PACRAO’s Paperless Future

PACRAO took a step into the paperless future by using a mobile-friendly app called Guidebook as our primary communication device during the recent PACRAO 2017 Conference is beautiful Spokane, Washington. Guidebook entirely replaced the Schedule at a Glance as well as the paper forms for session evaluation.

For those of you who did not attend the conference, but would like to have a look around, the app is still downloadable at

This article is a reflection on our experience in creating our Guidebook, some data on how the Guidebook was used during the conference, and reflections on how we might get even more value from this app.

Overall, Guidebook was a great success. Anecdotally, I saw conferees using it all the time, and almost all the feedback I personally received was positive. The negative feedback occurred when something was broken, and we were able to fix the broken stuff very rapidly. An example is when we discovered that we had erroneously set the survey system so that a user could only fill out one session survey and was then blocked from any further feedback at other sessions. Once we identified the problem, a quick check-in with the online chat help from the Guidebook team was all we needed to find the box we needed to uncheck to fix the problem.

That points to the fact the one of the biggest positives was the exceptional support from the Guidebook team. The user interface for preparing the Guidebook was certainly intuitive, and once I’d done a number of work sessions, I was flying around inside the app like a swallow on spring morning ;-} For an all-volunteer organization like PACRAO, it’s important to provide member volunteers with responsive tools so that we can make a contribution without tearing our hair out. I think next year’s program committee is going to appreciate this ease-of-use.

The app has many features, and we ended up choosing those features through discussion and experimentation. Some of the features we included were pretty obvious: the schedule, creating your own schedule, speakers and facilitators, and session surveys. We also enabled the attendees functionality, but this required that users check in. Some users did not check in, so they did not have the benefit of being able to message other attendees (see below).

We also created a list of all our vendor sponsors. It is always an important consideration for PACRAO to honor and recognize our sponsors because without them we simply would not be able to put on a conference or perform the many functions that make ours a viable organization. I think this is an area we should focus on next year. If I had it to do over, I would start earlier on this functionality so we could readily include links, a brief description, images and logos, and contact information. Perhaps we might find ways to use the app to increase vendor/particpant contact. I’m sure our vendors would appreciate it.

It took a little bit of time to master the maps functionality, but once I figured it out, I was able to map sessions to rooms. I’m not sure how useful that was, but when you’re trying to figure something out quickly, it’s nice to have a place to go! The maps functionality also facilitated creating an Eateries, Bars, and Attractions feature. That was a lot of fun to create and I hope that it was useful to participants. Spokane is actually a pretty fascinating smaller city, and its downtown is filled with excellent eating and drinking options. And if I succeeded in guiding a few people to the magnificent Monroe Street Bridge and its view of the spectacular Spokane Falls, then my work was a success!

But the devil is in the details. How about some stats?

The Guidebook was downloaded by a total of 267 users which is only slightly smaller than our total attendance. Of those, 104 users checked-in to the app so that they would be able to use all its functions; that’s a number we should try to increase next year. (Anyone can use the app, but check-in users could use in-app functionality to connect with other attendees.)

There were a total of 18,232 unique sessions, and the maximum number of unique active users was 252 at 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday, November 7. Everybody was having breakfast and checking their app!

As you might expect, most of the downloads were physically done in people’s home location, but 44 downloads were done in the Spokane area, and another 46 were done in the Seattle/Tacoma area. I suspect that a significant number of folks downloaded the app on their changeover in SeaTac!

Following is a chart of when downloads were done. There was a spike after President James Miller sent a reminder email, but the majority of downloads were at or immediately before the conference itself. This was our first year, so we were experimenting a lot. But next year, I think we should aim to have the app ready earlier, and try to get folks to download it earlier. This may help in building enthusiasm, increasing check-ins (see above), and facilitating communication among conference goers both before and during the conference.

Users posted 104 photos that are still available on the app. That is a lot of fun, but we should aim to double that number next year! We had a Twitter function available, but I do not have stats on how many folks used the app for that purpose.

Digging down a little deeper, as you would expect the top menu item was the schedule.

Again, I strongly suspect that some of the other functions would get better numbers if we had earlier adoption; conferees might want to check out the attractions or the vendors before they arrive if they have the app already in use. We had only ca 200 messages from one user to another, and of course people have lots of ways of communicating, but focusing on this might help make an even more friendly conference.

The top viewed custom list items is intriguing; the custom list includes any items that are not sessions.

