When the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee added a biomedical department to the six departments already under its umbrella in 2016, administrators realized that a faculty support staff decentralized by department would no longer suffice.
“Every department had its own person who did everything,” says Paul Klajbor, interim administrative officer for academic affairs and general education administration/assistant dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science. Staffers couldn’t specialize. ome employees were too busy; others were less so. Moreover, Klajbor didn’t have the budget to bring on additional team members.
So Klajbor reorganized the staff by job function. Now, several employees handle human resources, and several others manage purchasing. One supervisor oversees both areas.
To counter skepticism, Klajbor sought input from faculty and department chairs, and discussed how the change would work and to whom they could go for help. “Because we have engineers, they’re interested in the process,” he says.
Previously, each department had its own person handling a range of responsibilities, leading to inconsistencies in how some jobs were managed. For instance, the content varied in offer letters sent to teaching assistants. Now, letters are standardized and include all the appropriate information.
Employees can now handle questions and problems more effectively. In addition, the workload is more evenly distributed, so employees can better serve faculty.
Not all fixes for administration inefficiencies need to involve technology. “Process change can free staff from bureaucratic tasks, so they can focus on more value-added services,” says Kevin Ciotta, principal with the higher educational consultancy JM Associates.