Meeting 4: May 15, 2014

Student Service Division

  • academic advising
  • student progress
  • enrollment
  • verifying credentials of students for graduation
  • dissertation processing

Terrence Grus manages the Student Services Unit which consists of 5.5 FTE. Academic Advisors and/or evaluators meet/communicate with students and advisors to assure minimum requirements set by GFS are met to qualify student for graduation. Process occurs over the student lifetime through student progress updates (forms). Update data in MyZou for every student. The Student Services Coordinator manages day to day business of the unit, organizes commencements and orientation and serves as liaison to the graduate faculty senate. As liaison to GFS, the Coordinator responds to complex questions from faculty and students regarding academic regulations set by GFS. There are two Advisors and 2 academic evaluators; one advisor and evaluator work exclusively with doctoral candidates and one advisor and evaluator exclusively with master students. Our receptionist spends .5 FTE assisting students by phone or in person and is developing academic advising skills. The task force was provided with a detailed set of responsibilities for this unit.

In addition to working with doctoral and master students, the academic advisors also assist duel enrolled undergraduate students. UG students can enroll in 15 credit hours of Grad level classes for UG credit, and dual enrolled students can enroll in grad classes for grad credit when they are senior undergraduates. Both situations require manually adjusting credits in MyZou for each student. We also have a growing number of 3+2 programs. These students are admitted to graduate school prior to completion of a bachelor’s degree also requiring manual manipulation of credits and data in MyZou. In 2013 there were 330 duel enrollment students that required manual manipulation in MyZou data at ~10 minutes per student minimum.

Tracking student progress:

Academic progress is tracked through completion of certain milestones and submission of M forms and D forms. Currently all forms (paper based) are digitized into ImageNow and programs have access to these documents through WebNow. Graduate school does not enforce timelines for completion of forms, programs do that and use the graduate school rules to motivate students when necessary. Many of these forms require signatures and any changes require more signatures. Currently, programs (but not students) are notified when forms are received and processed.

What is the likelihood of creating fully online forms with digital signatures to expedite process and make obtaining signatures easier? Graduate School has not had the staff or technical expertise to develop a fully electronic tracking system. Electronic tracking system also would benefit online students.

The other student progress system utilized is the Graduate Student Progress System (GSPS). This system has been in existence for many years and ensures students and advisors remain connected and progress is made. Validation of contact and progress benefits the student, advisor and program. However, the software is homemade, outdated, and no longer fully supported. The Graduate Deans of the four campuses have participated in the Faculty 180 (MyVita) evaluation and System has agreed to include graduate students in the program to replace the GSPS for MU. Faculty 180 does have workflow options and could house and track student forms (email from System 5/20/14). Other campuses have no progress system but want one.

Alternatively, discussed a product developed by Informatics Institute faculty called SPARK. They are testing it with their students now. Has an option for a mobile app as well. SPARK - we pay in development time and we own the license. There is always the concern that this system 10 years from now will be like GPSP and lack support. It would be interesting to see a demo to determine if it would both track student progress on manuscripts and presentations as well as academic progress forms with electronic signatures. There was a great deal of interest by the task force in improving M and D forms electronically but not eliminating them, or moving them or their tracking out of the Office of Graduate Studies. Electronic versions possibly could be viewed by graduate staff, advisors and students.

The staff put together data for student contacts: in 2013, 3256 graduation evaluations were conducted, 2287 degrees awarded and 682 theses and dissertations processed.
• 709 doctoral graduation evaluations were conducted and 377 doctoral degrees awarded
• 2547 master graduation evaluations were conducted with 1920 master degrees awarded
• 377 dissertations submitted, 305 theses submitted
• 291 probations processed
• 1175 students were processed for commencement.

Duplicate Advising Functions:

We do register some students, especially for last minute people who have complex paperwork requirements. This is an overlap between functions of DGS and grad school. Some departments are able to do that last minute registration and are performing that function. Not all programs have the staff availability. Graduate School hopefully is just a backup.

Discussion about What Should Move to the Units:

What of these Advising Unit functions - what makes sense to move to units? There was discussion about keeping some sort of minimum standards across the university and how would this be maintained if there is not a central office overseeing this. Some programs have senior secretaries performing advising duties and they certainly could not enforce standards. Could undergraduate advisors assume this function? They are schooled in UG requirements but each graduate program is different and levels of support and development of UG advising varies across departments and colleges. To also train advisors for each graduate program could be challenging as requirements vary so much. At the graduate level we have committees reviewing plans of study and signing off on them although committees may only meet with the student once a year. Tracking would fall back on the advisor or the DGS and does not address who makes decisions on exceptions, transfer credits, extensions of time, etc. Uniformity of standards across the campus is important.

Feedback from grad contacts was that they already have enough to do and that it is more difficult for them to push back against faculty who want to create exceptions. Contacts like having grad school as scapegoat and a strong-arm with faculty and students. As a reminder these are policies that were created by the GFS which represents the graduate faculty. As a faculty member, we have the tendency to bend rules as far as we possibly can. Thus, it is good to know that the policies actually come from the GFS and good to have the standards enforced by the Graduate School. Not having the graduate school to enforce the policies could put the DGS in a very difficult position. Having checks and balances is important. Would there be legal ramifications if the oversight is dispersed and non-uniform. Some smaller programs don't have dedicated DGS and turnover is high making it likely policies and processes would get forgotten or modified.

We have a good blend of central and decentralize, it isn't that onerous. Programs have their own rules and there is a great deal of flexibility.

A motion was made to maintain the present student services unit functions in the Office of Graduate Studies. Further recommend that Graduate Studies evaluate how to improve communication about functions and increase technological proficiency (student progress system). Passed unanimously.


This will be discussed in a subsequent meeting. The Grad division could still hold commencement. Students are unanimous in wanting a separate graduation ceremony from UG.

What is the size for the graduation ceremonies – Spring 2014: ~200 PhD (127 attended with advisors) and ~600 Masters (625 attended)