Workout with Rebecca tops the list! I’m glad to see the Monroe Street Bridge up there, and the Saranac Public House was definitely a highlight of one of my evenings. Not sure how Jim, Mike, Kristen, and I ended up  in the list, but thanks folks for having a look/see! (Next year we might consider finding a way for speakers to add some personal details to their profiles, although that could end up being a lot of work.)

Perhaps the most important function of the Guidebook after scheduling, however, is session review, carried out this year for the first time entirely through the app. In 2016, we received 824 session reviews from combined online and paper sources. In 2017, using Guidebook alone, we received only 483 survey responses as of November 13, 2017; a few surveys trickled in after that. A total of 154 participants submitted at least one survey in 2017; we do not have numbers of participants for 2016 because of the method used to collect surveys. The results of 2017 represent a significant drop in participation in surveys. In 2018, it might be useful to figure out how to increase this number. Perhaps a reminder message could be sent based on session participation, or perhaps we could partially tie the swag table to participation: fill in a survey, get a prioritized chance to pick up some cool swag.

Some final recommendations that struck this writer: I think we should make more use of messaging to everyone, especially before the conference, to direct people to features of the app and hopefully to engage attendees even before the conference begins. Given the success of the workout and recreation possibilities, we should look at ways to increase these as well; perhaps we could solve the old problem of finding new people to have lunch or dinner with through the app! Lastly, attendees asked whether the sessions selected during enrollment could be pre-loaded to Guidebook. We did not see an obvious way to do this, but we might work with Guidebook to solve this. Or, perhaps, we should just collect these selections in Guidebook upfront to promote the app.

There is a lot more data available that our Board may want to review, but I think this gives you a pretty good picture of the success of Guidebook in our first year.

Comments and thoughts are always welcome. Feel free to contact Colm Joyce, PACRAO VP for Professional Development at if you have some perspectives or feedback.


Stephen is Associate University Registrar at Stanford, responsible for Registrar communications including web sites, the online course catalog, and the monthly Student Services Meeting of student services officers from across the University. Stephen has presented at PACRAO and AACRAO on topics ranging from Diffusion of Innovation to Credentialing, the Registrar, and the Future of Higher Education. He is an inaugural faculty member of PACRAO’s Leadership Development Institute (LDI). He holds a doctorate (Berkeley, ’98) in South and Southeast Asian Studies. In his free time, Stephen is an avid road cyclist who has recently completed his fifth AIDS/LifeCycle, an annual bicycle ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles dedicated to ending the AIDS epidemic and raising funds for HIV services..

See you all in Sacramento!


PACRAO Review October 2017 Edition

Volume 8 • Number 1 • October 2017

Download the entire issue: PACRAO Review October 2017

Leadership & Management Styles

-Arturo Torres, University of Nevada Las Vegas

Over the course of centuries much has been written and discussed regarding what makes a great leader. Many books have been written and many studies conducted. Look up the word “leader” or “leadership” and very simple meanings of the words can be found. As many can attest, leadership is not an easy skill to master. In my experience leaders can only be effective through development of their leadership skills and an understanding of what true leadership is.

What is life like after retirement?

-Christine Kerlin, AACRAO

When asked what life is like after retirement, my response could take several hours. I won’t do that to you, but I will offer some brief comments.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

-Soraira Urquiza, Los Angeles College of Music

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“A college or university registrar!!”
-Said no one, ever.

Let’s face it: when people who are not in higher education ask what you do for a living and you respond with “I’m a registrar,” you probably then receive a polite smile and nod that clearly states, “I have no idea what that is, but it sounds important.” There is not a major in “registrar studies,” and most often people do not know we exist until after they graduate or there is some academic disciplinary action (not the ideal way to get to know the registrar!).

Creating FERPA Training That is Fun, Educational, Responsive, Participatory, Assessable

-Barry K. Allred, Jearlene Leishman, and Brian Chantry; Brigham Young University

While not all training programs need to look the same, the approach makes a difference in the learning process. This article discusses how Brigham Young University sought to increase FERPA-compliance and awareness by leveraging key principles.

