As I write this, the markets have tumbled again, the Chronicle notes "renewed jitters" at colleges and universities, and Moody's warns of a mounting backlog of deferred maintenance on campuses, a sign to rating agencies of weakened financial positions.
Blackboard, the ubiquitous online course-management tool, is a valuable resource for faculty, staff, and administrators alike. However, its learning outcomes are only as good as the quality of material that faculty members use to build all of their courses on the back end—a typically lengthy process. So when Regent University (Va.) officials decided to add an undergraduate business major and approached the school’s Center for Teaching & Learning in April 2008 to develop and deploy 40 online courses over the next year, CTL staff knew they had to find a different way of doing things.
The second year of the ongoing Models of Efficiency program continues to demonstrate that campus departments can be innovative and inspired when it comes to finding ways to provide superior service and maximize resources.
"We believe that improving the efficiency of administrative services yields cost savings and reputation benefits that can propel a college into the top tier of success," noted Miles Lasater, chief operations officer and cofounder of Higher One, which has sponsored the Models of Efficiency program from the start.
Programs that allow campus offices to become officially certified green in operations can pack a one-two staff engagement punch. In Bowen Close's experience overseeing sustainability as assistant director of facilities and campus services at Pomona College (Calif.), initially people already interested in improving their environmental impacts get engaged in the structure and assistance that such a program offers. As they work to get their colleagues involved in the effort, their enthusiasm is contagious.
Once administrators decide to focus on adding more group study areas to campus, a key question to answer is this: Should the spaces be out in the open or behind closed doors? "Rooms can be big and open, or they can be private rooms, which can be very modest," says Michael Prifti, managing principal of BLT Associates.
Call it the marathon without a finish line: As new network demands such as mobile computing and rich media increase, campus IT strategists are trying to keep running ahead, to ensure that their networks can meet the need.
Professionals who have helped create inviting places for groups to study on campus have vivid memories of the uninviting study spaces of yesterday. “When we studied as a group, if we studied as a group, it was typically in the dining hall,” recalls Jeff Vredevoogd, director of Herman Miller Education.
Thomas Edison, America's most prolific inventor, once explained his passion for innovation by saying, "There's always a better way." That's the spirit, if not the directive, for the campus departments profiled in the first round of 2011 Models of Efficiency honorees. When it comes to finding ways to streamline business processes or save time and money, the stories you'll read on the following pages will, we hope, inspire you and your department to look for your own ways to better serve constituents.