People

manager of academic and administrative services

Mobility trip an eye opener

April 5, 2007

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Heather Skibeneckyi says her recent international staff-mobility trip to compare notes on administrative technologies with three European universities revealed some surprising differences in other areas.

Skibeneckyi (below), manager of academic and administrative services in the history department, embarked on the 21-day trip to investigate how technology affects university working environments and the work employees do.

She discovered that SFU's administrative technology is far more advanced than the universities of Amsterdam and East Anglia and the B.I. Norwegian School of Management. Their administrations were just beginning to consider online systems such as the PeopleSoft system SFU uses to centralize its student information and financial systems.

In comparing her experience to that of the other universities, she says, "I came away feeling that SFU has done a good job of supporting its staff through all the major changes we've been through lately." She appreciates the training that staff received and notes that SFU did address staff concerns by implementing a recent upgrade to the system. "SFU did listen to us," she says.

Now, she says, its time for the university to listen to students. She found the European universities to be more student-centred than SFU has been. All of them were very concerned that adopting new technology would adversely affect their communications and relationships with students.

"Maintaining the personal touch with students was very much on their minds," she notes. It's an attitude she says SFU also needs to embrace. "It needs to be part of our mission statement."

Skibeneckyi says other institutions were agreed that while online systems may improve record-keeping efficiency and quality, they slow down work. And while technological systems are good tools, human interaction and connectedness are vital to a student's university education.

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