Leadership & Management Styles


Over the course of centuries much has been written and discussed regarding what makes a great leader. Many books have been written and many studies conducted. Look up the word “leader” or “leadership” and very simple meanings of the words can be found. As many can attest, leadership is not an easy skill to master. In my experience leaders can only be effective through development of their leadership skills and an understanding of what true leadership is. Being a leader is more than instructing people what to do and how to do it. Leadership is about building relationships, making connections, collaboration/partnerships, motivating and mentoring. Take a minute and think about your past and current leaders: What kind of leader are they? It has been my experience that good leaders know that although they are the “leader” the “one in charge,” it is the staff/team that will contribute significantly in understanding problems, finding practical solutions and successful implementations. As instructed in texts such as Organizational Behavior by Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn (2007) leaders set the goals, foster an environment of innovative solutions along with collaboration and teamwork within their organization. Here is something to ponder as written by Sergiovanni, Thomas J (2007) Rethinking Leadership, A Collection of Articles: A leader in your organization which you personally admire because of their ability to handle people but you do not agree with the person’s goals. If you compare to a lender whom you do not like but whose ideas make a great deal of sense, which one of the two leaders would you be more willing to follow? Goal setting, planning, commitment and implementation are key factors to effective leadership. Elements found in effective leadership systems in any organization are leaders, followers, ideas and action (Sergiovanni, Thomas J 2007).

Management styles are another critical theory that must be understood and fine-tuned depending on factors such as office culture and employees capabilities (Klingner, Nalbandian 2003). In many situations of change, I have found from experience that an effective strategy to deploy is an authoritative management style with the expectation that it moves to a coaching and mentoring management style. Establishing clear objectives for all subordinates, setting obtainable goals, providing motivation for staff members to achieve their objectives and goals, and holding those accountable for their successes and shortcomings are key factors to a successful implementation and ongoing practice of authoritative management.

A good boss is strong, decisive, and firm but fair. He is protective, generous and indulgent to loyal subordinates (Handy, 1985).

In many case studies highlighted in Organizational Communication, Approaches and Processes, (Miller 2009), employee’s job satisfaction can depend upon the management style of their leader. An effective leader should select an appropriate management style that will coincide with the university culture and employee readiness to advance. Authoritative management is an opportunity to provide long term vision and direction to your subordinates. Additionally, clarifying with your staff the overarching mission of your department or university and identifying how their contributions add to the mission can be invaluable and motivating for staff to hear and understand. For authoritative management to be effective the leader must set standards, give direction, have the ability to persuade and provide feedback on task and work performance.

Managing change to ensure success requires use of a wide range of strategies, as I have found during my long customer service management career. Strategies can include winning staff support by allowing bottom up advice on appropriate decision making and reporting structures and ongoing managing and feedback of technology and monitoring its effectiveness within your department. Additionally, show appreciation to your staff by including some sort of reward system and/or monthly activities for engagement and team building. Ideas for these can range from staff retreats to having fun on a game day, or a contest for a paid lunch outside the office. These are just a few ideas that can help support a positive and effective workplace atmosphere.

Having a plan and setting clear attainable goals, getting your team engaged and involved will make many challenges more attainable. Identify your areas of responsibility and clearly define staff roles and desired outcomes. How can your responsibilities help the mission of your department or university? Utilize the strengths of your team. Get to know your staff and their capabilities and overall desires. Start to involve your staff in decisions and keep them informed of larger campus initiatives. Goals are important, but they don’t need to be groundbreaking. Be clear about what you want to do and why you want to do it. Understand that employees look to you for guidance and strength. Lead by example. A busy leader must also bolster enthusiasm and a positive work environment. A leader looks for opportunities to motivate and mentor staff (Schermerhorn, Hunt, & Osborn 2007).

You must identify what you hope to achieve within the organization. Are you looking at managing positions and therefore managing people’s day to day activities, or are you focused on achieving the organization’s mission? Provide guidance but let your staff take ownership of their processes. Let them be involved and responsible in identifying new ideas or solutions. Ultimately, you need to have your employees focus on the overarching mission of your organization. You must look at your employees as assets and not as positions to manage (Klingner & Nalbandian 2003).

It is becoming common practice to hear terms such as “managing teams” as opposed to terms such as “micromanaging” or dividing duties and responsibilities to individuals. Leaders set the tone for high expectations. Leaders create enthusiasm within their unit and department as a whole, and they establish credibility by successfully executing a set of directives that should be planned and implemented effectively and with optimal timing. The manager’s focus should be on the group as well as the member. Interpersonal skills now become critical in team management (Sergiovanni, 2007).

Studies have shown that shortages in competencies and/or technical skills in employees will result in continuous training needs in organizations. Current demographics of the workforce, along with an increase demand for professional and technical skills, suggest major gaps in employee skill sets (Sergiovanni, 2007). The American Society for Training and Development has reported that the average American company is spending more per employee and providing more internal trainings than ever before. Training, as a whole, must be a part of the department or university strategic planning. Cross training within your department has now become more important than ever before. This provides opportunities for new perspectives and review of established processes to see improvements are possible with or without the use of new technology.

