Where do you go when you need to change your major? Or when you have a problem with registration?
Those are jobs for the registrar.
The registrar’s office, located on the ground floor of Boyden Hall, specializes in student records. It is the office where students bring in forms to changes majors, as well as a resource for class registration and the associated forms.
But the registrar does so much more than that.
Joseph Wolk, Bridgewater State University’s registrar, and his office are responsible for more tasks than students are aware of.
“We handle anything to do with registrations, add/drop, withdrawals,” Wolk said. “We’re the keepers of academic records, so transcripts, transcript requests, reviewing for graduation, making sure that ev-erything is in order for you to walk across the stage.”
Additionally, the registrar’s office is responsible for processing diplomas when the time comes.
The office does even more than that. Most of the work that is done by the registrar’s office is behind-the-scenes, meaning most it is un-seen by students and faculty.
“Ultimately, the biggest piece of the registrar’s office is protecting the integrity of the data and protecting the student record, making sure those are safe, secure, and accurately reflected,” Wolk said. “We also have a big component within that of protecting student processing under FERPA [Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which determines what information from a student’s records can be released and to whom it can be released to] to make sure we’re only giving out directory information. If someone requests certain information, we’re allowed to give that out and just making sure that’s being abided by.” The registrar’s office is often over-looked by students, but not because most of its work is behind the scenes. Instead, most of the problems and issues brought to the office come from a small portion of the uni-versity’s population.
“We are only really in the office helping that very small population, which is very typical of a registrar’s office anywhere. It’s typically that 15 to 20% of students represents 80% of the issues that you have to deal with in a registrar’s office, so you’re dealing with a very small percentage of the university,” Wolk said.
In the next few months, the office will begin the process of digitizing all student records. Currently, stu-dent records are stored in file cabinets in the office, but digitization will make things easier for everyone involved.
Wolk said, “We’re looking to move toward digitizing all our records in the next few years, which I think is really going to improve the experience for when someone comes in trying to get help, instead of going back to a file cabinet to look through things, we’ll be able to access it going into our system and retrieving it just based on the student’s name. It’s connected to the record that way.”
In addition to making record retrieval easier, digitization will protect student records from natural disasters. Wolk cited a university in New Orleans that lost of all its student records in Hurricane Katrina, which would be very difficult with digitized records.
The digitization process is still in its beginning stages. It will begin once it is reviewed and approved for the next fiscal year. Wolk hopes that the process will be completed by the fall semester.
Wolk has been working at BSU for just over three weeks. He began his work as the university’s registrar at the beginning of the semester, but he has plenty of experience in this line of work.
He worked previously at Massasoit Community College in Brockton as the associate registrar.
At Massasoit, Wolk “oversaw the master schedule, handled all the federal reporting to remain in compliance with federal guidelines to report student enrollment. I did a lot of process reengineering in terms of looking at the data, doing a lot of data analysis, and just trying to move things forward technologically to move away from paper and really streamline student services, and getting more things online through self-services so you can do it on your own.”
Wolk is enjoying his time at BSU so far.
“I must say, I’ve only been here for a little over three weeks now, but I really feel a strong sense of com-munity,” Wolk said. “I really feel that people embrace and bring you in. It can be a little overwhelming coming from a smaller institution…everyone’s been really open and willing to answer questions, taking the time to meet with me. Making my transition as smooth as it can be.”
He hopes that student input can improve experiences with the registrar’s office.
“We’re here to help. I think that’s really important,” he said. “At the end of the day, our job is to make sure that the student experience, when you’re here, is a good one. We want to make sure that we’re providing good customer service, providing people with answers to questions they bring to the office. We’re here to listen. I’m here to listen. If there’s a process that doesn’t make sense or suggestions that you have, I welcome that feedback. I look forward to working together to improve the way we do things.”
Marissa Bean is the Editor-in-Chief for The Comment.