Registrar's Office overcomes hurdles

Sep 05, 2002, vol. 25, no. 1
By Diane Luckow

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It isn't easy merging two universities into one. Just ask Diane Whiteley (left), SFU's director of records and registration and acting director of admissions.

With an overall mandate to handle recruitment, undergraduate admission, undergraduate and graduate academic records and all university course scheduling, the registrar's office encountered a grueling challenge when they began to examine the former TechBC's systems.

“We found we had a very different beast from SFU,” says Whiteley, who faced a three-month deadline to accommodate the new SFU Surrey's student registration.

One of the most difficult transitions was finding a way to merge TechBC's one-credit, four-week course modules into SFU's three-credit 12-week course system.

“Our computer system couldn't deal with their modules and module-numbering system,” she says. “We had to convert the modules to one-credit courses and rename and renumber them.”

Next came the difficulties of converting the continuing students' previous TechBC records to reflect the new course names and numbers. Compounding the difficulty was a discrepancy in grading. TechBC students could achieve a maximum 4.0 grade point average or A grade while SFU permits a 4.33 average or A+ grade. In the end, says Whiteley, they left the grades as they were but took the discrepancy into consideration when assigning scholarships.

TechBC's end-of-semester academic evaluation program also had different rules from SFU. “For students in academic difficulties, judgment calls had to be made by the acting registrar at what was TechBC and by our registrar, Ron Heath,” she says. “They looked at every record and made judgments they felt were most advantageous to the students.”

Getting the SFU Surrey course scheduling into SFU's printed fall timetable was another feat, says Whiteley. Two weeks before the printing deadline, they still hadn't done any scheduling.

Luckily a former TechBC employee came to the rescue, the data was converted into SFU's assignment system and they met the deadline. “It was pretty amazing,” says Whiteley. “We were registering by July.”

Not everything went smoothly. SFU Surrey didn't make it into the system for on-campus fee charges, with the result that students weren't initially charged the required student service fee and recreation fee.

Still, says Whiteley, there was one feel-good aspect to the project. “All the office staff worked together to get the job done. Sometimes you don't find out how well the team can work together until you're faced with a big challenge.”

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