Meet with your staff on a regular basis, as a group, and individually, to discuss office standards, protocol, daily expectations, reporting structure, to set up future team meetings, and to explain the need for cross training within the department. Establish an office mission statement, discuss ongoing expectations, and set up weekly or biweekly 1:1s with staff. Work with your team to create process flowcharts and an understanding of your processes. Find areas of overlap or opportunities to improve processes. Create a production calendar with staff to include all major projects, goals and/or deadlines and activities. Review current policy and procedures with staff to ensure consistency and understanding across your department. Understand what relationships need to be established or fostered throughout the campus community, specifically for your areas of responsibility. Establish individual goals for yourself and staff, add reasons why goals will be useful, include specific actions that will be taken to help achieve the goals, and include a date of goal completion. Follow up with staff on goal setting and expectations on a regular basis.

Accept it or not, everything you do as a manager contributes to other’s perception of you as a professional. Strive to make these perceptions positive. I have learned that while it is important to be collegial with subordinates, you are ultimately the boss and should not engage in unnecessary activities or engage in gossip with your staff. I also learned the importance of communicating your frustrations and disappointments directly with your staff, colleagues, and superiors, rather than searching for a way to avoid the conversation or conflict.

When given the opportunity to be a great leader you will lead your unit with the experience and lessons you have learned at the forefront of your mind. In addition, you should rely on the other members of your leadership team for guidance and mentorship on how to be an effective leader. One lesson I have always practiced throughout my professional career is this: Don’t be afraid to try and to make a mistake, but never make the same mistake twice.

Handy, Charles B (1985). Understanding Organizations: Penguin

Sergiovanni, Thomas (2007). Rethinking Leadership, A Collection Of Articles: CA Crown Press

Klingner, Donald & Nalbandian, John (2003). Public Personnel Management, Context and Strategies. New Jersey: Prentice Hall

Miller, Katherine (2009). Organizational Communication, Approaches and Processes: Wadsworth Cengage Learning

Schermerhorn, John, Hunt, James, Osborn, Richard (2007). Organizational Behavior: John Wiley & Sons, Inc


Arturo Torres, MA, UNLV Assistant Registrar. With over 12 years of experience in the Registrar and Admission offices in higher education, Arturo brings administrative and operational experience and a positive “Can Do” attitude that drives innovation, solutions and morale. Arturo received his Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration, Law Enforcement from Nevada State College in 2013 and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration, Non Profit Management from the University of Nevada Las Vegas in 2015. Combining his work experience along with his expertise in public administration, Arturo aims to continually move student support on college and university campuses to be more innovative, efficient and community centered (virtual/physical). Arturo has grown, learned and has had effective, innovative, and interesting ideas at PACRAO which has help him create and implement successful strategic plans.


What do you want to be when you grow up?


“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“A college or university registrar!!”
-Said no one, ever.

Let’s face it: when people who are not in higher education ask what you do for a living and you respond with “I’m a registrar,” you probably then receive a polite smile and nod that clearly states, “I have no idea what that is, but it sounds important.” There is not a major in “registrar studies,” and most often people do not know we exist until after they graduate or there is some academic disciplinary action (not the ideal way to get to know the registrar!). The job of registrar is one that requires a certain set of skills. One must be objective, organized, optimistic, analytical and helpful, or as I like to call it, “OOO-AH!”

Do you remember your first year as a registrar? Remember that feeling when you received your new transcript paper with your name and signature at the bottom? I do, because I am living it right now. I am currently in my first year as the registrar of Los Angeles College of Music. Through my involvement with PACRAO I have learned that almost every registrar has a unique story about how they made it to their position. Some began as student workers in the registrar’s office, some worked in registrar adjacent offices and filled the void left by a retired registrar, and some just stumbled into it by sheer chance. I recall taking several career aptitude tests in high school; these tests help you figure out what you’re good at, what is important to you, and the jobs that match your skills and interests. My results were always very high in the authority and empathy areas. According to these tests, I was meant to be a police officer, psychologist, or teacher–in other words, helping people.

With my test results in mind, I went on to earn a BA in psychology with a minor in sociology. As I set off into the post-college working world, I learned that the test was correct after all; my passion truly was helping people. My first professional job was working at a nonprofit, subsidized childcare agency. It was there that I saw the barriers and struggles working parents deal with on a daily basis.

