Transforming the student experience, one encounter at a time

November 28, 2012 | Features, UToday, Student Affairs
By Cynthia Nowak

It’s the same story, whatever the workplace. A new quality-improvement initiative is rolled out amid much fanfare, with goals, timelines and vision statements.

Yet it fails.

Reasons are easy to find, said Ioan Duca, UT chief experience officer: “Many studies have been done on why good intentions to improve an organization’s quality don’t always translate into the results they wanted.

“There may be a lack of good strategy, or unrealistic expectations, or a lack of ownership among employees. Luckily, those are problems that can be successfully addressed.”

Duca, who’s heading up the University’s own initiative called “Our University … Our Journey” to transform the student experience, said he is energized by that kind of challenge. And, he added, the other UT employees who are planning the journey are expecting success.

“Our Journey … Our University” is a three-year effort to build on existing strengths in service to UT’s students while creating a renewed sense of mission for every staff, faculty and administrator, Duca explained. “We’re all in service to our students. Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of that, especially when you consider how demanding everyone’s job is today.

“We’re here to help our students successfully find their places in the world.”

To prepare the ground, the Student Experience Steering Body, co-chaired by Duca and Tony Urbina, director of iCare University, helped identify and organize leaders from all areas of The University of Toledo into seven action teams, each with responsibility for one part of the student experience.

There are scores of moments that define the student experience, noted Dr. Scott Scarborough, provost and executive vice president, who serves as one of the executive sponsors of the initiative. “From that first campus visit to finding a parking place to taking an examination, the student experience that will be remembered is made up of one-on-one encounters.”

That means every employee of the University has the opportunity to create a positive, memorable student experience, added Dr. Kaye Patten Wallace, senior vice president for the student experience, who also serves as an executive sponsor.

“The student experience goes beyond classrooms and offices,” she said. “Transforming the student experience is a journey in which everyone, from custodians to vice presidents to office staff, is already playing a part.

“This initiative will help make that journey central to everything we do.”

A campus-wide email will introduce “Our Journey … Our University” to the UT community, and a monthly e-newsletter will include profiles of community members as they work with students, along with tips, advice and stories from other colleges and universities.

“Creating the best student experience at UT is already implicit in our core values,” Duca noted. “This initiative will bring a new energy and a new focus to what we do every day.

“In three years, we’ll all be amazed at what we’ve accomplished.”

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