5 minute read

Redesigning Student Services with California College of the Arts

2/21/2023 8:00 PM

Michelle Ziegmann and Vicki Breitinger of the California College of the Arts (CCA) joined the FOCUS podcast to discuss their experience redesigning student services. CCA is a nonprofit art and design college in San Francisco, California, with around 1,500 students across 34 degree programs.

Ziegmann is the Associate Vice President for Technology Services and oversees enterprise systems, network cybersecurity, application development, the help desk, data governance, computing, and staff. Breitinger is CCA’s Director of Student Accounts, managing student financial service processes and policy, maintaining alignment to student success initiatives, and supporting enrollment management goals. Together, they were able to work with their teams to undertake new initiatives to redefine CCA’s student experience. Listen to the podcast and read more to learn about their process, what they discovered and implemented, and their advice for other institutions getting ready to redesign their student services.

The right foundation

Ziegmann has spoken at TouchNet’s annual user conference, COMTEC, about CCA’s digital transformations and how they set the institution’s processes up to be as successful as they are today. She believes the implementation of Workday kicked the institution into high gear and replaced on-premises enterprise resource planning (ERP) with fully-cloud functions.

CCA also implemented TouchNet payment and ID management solutions with Workday to create comprehensive student services. The college focused on creating an ecosystem of secure, reliable, and robust solutions that worked well together in terms of data exchange and user experience. They also sought innovative partners to offer the features Ziegmann and Breitinger’s teams were looking for. With the combination of strategic partners, CCA created a solid foundation going into the pandemic years that could properly respond to the changing campus needs.

Services redesign initiative

Along with the obvious challenges it presented, the pandemic also brought new opportunities to CCA. Many departments reengineered the way they delivered services and collaborated with each other, and many staff did not want to return to campus, feeling their responsibilities could be better met remotely. Additionally, there were safety concerns for students and faculty coming back to campus during the pandemic, compounded by space issues due to postponed construction.

The Service Redesign Initiative took a closer look at the opportunities and problems posed, ultimately developing a strategy to move forward. Comprised of an interdisciplinary group of staff, the initiative took on researching the dilemma, conducting interviews, surveys, and focus groups to identify the pros and cons of remote service deliveries and working. The team sought to radically reenvision how CCA delivered services that maximized staff capabilities, minimized the on-campus staff footprint, and allowed them to be more effective in meeting student and faculty needs.

Reengineering services

Based on the findings and recommendations, CCA developed four different initiatives to move forward. The first is to define staff work modes, which was previously an HR function. They worked with senior leadership to look at all faculty positions and make determinations of whether they were best served on campus, hybrid, or remote.

The second is called The Business of Being a Student, focusing on integrated student services and how to deliver those in a way that meets student needs. This comes from stronger department collaborations and understanding the interdependencies of each role within divisions and the systems around student service goals.

“This change really means that we are focusing on integrated services, and this has optimized the student experience and strengthening of our students and people resources, providing a more streamlined and targeted experience as students focus on the business of students,” says Breitinger.

Breitinger’s focus is on billing, financial aid, access and registration, advising, and housing. The Office of Student Accounts discovered that a hybrid model worked best to deliver these services, allowing students to get help on-campus or virtually from the OneStop Shop.

This allowed CCA to convey to students the ins and outs of how to navigate their business needs effectively. This holistic approach gives students a better understanding of what they need to do, why they need to do it, how they do it, and who they need to talk to. Reevaluating communication and maintaining consistency across communications to students was also integral in this second initiative.

CCA also began to look at on-campus workspaces, which was greatly informed by the newly defined staff work modes and how student services would be delivered. They looked at spaces to strategize how to optimize them for the student experience. The institution primarily ended up with a hot desk model with smaller collaboration spaces and very few dedicated private offices.

CCA’s final focus area was staff wellbeing. Fully remote staff were struggling to stay connected to campus and their peers. They are working to make sure all staff feels valued, connected, and collaborative no matter their work mode.

Bringing it all together

With these four initiatives spanning across different offices and departments, Ziegmann’s team is now focusing on prioritizing systems and how to support offices and their processes. Her team works on making sure everything runs smoothly by holding regular meetings to discuss what’s working and what’s not, and interdependencies in business processes.

With their OneCard Campus ID, Ziegmann wants to aid departments in understanding that while it’s one system, each office uses it uniquely and needs processes that work together. They focus on department goals, extending beyond the technology into how they can help divisions accomplish their goals. When problems do arise, their toolkit made of TouchNet, Google, and Workday is able to solve them almost immediately.

Final thoughts

Although CCA is a prime example of a successful redesigned student service experience, Ziegmann and Breitinger have their sights set on the future as they continue to reevaluate and better their initiatives. Breitinger is excited for the institution to embark on international student payment integrations and new ways to issue refunds. She sees opportunities driven by student finance best practices, federal regulations, and banking requirements. Ziegmann is ready to rebuild post-pandemic enrollment and continue down CCA’s path to data driven empowerment. She’s focused on cybersecurity as the institution has become cloud-reliant.

Their greatest piece of advice for other institutions seeking to reimagine their student experiences is to work collaboratively with faculty and make sure the right platforms and strategic partners are in place for success.