Associate Registrar at Oakland University. “In particular, I like the dedicated call center that served a large department. Putting customer service experts at the front line is a great idea that I would like to implement.”

Attendees were struck by the sheer volume of work being done. On the bus ride to the second leg of the tour, one participant noted that the operations were “mind-boggling.”

“The complexity was overwhelming,” agreed another. Despite differences in size, however, participants were inspired by what they learned.

“I learned how well-coordinated the organization is, particularly for the scale. The volume of processing was most impressive,” commented one participant. “From what I saw, many aspects are quite similar to those of our organization.”

Student-facing center

The second half of the visit took place at the John Sperling Center for Educational Innovation. The Center showcases the Classroom without Boundaries, an interactive classroom that allows for easy simulcasting to remote ground campuses. Visitors also walked through the Student Advisement Center and Student Resource Center and learned about the on-site Nursing Lab and Counseling Skills Center, which provides free counseling services to the community.

“Everyone was friendly, pleasant and knowledgeable in the respective areas,” said Susan Owen, Registration/Course Schedule Coordinator at Taylor University. “I do hope AACRAO considers something like this again—being able to see the operations firsthand was a great opportunity.”

The general consensus of the participants was that institutional visits in hosting cities would be a welcome addition to future conferences. The first such visit took place at the University of Texas-Austin at the 2015 Technology and Transfer Conference. The hosting institution is responsible for expenses related to such tours, but AACRAO meeting planners are open to the possibility. If you have feedback about this idea, please contact Melissa Ficek, Associate Director, Meetings and Conferences.