KUTZTOWN, PA – KU’s University Relations (UR) office has implemented a new staff and department recognition feature. KUDOS, Kutztown University’s Dedication to Outstanding Service, focuses on university administrative departments and the individuals within them, giving the campus community a better look inside many of the working areas on campus.
This week, we sat down with the Registrar’s Office to get an inside look at the dedicated individuals who support KU’s institutional values by serving the diverse and changing needs of the campus community in capturing, preserving and providing information in a timely and ethical manner, as well as in maintaining all responsibilities to student, faculty, administrative and outside constituents.
UR: Can you introduce yourselves and tell us how long you’ve been with KU?
TW: My name is Ted Witryk, I am the university registrar and I will be here four years in August.
VV: My name is Veronique Vlaun, I’m the academic records keeper and I’ve been here 12 years.
BT: My name is Benjamin Trout, I’m the associate registrar and I’ve been here seven years.
UR: What is your department’s role and mission at the university?
TW: The definition of registrar is “keeper of records.” In that sense, we have responsibility for all record-keeping when it comes to student academic records, which includes transcripts, grades, registration, changes in personal information, change of names, departmental major requirements, new student registration in connections and graduation. Initially, faculty sign off on graduation requirements. We then verify that information and present the names of graduates to University Senate and the Council of Trustees. We’re also on stage during commencement giving the diploma covers to President Hawkinson. We then serve as the VA certifying officer and report names of graduated students to the clearing house. Essentially, we handle anything to do with student academic records – and that’s just on the student side. Some of our other responsibilities are to the faculty. We provide rosters, classroom space and final exam schedules – anything that a faculty member would need to assist students. We also provide information to advisors and coordinate with IT in using MyKU. All the information listed in MyKU is our responsibility. So if anything is wrong, like a student’s grades not matching what they thought they were going to get, they call us first. We also have responsibility to the administration, which includes maintaining the number of registered students, scheduling classes, updating the cancelation of classes and participation in various committees. When I say we have three major constituents, I mean the students, the faculty and the administration. We do a lot more than people realize. Our stakeholders are not just here on campus; they include outside vendors as well. For example, when students want to apply for a job and employers want to verify their information, the employers call us. We also report our information to the State System.
BT: Our role is to be the record-keepers, the aid to students wishing to make changes of all kinds, the graduation support and the sound-off of their academic standing.
UR: Can you explain your department’s staff make-up and responsibilities?
TW: I’ve been doing this job for 44 years and have been in a registrar’s office since I was 17 years old. In addition to myself, there are 12 people who work in the office. In most cases, we all have different levels of responsibility. Veronique is one of our front-line people. She works with students who come in with questions, police officers who have questions about students and anyone else who has questions about present, past and future students. Ben’s previous role was doing graduation audits and verifying that a student did indeed graduate after receiving the information from the faculty. Now, he is the associate registrar and handles the day-to-day activities in the office since I’m usually managing committee responsibilities. I am the chair of the Academic Calendars Committee, chair of the Undergraduate Exceptions Committee, chair of the Admin Council, a member of the Academic Standings, Policies & Procedures Committee, a member of the Enrollment Management Committee, a member of the Student Success Team Committee and a member of the Strategic Planning Committee. I do go to a number of different committees as a reference, such as the University Curriculum Committee.
VV: I’m the day-to-day person who takes care of all 27 departments when it comes to changing their majors, minors and advisors. I manage the counter, the phones and information-gathering for the other staff. I also play a role in the beginning of the semester in communicating freshmen majors and information with the admissions office, and I am a member of the Traffic Bureau Committee.
BT: We have folks that have been here many years, as well as relative newcomers. Several of them are KU graduates. We have hard-working administrators who are student-focused and take care of things like major changes, withdrawals, transcripts, academic standing, special arrangement courses, graduate and undergraduate degree auditing, transfer course reception and evaluation, veterans’ affairs servicing, and the reporting and exceptions committee counsels. I mainly put out the fires. Anything anyone brings me – I figure out how to fix it. My permanent responsibilities include programming degree audits and making sure that the university’s Undergraduate Exceptions Committee petitions are in order and ready to go for meetings. I act as the student advocate of the Undergraduate Exceptions Committee.
UR: How does your department serve students and the campus community?
TW: We are the policemen of university policies, so we enforce academic policies in every sense. But, we always try our best to give students options and help them in any way possible. In the olden days, the registrar was always known as the office of “no.” If I’ve changed anything, I hope that that stigma is gone here. While students who usually come to us are looking to change something, we want everyone to come in and feel like they can ask us anything. Some students just stop in for candy, and we’re glad that they’re comfortable enough to do that. I think what really helps us be the most efficient is that a lot of what we can do is online, like registration. The only time people need to see us now is when there’s an issue, but we always try to make students feel like they’re not just a number, like we’re not just here for their money. In most cases, we’re here to help them, make them productive, help them graduate and be happy.
VV: You never know the situation a student, parent or even a faculty member is in, so we always keep that in mind when answering the phone. No two phone calls are ever the same, and sometimes people just need someone to listen to them. So, we manage the office according to how we think the day will be. We’ve become very good at calming nervous students, especially around this time of year (commencement).