One particular person who made a tremendous impact on me was a young single mother, Evelyn*. She was seeking the agency services to help achieve her goal of finishing school and raising her child. She was a full-time student at a local community college and also worked full-time as a waitress. As part of the program, participants enrolled in school had to show their grades and be in good standing to continue. As her case manager, I had regular contact with her and she began to confide in me more and more. One day she walked in with her daughter and had her head held high and said “I did it!” Evelyn had maintained a 3.7 GPA, earned her AA degree, and was transferring to a nearby state college. She was so happy and broke down in tears (as did I) when she began telling me about her achievements. Since she was transferring out, she was also leaving the program. Her new college provided full-time childcare and a job on campus. Seeing her succeed in the face of adversity left a powerful mark on my heart.

Unfortunately, in time, this position took an emotional toll on me. For every story like Evelyn’s there were two others that were not as triumphant. I knew it was time for a change. I knew I wanted to help people, but I really wanted to help people be their best by achieving a college education.

My registrar story starts in the admissions office (registrar adjacent!). I was an Assistant Director of Re-Admissions for a private for-profit college. I remember being so excited to finally have my first real job at a college. I very naively thought to myself that I was going to change the lives of people forever! I was unaware that my position would involve a lot of cold calling, which was not one of my strengths. However, my director recognized this in me and decided to give me registrar access to our student information system to help out with new student registration.

Eventually, my registrar-like duties began to expand and my admissions role was only about twenty-five percent of my daily work. I realized that this was what I enjoyed doing. It was challenging, exciting, fast-paced, and fun! This led me to my last position as Assistant Registrar at Art Center College of Design. I stayed in that role for nine years.

In those nine years, I fully developed my passion for working with students in higher education. However, my career aptitude test results and Evelyn never quite left my brain, so, I went on to pursue my other passion–helping my community and teaching. In 2014, I earned a MA in Chicana and Chicano studies from California State University, Northridge. Earning a master’s degree helped me give back; I began teaching at the community college level–something I love and still do to this day.

Earlier this year, I left my position as Assistant Registrar. I am now the Registrar at Los Angeles College of Music, a small, private music college. With nine years of registrar office experience and leadership positions within PACRAO under my belt, I was able to bypass the associate level position in the “traditional” registrar trajectory of assistant, associate and lead registrar. This is something that makes me both proud and terrified! While I know I have the experience, the lead registrar role is something that I am still getting used to. As I mentioned earlier, it is not a position you learn about in school; it is something you learn as you go.

Thankfully, through my relationships and connections with PACRAO as well as a lot of reading, I have been able to hold my head above water. PACRAO members Len Hightower and Marlo Waters wrote an authored a study and article that has truly helped me: A Qualitative Exploration of Perspectives on the Management and Leadership Roles of The Registrar (2016). Their study explored both the perceptions and leadership roles of the registrar. The study, while limited, was very well rounded: it included administrators, faculty, and registrars. The article contains sound advice that new registrars like me should not take for granted. For example, “the participants perceived the registrar as needing to gain trust and maintain relationships with others. Sixty-one percent of participants also said it was important for the registrar to be visionary and able to see the big picture” (26). This is something that I think about on a daily basis. Working at a very small school that is rapidly growing, I have to keep thinking about the larger picture and remind my colleagues that little problems with temporary solutions will only be magnified in the future. Reading this and many other articles is what led me to think about what I needed to focus on to be successful: being objective, organized, optimistic, analytical, and helpful (OOO-AH!).

As an adjunct faculty member at CSU Northridge and East Los Angeles College, I am also able to see the faculty points of view on process and procedure. Being both in and out of the classroom has given me a perspective and enables me to be a better registrar. It’s still pretty weird (and very cool) to be in senior management meetings and have people ask “what do you think?” and have them actually listen! I am also still getting used to fixing problems that arise. It’s a lot like when a child starts to scream and I return him or her to the parent, except now I am the parent, which for someone who does not have children is still rather bizarre.

Since I am always looking to grow and be the best higher education professional that I can be, I decided to return to school and earn a doctorate. This fall I will be starting my Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership with a Higher Education Administration concentration at the University of Southern California. I am certain that as my educational career begins to unfold, my leadership position as a registrar and overall advocate for college students will expand. I know that this year will bring many challenges. Despite this, I am staying focused, OOOAHing and always reaching out to my PACRAO colleagues when I have questions or doubts. I guess my high school career assessment was correct: as a registrar and adjunct instructor I am supportive, empathetic and authoritative every day. Here’s to looking to many more years in higher education administration, receiving my very own transcript paper and as always, seeking the advice of other professionals.

*Evelyn is a pseudonym

Articles I read and highly recommend to new registrars

Bender, Daniel J. “Reflections of a Professional School Registrar.” College & University, vol. 88, no. 3, 2013, pp. 61-64.

