Benchmarking - U of Massachusetts

Renata Faverin (rfaverin@YorkU.CA)
Fri, 29 Mar 1996 10:29:10 -0400

For your information, this is a "telephone benchmarking exercise" I
conducted. I think this would be a good place to visit in early summer
and it's located in downtown Boston.


Benchmarking at University of Massachusetts, Boston
Peter Langer, Director, University Advising Centre
March 28/96

Reengineering information:

- currently, UMB in the middle of major reengineering program of 4 major
areas: 3 are largely administrative: HR, Purchasing and Budget; the last
is Student Services
- have hired PAPPAS Group as outside consultants to help with this
- Terry Phalen is the contact person on the Team; as Assistant Director
of Admissions, he would be a good source of information on the work
process review of the kind we are currently involved in at York; his
e-mail is and phone is (617) 287-6102

Background information on UMB:

- University of Massachusetts, Boston is the only public university in
- about 12,000 students of whom 3,000 are newly admitted first year
- student body is largely non-traditional (over 24 years of age) and
majority are transfer students from other post-secondary institutions
- of the total, about 1/3 work full-time and the rest work at least
- 70% of their overall enrolment is in the College of Arts and Science
- the University Advising Centre, headed by Peter Langer reports to
Academic Affairs/Provost (VP responsible for both areas)
- Director equivalent to Deans in the hierarchy of things though does
not have same clout
- does sit on the Academic Council with Deans and Directors of other
-career services unit reports to Director of Advising Centre

The process for first year students at UMB:

- the University Advising Centre is responsible for advising,
testing/placement, enrolling/registering, orienting ALL first year
students to the university regardless of program to which they have been
-once admitted, students are given phone number to call and make a
reservation for orientation which is mandatory for all admitted students
(those who choose not to participate are still allowed to enrol in
courses, but not until the first week of classes when they do it
completely on their own
- exceptions to this mandatory attendance for international students and
students who live out-of-state
- about 2,000 students follow this process for the fall term
- about 1,000 students follow same process for the winter term
- UMB has liberal admissions policy, though not an “open-door” one

- in groups of 250, students are booked into a 2-day program;


- begins at 8:30 and runs to 4 p.m. weekdays and Saturdays
- from 250 into groups of no more than 30 (about 6-9 groups in total)
and according to degree program they have chosen (this to keep the
interest focused on similar issues/concerns)
- the program is uniform for all students though advisors assigned are
from those programs to which students have been admitted
- students DO NOT register on this day since:
· only 8 full-time advisors on staff, each of whom have 30 students
assigned for the day
· advisors are professional advisors who have a combination of the
following qualifications: 1) student affairs background with MA in
counselling/advising; 2) Ph.D. qualified to teach; 3) staff who have
worked their way up through the ranks and have acquired sufficient
experience and expertise in the field
· many students are transferring from another institution and have
particular concerns specific to the individual
· not possible to cover all the ground over one day
· students are required to provide writing sample
· no student is exempt from this requirement (even those with
exceptional grades)
· sample provided by the English department and takes the form of a 1
hour essay
· at end of day, essays collected and shipped to English department for
· these are returned on a 3-day turn-around basis
· some students may also be required to take the math placement test -
this is required for all students who wish to take a math course
- students are provided with Arts’ equivalent of “course availability
· it takes Director about 6 hours to first produce one, then between 3
and 4 to update and maintain it
· a list is prepared prior to each group of 250 coming in
· R.O. produces equivalent of ‘open/closed course listing’ but it is
done for ALL courses at the university and therefore much more daunting
for first year students


- at the end of DAY 1, students are asked to book an individual 30
minute appointment with an academic advisor
· at this time, all placement test results are in and discussed with
students and course selection takes place
· depending on the computer literacy of advisors, enrolment can take
place directly, on-line with advisor (the preferred model) or with
enrolment clerk
· students asked to select 8-10 courses - depending on availability


-a 1-credit credit course is offered to students as elective and
includes those components which, at York, we would define as
“introduction to university life, culture and environment
-during their 1/2 hour appointment during day 2 of the orientation
program, advisors will dedicate some time toward helping students become
familiar with the university campus and services:
-i.e. financial aid, course withdrawal, health services...
-experience shows that 80% do not really pay much attention to this
component of orientation, BUT still important to acquaint students since
they will at least be aware - if they need to resort to service, they
will have some idea that it does exist


- retention rate is not good: 68% continue from first to second year;
40% graduate after completing 5 years at the university
- students who withdraw have an “exit” interview at the Advising Centre
and these stats reflect why students leave: 1/3 transfer to another
institution which offers a programme not offered by UMB; 1/3 leave for
personal/financial reasons, but have every intention of returning; 1/3
leave because they are not getting out of the experience what they had
expected (this last reason why institutional efforts are being made)
-the University Advising Centre was created in 1990 to address retention
efforts and to contribute to better recruitment as well
-this office does not conduct formal research to measure success (their
equivalent of our ISR not well resourced)
- UMB is 100% commuter - no residence facilities at all - difficult to
get students to participate in activities; some students clubs (academic
or cultural) are quite active though and Advising Centre relies on these
clubs to pass on any critical information (especially true of career
services where, if noticed that low participation from one particular
group, centre staff will connect with clubs to encourage participation)

On-going advising:

- all students return to the Advising Centre in order to select and
enrol in courses for following semester
- all undeclared majors are the on-going responsibility of the Advising
Centre while those who have declared a major are referred to their major
-good number of these students return to the AC in spite of the referral
( a number of reasons for this including those familiar to York: faculty
member not in office or not available when student is; faculty member
not as knowledgeable on various general issues; faculty member only
prepared to discuss program-specific issues)
-this is not unwelcomed by AC since the philosophy is to encourage both
student and faculty to establish good rapport (better that this be based
on confidence of material discussed)
- Director of the AC spends great deal of time to establish cooperative
links with academic departments
- one good strategy is to link up one advisor in AC with a group of
academic departments to allow for better and more efficient
communication (this permits advisor to get to know faculty better - and
vice versa - and it helps the advisor to become very familiar with the
course content of a grouping of departments)

General Comments:

- UMB not considered first choice for majority of students so hard to
get them to accept offer in early stages of the process
- course availability a problem as a result so Director currently
negotiating with Deans to “reserve” courses/sections for these students
(i.e. not make them available to continuing students)
- time of day classes are offered also problematic since most students
work and would prefer classes in the mornings
-physical plant cannot support classes in the mornings only and
room size does not allow for bigger numbers if the demand were
- faculty also problem (most do not want to teach classes later
in the day)
- would be much easier to deal with if students were admitted earlier,
but because not first choice, this impossible to achieve


- centralized advising should not replace faculty members’ role
- students need to “bond with faculty members - all research shows this
as link to retention and positive student experiences
- centralized only as way to provide pre-enrolment advising and
orientation, on-going personal and career discussions as well as general
well-being issues


Renata Faverin Senior Analyst, Work Process Review 230A York Lanes telephone: (416) 736-2100 ext.30545 fax: (416) 736-5404