Academic Operations - New Release and Retrospective

April 1, 2024
  • AACRAO Publications
  • Research
Photograph of an individual holding a pencil above a blank page.

By Sarah Croucher, Assistant Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, at the University of Connecticut, and Erin Mason University Registrar at the University of Utah.

Working on the Academic Operations book has been an extension of a friendship that began when we were colleagues at the University of Connecticut, and which thrives on our love of higher education. Erin is the University Registrar at the University of Utah. Sarah is still at UConn, where she is Assistant Vice Provost for Academic Affairs. 

During the pandemic, we worked closely together on a committee of our university senate. At warp speed faculty, professional staff, and students collaborated on changes in academic policy. Because we are both a little nerdy and love bringing different ideas we have about theory to our work, we collaborated on a presentation at the AACRAO conference in 2022. We explored how new expectations for action had to be balanced against the usual incremental approaches in higher education, which draw in a range of stakeholders through committee structures. 

Bridging the registrar and academic affairs spaces we’re interested in the ways that highly skilled and knowledgeable registrars and other professional staff are essential to an effective institution. To provide some data, we worked with Wendy Kilgore at AACRAO Research, who developed a 60-second survey on registrar engagement in institutional governance and decision-making (a full result summary can be found here).

The survey found that almost all of you are engaged in shared governance to some extent. But the results also surfaced frustrations and the fact that many registrars are seeking deeper engagement with academic leadership. We have both seen the ways that professional staff expertise is often undervalued or overlooked in academic governance spaces. We think it’s important that registrars and other professional staff know that this isn’t uncommon. It’s often baked into these structures because shared governance was developed specifically around the idea of faculty governance. 

In Chapter 1, “Shared Governance,”

We share history and explore results from the AACRAO 60-second survey on governance and the role of the registrar. We hope that this provides useful background knowledge, as well as critical insights into how structures and practices at your institution compare with others. Because we’ve seen how incredible the results are when faculty, registrars, and other staff partner effectively, we hope this empowers you to lean into these structures at your institutions. 

In Chapter 2, “Institutional Culture, Building Relationships, and Managing Expectations,”

Erin centered on systems thinking theory and adult learning principles. This approach can help registrars build on the strengths they bring via holistic thinking, where they apply a wide lens to academic operations. At different institutions, values and day-to-day adherence to documented policies and procedures may vary, something Erin has experienced. We know that relationships (like the one that we cultivated with each other!) can be crucial to effective work. This chapter provides a toolkit for building trust while recognizing the need to effectively navigate the structures of your institution. 

We are incredibly grateful for the patience and support of Dr. Wendy Kilgore and Heather Zimar. Working with AACRAO has allowed us to delve deeper and get more data on how registrars can (and should) be engaged in governance and decision-making. We hope that this book arms you with leverage and tools that can help you more effectively operate in your institution. If you want to know more, we’ll also be presenting at the 2024 AACRAO meeting, and we are planning on continued work in the future.


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