2011 TC Pressroom
Teachers College, Columbia University
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TC Completes Initial Review of Administrative and Support Services

Focus, shared responsibility, and commitment. These are some of the themes emphasized by Towers Perrin, the management consulting firm, in their recently completed evaluation of the College's administrative and support services. With input from many across TC, the firm has identified ten primary "focus areas" to guide TC's efforts to strengthen the quality of administrative and support services over the next several years. "We now have a road map to help us accelerate service improvements for students, faculty, and staff. The next step is taking the report to the TC community for comments and action," said President Levine.

A Commitment to Change

The College began the review in May, responding to a growing consensus that TC needs to be a better and easier place to "do business," for our students, faculty, and staff. "Over the last few years, we have made real improvements in some areas, such as the registration process and financial management among others, but we know there is a long way to go to consistently deliver high quality service and support," said President Levine. In particular, student surveys have consistently given lower ratings to advising, administration, and services than to academic programs.

Priorities Established To Improve Services

According to Paul Mayer, the Towers Perrin project manager, "TC needs to work at two levels: changing how services are delivered, but also building its capacity for change." The Towers Perrin report identifies ten areas for action. Three of the "focus areas" address College-wide systems and policies, and seven are specific to roles and services in individual departments:

College-Wide

Professional Development, Communications, and Performance Management-The report discusses the need for deeper and more effective staff training and development programs; broader two-way communication with staff; and a more consistent approach to staff goal setting, evaluation, and merit pay. All of these are intended to promote higher skilled and higher quality service.

Continuous Process Improvement-The report recommends establishing annual "process improvement" goals for each department and investment in additional CIS capacity to help achieve them.

Managing the "Total Student Experience"-The report recommends a heightened commitment, led by the Dean, to strengthen the "TC experience" for students, including expansion of activities at the department and program levels.

Department-Specific Facilities-The report calls for implementation of a series of management and capacity improvements, some of which have already begun under Aramark Facilities Services.

Enrollment Management-The report identifies opportunities to further strengthen student academic planning and enrollment transactions, and to further reduce admissions and course scheduling cycles.

Personnel-The report focuses on expanding Personnel's role and capacity to help lead staff development and performance improvement initiatives.

Academic Department Administrative Support-The report discusses ways to enhance department support, including broader use of technology to communicate more effectively with students.

Career Services-The report describes major opportunities to expand the role of Career Services, including closer collaboration with alumni and development functions.

CIS-In addition to adding new process consulting capacity, the report underscores the demand for even broader administrative training and technical support.

Library-The report focuses on implementation of the library study findings.

The report does not contain recommendations for substantive changes in staffing levels, but does recommend areas in which the deployment of staff should change, and others which may require staffing changes once other improvements are in place.

A Shared Responsibility

"As we've looked at Towers Perrin's recommendations, it's become clear to me that when we talk about ‘improving service,' we are talking about a shared responsibility," said President Levine.

Immediate Steps

After consultation with the Trustees on December 9, the Senior Staff has committed to several immediate steps to strengthen services, including pilot efforts to enrich student activities and to strengthen academic department administrative support, and expanded roles and capacities in CIS, Personnel, and Career Services. TC also plans to conduct a new, broad-based survey of staff and faculty this spring, to establish "baseline" measures on a variety of issues related to work environment and service. The College has already taken steps to strengthen facilities services by installing Aramark Facilities Services in October to manage the function.

Building the Longer Term Plan

Looking beyond these immediate steps, the College intends to engage in broader dialogue beginning in January with students, faculty and staff to discuss the conclusive observations and recommendations contained in the Towers Perrin report. Building on these discussions, the College intends to finalize an action plan in April to guide our efforts over the next two years.

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