Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” These same words still hold true in the present day workplace, especially in the registrar profession. There are many undeniable advantages to both collaboration and teamwork. This paper will highlight a group of registrar professionals who have come together from numerous institutions to help each other succeed in their jobs, support each other in common goals, and help each other grow in their profession. They call themselves the Bay Area Registrars Group (BARG).
The inaugural BARG meeting took place on January 31, 2008, at Stanford University. The idea originated from the Stanford University Registrar, Thomas Black, who had originally formed a similar gathering of registrars in the Chicago area when he was the University Registrar at the University of Chicago. The initial group was convened to serve many purposes, including discussions of policies and practices across institutions, professional development opportunities, and the sharing of new ideas with colleagues in the registrar profession. This group consists of university registrars, associate registrars, assistant registrars, and other registrar’s office employees from colleges and universities around the San Francisco Bay Area. Many different types of registrar colleagues were invited to attend from both large and small universities representing both public and private, both nonprofit and for-profit, institutions.
There were eighteen institutions invited to be the founding members of BARG (see Chart 1). The group decided at the initial meeting that participants would continue to meet three times a year and rotate the host institution. Since the initial meeting, the group has expanded to include additional institutions in the Bay Area. In many ways this group offers the same advantages and benefits as PACRAO, but on a much smaller scale.
This organizational meeting has evolved significantly over time. At first the agenda and corresponding topics were mostly set forth by the host school. Meetings would typically start out with a friendly breakfast and conversation between fellow registrar professionals. A guest speaker from the host institution would officially kick off the meeting. Examples of past guest speakers include the University Registrar, Chief Financial Officer, Associate Vice President Enrollment Management, and Associate Provost of Enrollment. After the welcome speech, there would be more informal presentations from the host school on topics that had a particular interest to them. Often, a roundtable discussion followed. Lastly, group question and answer sessions would be held as a forum where fellow registrars could discuss policies and procedures at their school and get feedback from other institutions about how they handle similar policies and procedures.
Within the last year the format of these meetings began to change as the host institutions decided to run the meetings in what is commonly referred to as an “Open Space Meeting Format,” or as an “unconference.” This meeting style was introduced to the group by Jeff Aitken from the California Institute of Integral Studies. At the beginning of the BARG meeting, the agenda is created by the actual attendees of the BARG group who suggest topics they wish to lead a discussion on. Three to five breakout sessions are then run concurrently by those attendees who suggested topics. Attendees who are not leading these sessions have the choice to participate in the particular breakout session(s) that is of greatest interest to them. This has been an extremely productive way to run the meetings. Once introduced, it fast became the preferred meeting format of the host institutions.
This gathering of registrars serves as place to get answers to common questions that we all experience in the profession. Robert Bromfield (current BARG member, and Assistant Dean and University Registrar at the University of San Francisco) recently shared his thoughts on the benefits of the BARG group. Robert explained,
BARG and like associations serve as an invaluable repository and source of knowledge and wisdom for the profession and professional practice. The collective experience of the membership helps inform approaches and solutions to common issues and problems, and can spawn collaborations across member institutions on areas of mutual interest. Additionally, the camaraderie shared by the membership immeasurably adds to the esprit de corps and provides opportunities for professional development and mentoring. It has certainly done so for me.
Robert’s thoughts summarize many of the exceptional benefits of this collaborative group and offer insight into why the BARG has been a success.
BARG serves as a learning environment to share ideas and discuss practices that have been successfully implemented at one institution and could benefit others. For example, Suzanne Dmytrenko (current BARG member and University Registrar from San Francisco State) picked up on an idea that Tom Black had mentioned to the group about how the Stanford University Registrar’s Office holds monthly meetings with all of the departmental student services staff across campus. When talking about one example of how the BARG impacted San Francisco State University, Suzanne commented,
While we meet twice a year with our CSU campus registrars, it is very helpful to learn what the UC and private universities are doing. At one of our Bay Area Registrar’s meetings, Stanford mentioned that they hold monthly meetings with the department staff. I thought this was a wonderful idea. We had our first All Department campus meeting in the spring of 2011. It was a huge success with department staff, associate deans and other administrative department staff attending! We realized that having an in-person meeting wasn’t just a way for us to provide information, but also a way for the departments to raise issues that we needed to be aware of.