Coffman, Lotus Delta. “The Registrar: A Profession.” Bulletin of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars (1926): 154-68. Rpt. in College & University, vol. 91, no. 2, 2016, pp. 31-36.

Mitchell, Jennevieve. “The American Registrar: A Report from the Field.” College & University, vol. 89, no. 2, 2013, pp. 45-55.

Munkwitz-Smith, Jeff Von. “90 Years Later: Reflections on The Registrar: A Profession.” College
& University, vol. 91, no. 2, 2016, pp. 37-40.

Pace, Harold L. “The Evolving Office of the Registrar.” College & University, vol. 86, no. 3, 2011, pp. 2-7.
Smith, Shawn C. “The Complex Origins of the Registrar.” College & University, vol. 87, no. 4, 2012, pp. 11-17.

Waters, Marlo J., and Len Hightower. “A Qualitative Exploration of Perspectives on the Management and Leadership Roles of the Registrar.” College & University, vol. 91, no. 2,
2016, pp. 20-30


Soraira Urquiza, MA has worked in higher education for 11 years. She is currently the Registrar and International Student Advisor for the Los Angeles College of Music in Pasadena, California. She is also a Chicana/o Studies instructor and has taught courses at East Los Angeles College and California State University, Northridge. An avid advocate for education and constant learner, she is beginning her Doctorate in Educational Leadership at the University of Southern California this coming fall 2017. She has been a member of PACRAO since 2008 and has served on the executive board as Diversity Development Advocate and was the 2015 Local Arrangements Committee Chair. Soraira credits PACRAO for her professional growth as well as developing her passion higher education administration and the students it serves.

Creating FERPA Training that is Fun, Educational, Responsive, Participatory, Assessable


This article was originally published in the September 2014 issue of the PACRAO Review.

confidentialSeveral months ago, the Registrar’s Office received a call from a department on campus. The caller was frustrated and expressed his concern about FERPA violations that were happening in his department. One such violation pertained to faculty members returning graded papers and homework outside their office doors without student permission. The caller claimed his faculty had been told many times this was a violation.

Does this scenario sound familiar? With yes most likely being the answer, the important question we should ask is how do we help faculty and staff adhere more adequately to FERPA? Training is a foundational piece to FERPA compliance. A well trained campus reduces risk of non-compliance. More importantly it aids in the protection of student rights.

While not all training programs need to look the same, the approach matters. This article addresses how Brigham Young University attempted to increase FERPA-compliance and create more awareness at our institution through training. Our FERPA training approach is built upon the universal principles of Fun, Educational, Responsive, Participatory, and Assessable. Though resources vary across institutions, we hope to stimulate ideas and opportunities available on your campus that may not have been considered previously.


Brigham Young University is a private not-for-profit four-year teaching based institution located in Provo, Utah (about an hour south of Salt Lake City). Undergraduate enrollment hovers around 30,000 with an additional 3,000 graduate students. There are around 1,600 full-time faculty and 2,500 full-time staff and administrative employees.

Brigham Young University developed and maintains a homegrown student information system. Access to this system is granted after need/roles are assessed, and users have reviewed FERPA policy and training. Since not all BYU faculty and staff need access to the system, some fall outside of the bounds of required FERPA training.

FERPA training on BYU’s campus has evolved from 20 minute VHS tapes available for checkout, to widely distributed DVDs, to online streaming video. Currently, BYU has implemented an online modular training environment.

Principle: Fun

What type of emails or videos are the most popular among your office staff? Is it the latest policy change? Perhaps it’s the mission and vision statements? If your office is like many others, it is probably the emails or YouTube videos with animals posing in Star Wars attire, demotivational cat posters, or 100 creative things to do with duct tape. Why are these so popular? It’s because, fun is memorable. Fun is refreshing. Fun gets peoples’ attention.

Because of personnel’s different learning styles, traditional methods of writing, verbal communication, email correspondence, or website text do not have a significant impact on FERPA knowledge (Maycunich, 2002). Instead, seek to provide training that will appeal to several different aspects of your audience’s learning approaches. Create fun scenarios in video format (or other training formats) that strive to increase impact and retain FERPA knowledge.

Imagine a scenario where a supervisor approaches a member of his staff and has the following conversation:

Supervisor: “Amber, can you look up a student for me? Here is her information.”


Amber: “Sure, is she a new student you’ll be advising?”


Supervisor: “No.”


Amber: “Do you need that information to finish your reports?”


Supervisor: “No. I think she is dating my son.”


