This issue of the Exchange features Alison Hutchinson, director of records & operations in the Registrar’s Office.
Q: How long have you been at Millersville University and in your current position?
A: I started at Millersville in September of 2010 as the interim associate registrar. In July of 2011 I was made a permanent employee, and my title changed to director of records and operations.
Q: What attracted you to Millersville University?
A: I grew up in Lancaster County so I have always been familiar with Millersville’s reputation for excellence. I come from a family of educators, many of whom attended MU, including my dad. His freshman beanie is in a frame in my office and I remember watching him graduate in Pucillo Gymnasium when he got his master’s degree when I was nine years old. That left an impression on me. When I was ready to make the next step from a small college registrar’s office, there was no question—it had to be Millersville.
Q: What does the registrar’s office provide to the campus community?
A: We maintain student academic records, facilitate registration and maintain the University’s catalog of courses.
Q: What does an average day in your position look like?
A: I know it is cliché, but there is no average day. At any point in the day I can be meeting with a student, preparing for commencement, reviewing Degree Audit Report System (DARS), transferring credits or attending a meeting as a representative of the registrar’s office.
Q: What is it like to have an office in Lyle Hall next to the brand new Winter Visual and Performing Arts Center?
A: It was exciting to watch the progress of the building, and I was very impressed to see inside during convocation. I’m looking forward to bringing my kids to a show; even my seven-year-old daughter talks about the new building and can’t wait to attend a show. Not to mention it is much easier to enter and leave campus now!
Q: What is the current system for records at Millersville University?
A: Currently we maintain academic records in paper files in our office, but we are undertaking a project to move toward online records storage. We keep paper files of non-graduates for seven years after the last date of attendance. Paper records of students who have graduated are stored for five years. We have already started scanning many records and hope to shift to a paperless office within the next few years. Electronic data storage will allow for files to be retained indefinitely.
Q: Describe the most memorable moment you’ve had in your current position.
A: Commencement is always memorable. Our office provides support for commencement behind the scenes; the graduates probably do not even realize we are there. There are always some interesting moments. I should probably leave it at that.
Q: What is your educational background?
A: I received my undergraduate degree from the Pennsylvania State University in human development and family studies. I also received my master of education degree in training and development from Penn State.
Q: Have you held any previous positions in university administration?
A: I started in the field of admissions as an admissions counselor. I then went on to be a registrar of a small arts college for five years before coming to Millersville.
Q: What do you think are three key skills a records and operation director must possess in order to be successful?
A: You have to have an attention to details; we’re working with critical numbers like grade point averages. You also have to be able to manage your time well and prioritize. Finally, you need to have a thick skin and not take things personally when someone is unhappy about something out of your control.
Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?
A: When I’m not at work, I am usually spending time with my husband Chad and our kids, Mia, 7, and Evan, 4. They keep us busy and we are just starting to experience the “parents as chauffeur” phenomenon. I also sing in my church’s praise band, Grace Notes. Since my husband is a chef, we enjoy eating and playing with our food. My newest hobby is preserving foods—I won four blue ribbons at local fairs this fall with various jams I made this summer.
Q: Are there times during the semester that are busier than others?
A: I used to think so, but it’s always busy, even in the summer! However, the week between fall commencement and winter break is crazy—we must process fall grades for every student at Millersville, determine their academic standing and notify affected students in the course in less than two days. Any glitch could put us back days. It’s always “touch and go,” even if we have to come in to finish the job while the rest of the University is closed for the holidays. We have an amazing staff in the registrar’s office, and they always do whatever it takes to get the job done.
Q: What is most stressful about your job, and what is most rewarding?
A: When a student or parent is unhappy with a policy or action taken it can be extremely stressful. It is hard to explain to our customers that we do not set academic policies; we just put them into practice. A great deal of our policies are set by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and not here on campus. We try to help the students as much as possible but even our office has limits on what we can do. The most rewarding aspect of my job is when the student comes back and says, “Thank you.”
Q: What object is essential to get you through a day?
A: My very large travel coffee mug.