Service Improvement Initiative

March 10, 2011

To the New School Community:

As we prepare for spring break, I am glad to address these thoughts to the faculty and staff of the university. Over the last several months I have met with many members of our New School community in an effort to understand each diverse area and the role it plays in the overall goals of the university. One area of concern expressed in many quarters is with the services that we all provide to faculty, students, and staff. I recognize that there are things we do extremely well here at The New School, and I also realize that there are things we need to improve upon. Everyone at this university is both a service provider and service user at different times. Each and every one of us should be committed to helping each other and be responsible for the quality of our service culture. Effective service is a matter of both organization and culture and must be measured against clear goals.

Organization:
We must be organized to reduce the number of service points a student, staff, or faculty member engages with to receive assistance. In addition, we need to examine many of our processes to be sure that they are organized around the way the service user employs them rather than around the provider's way of doing business.

Culture:
Culture is equally important. Even when the solution of an issue is either not possible or not exactly what the user expected, we should be sure that he or she understands the issue and the reasons why the result he or she sought is not immediately possible. We are all in this together.

Accountability:
Finally, we must set discrete and public goals and deadlines for the performance of many of these services. We should all be accountable to each other for our service culture.

In my discussions with the community, several specific areas of concern emerged. For some of these, we are committed to improving in the very near future if not immediately.

Email:
GroupWise is clearly not meeting our needs for usability, storage capacity, and cross-university collaboration, and it is being phased out by the Information Technology department. Student email will migrate to Google Mail beginning this summer, and we are planning to move faculty and staff email to a new system starting in the fall.

Expense reimbursements:
We will reduce the time required for reimbursements to students, faculty, and staff to no more than ten business days after the required documentation has been submitted to the appropriate budget administrator.

Integration of academic infrastructure:
We are moving ahead with a common course catalog to be delivered next fall, followed by a common bell schedule for fall 2012. Also, by the fall of 2012, the credit-hour structure will be adjusted to facilitate cross-divisional registration.

There are other more complicated areas of service delivery that we must address. I am committed to improvements in the following.

Student Financial Services:
I know that Student Financial Services are a great concern of our students and to the faculty and staff who seek to help them. While it may take some time to correct our systems and service, everyone should see steady improvement over the remainder of the calendar year.

On-boarding of new faculty members:
We must welcome new faculty members to our community by making their integration as easy as possible. We need to integrate our efforts to provide each new faculty member with the necessary academic, human resources, information technology, and facilities support in a seamless fashion. There will be significant improvements in this area by the fall of this year.

Strengthening Career Services:
The provost has established a task force to enhance career services for our students and our alumni. We have an obligation to do what we can to mentor and assist our graduates in building their careers. The task force report will inform changes I am considering that should begin to be noticeable this fall.

I will be exploring the idea of optimum service with the Faculty Senate and the Student Senate and seeking their input. I extend this invitation to the New School community as a whole. I want to know what, in your experience, needs improvement, as well as what we are doing well so we can learn from our successes. I invite you to email me at vanzandt@newschool.edu with your comments and suggestions.

Finally, I would like all members of our community to join me in making a commitment to go the extra mile to provide the highest level of service throughout the university and, especially, to maintain a climate of civility toward all those who provide services and those receiving services. I look forward to hearing your thoughts, and I will update you regularly on the progress of the Service Improvement Initiative.

With best wishes for a wonderful spring break,

 

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