Obviously, under FERPA it would not be appropriate to release student information to the supervisor for personal reasons. Dating is a culturally humorous topic at Brigham Young University. By creating a scenario around this topic, it creates an environment that sparks humor for the participant. Embrace your culture in your training. Especially if it is fun. It only takes a bit of observation and a little creativity to incorporate fun into your FERPA training.

What are some other ways fun can be introduced around a seemingly daunting training topic such as FERPA? Here are some approaches:

  • Use lively and interesting individuals. There is a great pool of talent on most campuses. Access to talent may be easier than you think. Does your campus have a film/theatre department? Often there is an eagerness for projects in these departments. This is a great resource for incorporating interesting and lively individuals into your video training environment.
  • Create humorous situations. It is possible to create humor around a serious training situation; however, do not go overboard. Making light of a FERPA regulation may diminish its intended training purpose. Use subtlety in your approach. Use others to collect ideas. Does someone in your office have a funny experience when helping a customer, faculty, or staff member? Could this experience translate into a training opportunity? An office brainstorm of ideas can quickly give a long list of options. You may be surprised how much the right environment (and a little chocolate) get the ideas flying.
  • Use animated and unexpected graphics. Our design team created several visuals and animated graphics that were used in the introduction portion of the training. Such visuals included boxing gloves that punch words, or cartoon figures to demonstrate FERPA principles. Let’s face it, who doesn’t enjoy lively and animated cartoons? If you are not an artist or graphic designer, try contacting your campus animation or design department for help.

Principle: Educational

In the early stages of this project we asked ourselves if building a training environment would increase knowledge and awareness of FERPA. It has been suggested that self-perception of FERPA knowledge increased significantly for institutions after a FERPA tutorial was administered regardless of faculty or staff status or years at the institution of the individual (Turnage, 2007). However, in order for the training to provide as much educational punch as possible, the incorporation of a few concepts was required.

First and foremost, the training topics have to address common or relevant situations. A team of individuals was sent around campus to interview faculty and staff on topics covered in FERPA. This research provided feedback on areas of FERPA that needed special attention, such as; returning graded homework, grade privacy, determining legitimate need to know, parents roles (or lack of) in student grades, third-party access, and use of email. Obviously we couldn’t cover every FERPA policy, but at least we had something to work from.

trainingThe next consideration was to determine how to keep training scenarios and situations current. One of the great challenges faced today is understanding and applying FERPA in the digital age. New apps, cloud storage, and email access have not only changed the FERPA policy landscape but also opened up new possibilities for FERPA training using these new platforms. Training that is structured modularly allows content to be more current and relevant. It is much easier to replace many small individual modules than redo a continuous 20 minute video.

Lastly, in order for educational environments to be maximized, we train more specifically using smaller amounts of information. The training is not, and cannot be, all encompassing. Keep training scenarios and information specific and to the point.

Principle: Responsive

Everyone has different training needs. So what are the needs faculty, staff, and students have when it comes to training? How quickly can you respond to these needs?

Develop a plan that will help identify user needs before you begin. Part of this plan should include technological resources available on campus, a breakdown of both staff and faculty preferences, etc. Training that is easily accessible, available on demand, and role specific should account for a majority of the need.

Not too long ago our FERPA training environment consisted of a continuous play DVD that faculty and staff were required to watch before being granted access to our student information system. This training method provided little flexibility. Providing training in a web based environment has allowed greater flexibility in access and formatting. With the advent of responsive design technology, training environments can render on a variety of devices, thus creating easy access, greater mobility, and on demand environments.

As is true on many campuses, faculty and staff usually knew when a situation they encountered was potentially FERPA sensitive, but they didn’t exactly know how to respond. Training that is role-based, with specific examples of how to navigate the common situations successfully, addresses needs before they arise. Additionally, provide quick access to these scenarios within a training environment specific to the user so they can refresh their knowledge on the subject by quickly jumping to relevant scenarios.

Principle: Participatory

For many, training materials included handbooks, pamphlets, and other written text explaining FERPA policy. Most could tell you, however, that simply posting information about FERPA in a faculty handbook or university policy document alone is insufficient to help campus personnel understand the law (Maycunich, 2002).

