The possibilities of partnership

August 12, 2019
  • AACRAO Consulting
  • Collaborative Decision-Making
  • Competencies
  • Data Stewardship
  • Institutional Research
  • Records and Academic Services
  • leveraging tech & data
black and white arrow come from opposite directions to merge together into one

Oftentimes, the relationship between the Registrar and Institutional Research may be nonexistent -- or possibly even adversarial. But collaboration between the two can yield amazing results, as exemplified by the experience at Wichita State University (WSU).

“I regularly hear, whether at AACRAO Annual Meeting or SEM, both sides talking about how either they don’t have a good relationship with one another or that they don’t interact or aren’t involved with one another at all,” said Gina Crabtree, WSU University Registrar and Director, Enrollment Services.

While there are usually particular histories and personalities involved, Crabtree has learned it is possible to build an environment which diminishes silos and sees data/information as a joint activity among multiple offices, rather than the domain of a single office that takes advantage of services or expertise from other areas. 

"The key is forming relationships where all parties get their needs met, where they see themselves as one office sharing knowledge, responsibilities and ideas,” Crabtree said.

A fair exchange

Crabtree has partnered with her colleague David Wright, Chief Data Officer, to build a close collaborative relationship between their offices. The relationship between the two offices sprung out of a personal professional history between Crabtree and Wright. Years ago, Crabtree used to report to Wright, and both note that their personalities and work habits meshed well. That established, trusting relationship allowed for some creative collaborations as their roles evolved.

But mentorship and friendship are not required to build a strong working relationship between the Registrar and IR, they emphasized. What matters most is trust and reciprocity.

“The Registrar and IR need to be a team, an active partnership, willingly sharing knowledge and being transparent,” he said. “Rather than feeling like one is a burden or service of the other -- always being asked to provide things -- it’s important that both sides are getting something out of the relationship, both have a stake in the work being done, and both see how they are equally contributing to and benefitting from the relationship.”

For example, in some circumstances, IR is able to provide data analytics and processing, while the Registrar’s office provides business practice knowledge. Both sides have a stake in the relationship. In another example, during a data cleanup process, students were having an ongoing registration error. The back-and-forth between the two offices allowed the Registrar to troubleshoot a tricky issue, and also helped IR to have more accurate data.

Over time, their collaboration has expanded to bring in financial aid, admissions, student support services, and creating a campus-wide environment of teamwork. 

“Having that environment in place eliminated a lot of barriers when we started the SEM process because there were no more silos,” Wright said. “We have a unique history and reporting structure that helped support the initial development of a SEM plan on our campus.”

In fact, the very idea of implementing a SEM plan came out of this collaboration, and they were the team advocating to bring AACRAO Consulting to campus.

Learn more

Wright and Crabtree will discuss the necessary personal, cultural, and structural characteristics of a true collaboration, as well as SEM outcomes that can result from this relationship, in their session at the 2019 AACRAO SEM Conference. Learn more and register now.


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