BT: We provide answers. Students and administration typically stop in to ask us just about any question you can think of. We act as the customer service desk for the university, in a way. Our staff are an endlessly-curious lot who strive to know as much about the university as possible so they can assist our students in finding the right information, the right office or the right form to serve them.
UR: What are the points of pride in your department?
TW: The only reason I can even stay above water is because of the people that work here. We distribute as much as possible and meet as much as possible; I think communication is the biggest thing I’ve brought to this office that I can take pride in. Most of us are all on the same page, and that page is to help students. Another thing I pride myself in is knowing that there are 11 people who worked for me at some point in my career who are now either registrars or associate provosts. As a manager of the office, my role is to either prepare people for their next-level jobs, even if it’s mine, and I take a lot of pride in the development I do with people to make sure that they’re ready for the next level. For the university, I’m proud of what we have been able to change in the last four years. I think I’ve brought a small vision of change to the university and would like to make more in the future.
VV: My point of pride is how well we all work together. The staff has a great team attitude and the office is a positive environment.
BT: For me, it’s our staff members that are KU alums. They have a burning passion to keep the school’s mission rumbling on and maintain an intimate understanding of the way Kutztown operates. It’s prideful that they would want to come back and work in the registrar’s office – it’s like we have insiders on the team, all of whom carry a compassion for our students that is baked from within. It makes me feel good because a number of them were student workers; they worked here, they saw what goes on, and they wanted to come back and be part of this, which tells me the office is doing what it should be doing and creating a good atmosphere. It’s the best office on campus.
UR: What would you like people to know about your department that they may not know already?
TW: We are an office of information wanting to share. Because we know and enforce policies, if a student feels as though no one is answering their questions, they’re welcome to come and talk to us.
VV: To add to that, a lot of times we get calls for other offices. If there’s something our office can do to help break down what they’re looking for, we will extend our hand and try to help them. A lot of times, people will say to us, “you’re so knowledgeable and full of information when we least likely think we’re going to get an answer to something.” Call our office – even if we don’t have the answers ourselves, we’ll guide you to them.
BT: We’re not mean – we’re friendly! I think people conflate the Registrar’s Office with this idea that it’s stuffy, or that it’s intimidating. Our front desk staff are so helpful and so ready to do their best for our students.
UR: How can the campus community learn more or become involved with your department?
TW: Aside from just stopping by the office to talk to us, they can come to our potlucks. We are coming up on our fifth anniversary of Christmas Eve breakfast. The first year, we decided to get together and cook breakfast for faculty and staff in our building who had to work. We made three pounds of bacon, pancakes and made-to-order omelets. Since then, Christmas Eve breakfast has grown to include four other offices in the food assembly line and is now open to the entire university. Bernard from Financial Aid and I also organized a campus-wide Bring Your Own Lunch event in the Georgian Room. We had over 300 people in attendance, eight tables of food, six tables of desserts and two tables of beverages. I was making Reuben’s to order on a Panini press. It was a gathering for two hours over the summer where everyone who was on-campus participated. I worked eight years at the Culinary Institute as the registrar and I’ve learned that the best way to bring people together is with food. Believe it or not, over the last two years our office has met more people on campus than ever through these events. We love to talk to people about our office because we enjoy what we do.
VV: It’s true. I’ve also gotten to know a lot of people in the KU community because I’ve worked in different departments and try to maintain those contacts. There’s nothing wrong with being a friendly face on campus both for students and for staff members – you’d be surprised what you get from a simple “hello.”
BT: By interaction. We’re all very open and love to talk about what we do here. Our website also outlines our mission, but direct interaction is the best way to really get to know us and learn about what we do for our students.
UR: What’s your favorite thing about your KU experience?
TW: I can’t say because I’m not done yet. In every place I’ve ever worked, I’ve left my mark in one manner or another. I have more time here and I will leave my mark, but I’m not sure what it’s going to be yet.
BT: Working with the students. Helping a group of people poised to better themselves is a rush. I can’t understate how powerful it is to help somebody graduate or navigate a form or petition they’re nervous about – it’s the juice. You wouldn’t show up to work every day if it wasn’t.
VV: That’s a hard question to answer. I’m willing to stick around to see the changes. I’ve seen so many things change since 2005 and I’d like to really see where it goes, so I can’t say just yet.
UR: What does “It’s Good to be Golden” mean to you?
VV: A sense of community. What I take from every individual I’ve met here, and the uniqueness I’ve given to them and they’ve given to me. I’ve learned a little from everyone.
BT: I’d say ambition. It suggests the campus at large and the university and its mission are reaching for the highest possible standard, and being part of that is great.
TW: So I’ve met almost everyone on campus. Before KU, I don’t think I’d ever been in a university where everyone was so committed to student success. We all have different ways of reaching that success, and sometimes those will contradict each other so that you’re fighting against each other for the same common goal, but it’s the same common goal. I feel that I have fit into that common goal, and that’s what I think KU has that I haven’t seen in a lot of different places; no matter how many times I argue with somebody about process, the bottom line is we’re all on the same page. That’s what makes this place “golden,” that everyone is here for the same purpose.
KUDOS is published twice monthly by the office of University Relations. All issues can be found at www.kutztown.edu/KUDOS.