Engaging in the process, on the other hand, creates an internalization of the information. Retention occurs at a higher level when they are engaged, focused, and challenged. Here are some ideas on how to build stronger participation into your training:

  • Invite the user to react to a situation. After a short video segment setting the stage for the FERPA situation, we presented the trainee with a “what would you do” situation and asked them to select one of four options. Once the answer was submitted, they received instant feedback on their response. If they answered incorrectly, they were told what the correct answer was. This should be a learning process for the participant and not just an exam or certification.
  • Ask the user at the time the information is presented if they understood the principle(s) being taught. If users have further questions or comments allow for the selection of an “I have questions regarding this…” option. Have these questions collected and available within the system. In the case of BYU, our FERPA compliance coordinator reviews and responds to each inquiry regularly. Since its deployment in August of 2013, more than 80 questions have been posted and responded to on a variety of topics. A key aspect of this process is to watch for trends in questions so they can be accounted for in future modules.
  • Confirm or correct responses and explain why. No matter what was answered, our system confirms the answer as correct or informs the user that it was incorrect but then tells them what the right answer is. In either scenario, the user is informed of the principles behind why the answer was what it was. Having an understanding of why something is the way it is can often add sustainability to compliance.

Principle: Assessable

In some circles the term “assessable” refers to a basis for taxation. The intent is not to impose a tax on the system, but a determination of the system value. It is important to understand if there were mistakes in questions posed or determine if concepts are frequently misunderstood. It is also important to make sure your campus is not at risk due to a lack of understanding on key concepts. Much of this can be ascertained if a system is created that would allow measurement of individual performance and system usage patterns. All of this measurement should lead back to an understanding of risk for FERPA violations.

By tracking individual scores and responses you can assess the comprehension of the individual. As a result of the authentication system we implemented (this ties into the university CAS authentication) we are able to determine the user information based off their user ID. Since its inception, over 700 faculty sessions have been completed with an average score percentage of around 90% correct. Nearly 2,400 staff sessions have been completed with average percent correct near 80%. Because the scenarios are different between faculty and staff, a comparative cannot be inferred.

Not all tools are perfect. Not all questioning is sound. Build in a mechanism that allows the tracking of each question and show the distribution of answers. Several months into the system usage, we noticed a question was missed more frequently than others. We were curious if this was a misunderstood concept or a poorly worded question. Evaluation of the issues lead us to believe it was a poorly worded question. We modified the question. As a result, the accuracy of the responses increased significantly for this question.

Lastly, integrate your environment with an analytic tool. We chose Google analytics, mostly because it’s “free.” This would allow us to understand how the environment is being accessed (mobile/tablet vs. desktop), how long they stayed, what areas were used most, etc. Google allows so many ways to slice and dice information. All of which can lead to more informed decisions on content structuring and framework.


So what’s next? To watch and learn. The system created at BYU will continue to collect data that can be used for future development initiatives. Other topics of interest have surfaced that we plan to build as training modules into the system.

We are also working with the administration to see if we can require FERPA training on a regular basis as opposed to only once when they first request access to the student information system. Now that the infrastructure is in place, most of the future initiatives can be managed in house and won’t require resource planning.

While the specific approach taken at BYU may be daunting to some, the FERPA training principles are universal. Fun, Educational, Responsive, Participatory, Assessable. Resources always seem to be the foremost concern for those approaching a solution similar to that of BYU. It is not to be denied that access to quality resources helped in this project; however, most campuses are equipped with the resources needed. Do you have computer science students who can help develop the framework as a class project? Registrar staff can write scripts and then use the film and theatre department to create videos, or just have some students use their YouTube skills. If you have a graphic design department, or an employee with those talents, they can create visuals, graphics, and marketing. Coordinating this may seem challenging, but the payoff in building relationships and creating awareness of FERPA is substantial.

If you’d like to see what we did and get a feel for our videos, quizzes and administrative site, go here:


Maycunich, Ann. FERPA : an investigation of faculty knowledge levels and organization practices at three land-grant universities. Ames: Thesis (Ph. D.)–Iowa State University, 2002.

Turnage, Casey Carlton. School officials’ knowledge of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 at the University of Southern Mississippi. Hattiesburg: Dissertation (University of Southern Mississippi), 2007.


Barry K. Allred is the University Registrar at Brigham Young University. He currently serves as the chair of the university FERPA Compliance Committee. Prior to joining the registrar’s office, he worked as the Associate Director of Technology Applications and manager of data reporting at BYU.

Jearlene Leishman is the Senior Associate Registrar at Brigham Young University with responsibilities over Records, Registration, Transfer Evaluation, Petitions, Data Entry, FERPA and data access. Jearlene currently serves as the FERPA Compliance Coordinator for the university.

Brian Chantry is an Associate Registrar at Brigham Young University with responsibilities over technology, academic data reporting and other internal Registrar Office support. He has over 11 years of experience in higher education focused primarily around the development of technology initiatives that improve business processes.