This illustrates the important point that a common practice at one institution might not be something another institution has thought of implementing. However, by getting together and sharing ideas and practices, new successes were achieved.
The BARG has been a great venue not only for sharing and discussing ideas but also for professional development opportunities and networking. Due to the casual environment and comfortable settings, presenting ideas is encouraged and not intimidating. Getting to know fellow registrar colleagues from institutions in the area opens the doors for networking when job postings arise. For example, current Stanford University Degree Progress Specialist Ewa Nowicki has a great example of the power of networking and the BARG. Ewa explains, I was a member of AACRAO for a few years at my last institution. Via AACRAO I heard about a mentoring program, and I contacted the headquarters in DC to be paired with someone in the Bay Area. That is how I met Suzanne Dmytrenko, who showed me around her school, introduced me to other colleagues, and suggested that I join BARG. BARG was a great network for me as a new person to the Bay Area (at my last position) and then when I joined the BARG meetings, I met some wonderful people from Stanford! About a year or so after that meeting, I then interviewed with some of the people that I met at a BARG meeting, and that is how I met my current boss and came to work at Stanford.
This is an example of how the BARG holds the potential to help members with networking opportunities, makes connections, and helps institutions get qualified well rounded applicants.
Stanford University Associate Registrar, Celeste Nguyen, has also found the BARG group useful for making connections. Celeste commented, “BARG has introduced me to all the local registrars, so now when I go to conferences like PACRAO, I have many BARG colleagues to connect with.” This is one of the advantages of a group like BARG. It offers a smaller casual environment to get to know friendly colleagues, which helps to spark conversations at larger conferences that might not have occurred if the comfort level had not been established through the BARG connection.
Another great benefit from the BARG was the creation of a member-only email list. Group members use this email list for posting registrar related job openings, bouncing ideas off one another, discussing policies, and getting clarification on how others handle common situations. It is most commonly used by members who want to gather feedback from other institutions on how they handle specific policies and procedures. Fellow registrar professionals weigh in on practices and policies at their institutions. Fellow BARG member Marianne Stickel (University Registrar and Assistant Vice President for Academic Services from Dominican University of California) recently described the value of the group email list for her, “The e-mail group has also been a great way for me to float a question when I am in need of some ideas, advice, or policy samples from local colleagues.” Marianne continues, “I have found that people tend to reply when they have something substantial to add, and that makes the exchange really worthwhile.”
While it is sometimes difficult to accommodate the different academic calendars to find an ideal meeting date, BARG meetings are held when a majority of the institutions can attend. The dates are set after each meeting and the group meets one time in the summer, autumn, and spring. At the end of each meeting, volunteers are solicited for hosting the next gathering. This has been a great opportunity for the host school to showcase their institution. It is also a wonderful experience for the attendees to get to know the different types of schools in the area and learn how about their operations. For example, numerous schools have offered tours of their “one stop shop” or “student services center” where students receive services from many different offices all in one location. It has been informative to see the different approaches to running and operating a student center. These host campus tours have given attendees a chance to get to see many diverse institutions and campuses. From a city campus like San Jose State, to “the Farm” at Stanford University, through the hills in UC Berkeley, or by the sea at CSU Monterey Bay, each campus shines in its own unique way.
The Bay Area Registrar’s Group has been a success story and no doubt will continue to grow and evolve in future meetings. It has proven to be a truly collaborative effort helping like- minded registrar professionals get answers to common institutional questions and policies, showcase new ideas, grow professionally, establish connections, develop friendships, and showcase different institutions. This idea could catch on in other regions, in which registrars or admissions professionals could gather and discuss common and not-so-common challenges and ideas that arise in their profession. As Henry Ford said, “Working together is success.” There is no doubt the collaborative success of the Bay Area Registrars Group can be duplicated in other geographical regions.
—by Reid Kallman, Associate University Registrar, Stanford University
Reid Kallman is currently the Associate University Registrar for Academic Records and the NCAA Certification Officer at Stanford University. He has worked in the Registrar’s Office at Stanford University for the past nine years. Reid holds a bachelors degree in Communication Studies from the University of Michigan. Reid is originally from Haslett, Michigan.