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A Web Letter from the Office of the Provost - March 2021

By Mary Jane Chew

Did you know: The Registrar’s Office

In our Focus on Staff section, we are highlighting the people and units at Purdue that are inspiring our next giant leap.

This month’s focus is on the Purdue Registrar’s Office. Registrar, Keith Gehres shares how the employees of this dedicated unit have responded to the challenges of the past year.

Q: How long have you been in your position?

A: I have been at Purdue and in my position for two and a half years.

Q: In addition to course registration and commencement, what other areas does your office manage?

A: The Registrar’s Office supports and is responsible for:

  • Publishing our academic catalog and keeping all academic curricula changes updated;
  • Academic classroom scheduling that includes the creation and publishing of the schedule of classes for each term;
  • Support of and processes associated with course/grade/deadline appeals, enrollment certifications, electronic and paper transcripts;
  • Evaluation and posting of non-PWL courses as transfer credit;
  • Support and management of our degree audit tool, myPurduePlan, and processes related to degree clearance;
  • Managing the residency reclassification process for in-state tuition on behalf of the University, serve as the experts on campus related to FERPA, serve as the student data steward;
  • Manage and lead campus wide efforts to support the Pre-Registration process as well as enrollment optimization collaboration with campus partners.

Q: What was the first priority/challenge for your team when the pandemic began to affect Purdue?

A: As with offices and colleagues across campus, first priority/challenge was how to ensure our team would be able to safely and effectively continue to work on behalf of and in support of our students and campus partners. Once we addressed the challenge of staff working remotely, we focused every day on creating a new virtual commencement experience from scratch in a matter of weeks and we also provided support for the academic changes being made in preparation for the fall 2020 semester.

The decision to hold a virtual commencement for Spring 2020 provided an unprecedented challenge for our commencement team and I could not be prouder of the experience that was created for our graduates and their families. While it seemingly happened overnight, the dedication and effort behind the scenes was an everyday commitment in order to provide our graduates a ceremony designed to Purdue’s standards and to meet the safety regulations put in place. I can attest personally from many conversations with my peers at institutions across the country, our virtual ceremonies and our commencement in a box that were mailed to every graduate were the envy of many.

Additionally, we would normally transition from continuing students registering for fall semester classes in the spring to helping support our new beginner students registering during STAR/VSTAR. However, last summer we needed to identify and create an entirely new process to support the schedule changes needed for almost all PWL students. This resulted in not only changes to hundreds of classes and thousands of sections but also the class schedules for our residential students as well as helping to support the new needs for our fully online experience. The collaboration between partner offices, schedule deputies, department heads, academic advisors, and so many more across campus lead to the successes we achieved as a university. However, I’m clearly biased when I say that no unit worked harder to support this work than what I saw every day from my team.

Q: Any specific thoughts or anecdotes to share about how your staff has met the pandemic challenge?

A: Having just completed the self-assessment as part of the performance management process, I was both surprised at how difficult it was to think back on all we accomplished this past year and also incredibly proud at everything our team did. Every single person focused on the work that needed to get done and understood that we all were working hard together, and that everything we were doing had a direct effect on the experiences of our campus partners and most importantly, our students. If we do our jobs well, then our work tends to be seamless and behind the scenes. Our goal is always to focus on how best to support the needs of all students and to work as collaborative and supportive as possible with our campus partners.

Q: If all goes as currently planned, what will spring commencement look like?

A: It will be unlike any other commencement program in the history of Purdue. That statement both excites and terrifies me. What many might not know is that all our Commencement related activities are led by a small but very mighty team of three in my office. This team is helping create this historic program alongside countless campus and community partners. Our outdoor ceremony, in Ross Ade Stadium, will be a blend of what makes our traditional commencement programs so unique to Purdue while adhering to the Protect Purdue health and safety guidelines. From the very first meeting we had with the President regarding this possibility, we all agreed that if this was a viable option, we were going to make it the best experience possible for our graduates and their families. Additionally, the separate ceremony with our doctoral students will provide the opportunity for a more traditional hooding ceremony while still meeting the same Protect Purdue health and safety guidelines.

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