Employees recognized with Administrative Improvement Awards

May 20, 2014

by Greg Bump

Three teams and one individual have been chosen to receive the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s 2014 Administrative Improvement Award.

The award recognizes exceptional performance in administrative roles supporting academics, research, student services, outreach or administration. Emphasis is given to outstanding work that results in improved efficiency, increased revenue channels, cost savings or improved service delivery.

Rebecca Blank

Rebecca Blank

“The excellent work of the employees selected for this prestigious award exemplifies what can be achieved through innovative approaches and a commitment to continuous improvement,” Chancellor Rebecca Blank says.

Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Darrell Bazzell adds, “The hard work, innovative ideas and dedication of employees like our award winners enable UW-Madison to provide a high level of service to our students, campus community and the public.”

Darrell Bazzell

Darrell Bazzell

The award recipients will be honored at a June 4 ceremony at Union South. The ceremony begins at 5 p.m. The campus community is invited to attend.

Recipients of the 2014 Administrative Improvement Award are:

Common Scholarship Application Team: Mary Hillstrom, Olivia Chu, Ed O’Connor-Giles, Keith Brown, and Sandi Arendalkowski of the Office of Student Financial Aid; Alison Rice, College of Letters and Science; Todd Friske, Carol Gosenheimer and Bob Mayville of the Division of Information Technology (DoIT).

Before the Common Scholarship Application was launched in 2009, UW-Madison did not have a central location where current and potential students could find information about all scholarship opportunities on campus. This led some parents and students to believe there were few scholarships available, and sometimes scholarship money was not awarded because no qualified applications were submitted.

Under the Common Scholarship Application, submitted applications increased 37 percent from 2011 to 2012 and another 25 percent from 2012 to 2013. Submissions in 2014 are running well ahead of 2013 applications. In addition, the number of campus academic departments using the service has grown from 30 percent to 79 percent in the last two years.

“The Common Scholarship Application provides services to students in a way that is considered a campus model of how such services should be provided,” Steve Hahn, interim vice provost for enrollment management, wrote in his letter nominating the team.

School of Social Work Admissions Team: Tracy Schroepfer, Valerie Timler and Bret Huisenga of the School of Social Work.

The School of Social Work Full-Time Master of Social Work Program had been experiencing problems with its student application and review process, resulting in the loss of excellent applicants to other universities. Feedback indicated applicants were frustrated by how difficult and cumbersome the application process was. A team was formed to develop an online admission process, and a two-year plan was designed to adopt a paperless, online, database-driven application, review and student confirmation process.

“The hard work, innovative ideas and dedication of employees like our award winners enable UW-Madison to provide a high level of service to our students, campus community and the public.”

Darrell Bazzell

In 2013-14, 351 applications were received and 279 were reviewed by 13 reviewers in less than two months. Reviewers averaged 22 applications each at a pace approximately three times faster than in previous years. The faster turnaround for acceptance or denial notifications gave accepted applicants more than a month before the April 15 deadline to find funding and make their decisions.

Nominator Jan Greenberg, director of the School of Social Work, wrote, “The new database system will allow the School of Social Work to conduct a more detailed, broader and data-driven review of its application process and applicant pools on a yearly and longitudinal basis.”

Financial Aid e-Refund Team: Napaporn (Tip) Vandall, Chris Savard, Denise Berge, John Carien, Joan Easley and Bobby Hart of the Bursar’s Office; Dave Marty and Somrudee Winichakul of DoIT.

Paper checks had been the mode for delivering more than $116 million in tuition account refunds annually. Due to the cost of paper check refunding, the Bursar’s Office would process refunds daily at the beginning of each term, but only twice a week during the rest of the year, creating a delay of 7 to 10 days for students to receive checks. Incorrect mailing addresses and mail delays caused problems for many students. The implementation team researched pros and cons of options for online refunds and developed a plan for communicating with students about the new system.

Since implementation of the e-Refund system in January, 44.7 percent of spring refunds totaling $26.8 million have been processed electronically. The Bursar’s Office reported receiving 100 percent positive feedback from students. In the first three months of implementation, stop-pay requests and re-issuing of refund checks decreased 24 percent. The number of bad checks returned by the Post Office for bad addresses dropped by 18.1 percent.

Enrollment in the e-Refund system is expected to reach up to 80 percent of eligible students at the end of two years. A 28 percent reduction in cost per refund is estimated at 75 percent enrollment in e-Refund.

“The e-Refund team deserves credit for implementing a process that increased service to students, saves money and reduces staff time,” wrote Bursar Cathie Easter in her nomination letter. “It’s a win-win-win process improvement.”

Jacquelyn Irving, Bradley Learning Community: Irving, a program director at the Bradley Learning Community, had primary responsibility for producing a brochure that informs incoming students of Bradley’s benefits, and took the lead in creating assessment efforts to improve programs and services. She also arranged listening sessions for students, created a new position description for peer mentors and initiated improvements in the peer-mentor selection process.

The Bradley Learning Community is a residence hall for first-year students that promotes a successful transition from high school to college life and encourages collaborative learning among students, faculty and staff.

The year before Irving’s arrival at Bradley, only 67 of 246 residents listed Bradley as their first choice of a residence hall. As a result, students who did not want to be there were placed in the hall, hardly an optimal situation for a learning community.

Over the past three years, the first-choice numbers have improved to 204, 278 and 220 residents. Surveys show that the percentage of residents who felt faculty had gotten to know them increased from 17 percent in 2008 to 60 percent in 2013.

“Jackie has played an integral role in measurably improving resident satisfaction with the Bradley Learning Community and in transforming it from a program on the brink of extinction to a model for other learning communities, both on and off campus,” wrote nominator Susan Brantly, professor of Scandinavian Studies and faculty director at the Bradley Learning Community.