Interview with Matt Whelan on Credit Transfer and Degree Audit

The Degree Audit system and new credit transfer process are two Operational Excellence initiatives within Project 50 Forward that use new technologies and streamlined procedures to improve student and faculty services. Degree Audit helps students track credits and fulfill degree requirements, improving time to graduation. The new automated credit transfer process eliminates redundancies and saves time and effort. In this interview, Matthew Whelan, Associate Provost for Enrollment and Retention Management, talks about these new initiatives and how they will benefit both students and faculty.

Matt Whelan1. How did Stony Brook identify the credit transfer and Degree Audit systems as areas in need of improvement?
We reviewed our processes, our student processes and reviewed what other institutions were doing in terms of best practices. We found that our systems were primarily paper driven, especially those related to evaluating credit transfers and degree requirements. In the end, we found what we thought was true: we could deliver better student service for our faculty and students.

2. Do these specific areas affect a large number of Stony Brook students?
Graduating in a timely manner is a primary concern for every Stony Brook undergraduate, of which there are nearly 15,000. Streamlining our credit evaluation system will benefit more than 1,800 transfer students who enroll here each year, as well as assist faculty and advisers with real-time access to accurate and valid information. The degree audit system will provide real-time access regarding degree progress and completion to students, faculty and advisers.

3. What is the overall goal of the new systems?
The new electronic systems will improve academic success and improve and enhance timely graduation rates. They will help students and their advisors more easily identify and evaluate advisement issues related to course requirements,  credit transfers and provide a clear pathway to timely graduation,.

4. Who worked on the team that identified areas in need of improvement?
Our most experienced academic and student life administrators, including Charles Robbins, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education; Peter Baigent, Vice President for Student Affairs; Richard Gatteau, Assistant Provost and Director of the Academic and Pre-Professional Advising Center; and Diane Bello, Interim Registrar worked tirelessly on this project. Additionally, the Transfer Office, under the direction of Arlene Feldman, was instrumental in getting the transfer articulation project moving. We also solicited and received input from students and faculty.

5. How did the team go about gathering information?
The group met for roughly five months, and in addition to reviewing input from various student and faculty focus groups, they conducted site visits to comparable institutions, interviewed vendors about technology, and met with colleagues to determine what would work best for Stony Brook.

6. And what did these months of information-gathering find?
We concluded that both the credit transfer and degree audit systems would be best designed into our existing PeopleSoft system. After speaking with other campus officials and conducting a site visit, we received important information about how to successfully implement this initiative.

7. How will this new system help prospective students who want to transfer to Stony Brook?
In the past, students would send paper transcripts for individual evaluation and review — a cumbersome and time-consuming process. When it is fully implemented, potential transfer students will be able to quickly assess which of their credits are transferable to Stony Brook.

8. Where do the majority of Stony Brook’s transfer students come from?
Approximately 50 percent of our total annual transfer student population comes from Suffolk County Community College, Nassau Community College and SUNY Farmingdale. We also see an influx of students transferring here from a wide variety of schools in our region and across the country — more than 600 in all. Transfer students are a big part of the Stony Brook family, and serving their needs is critical, especially when you consider how competitive Stony Brook is.

9. What exactly is a degree audit?
A degree audit helps students and their advisors ascertain the best academic path to completing their degree in the shortest time. It provides academic advice for choosing the most appropriate major as soon as possible and provides feedback each semester on academic progress.

10. And why are you building a new system for auditing degrees?
A dedicated team of staff, faculty and advisers are all providing vital information and input. We could not do this without their assistance and it has been phenomenal. We want to provide faculty, students and advisers with the course and credit information they need to graduate on time and enable them to take the appropriate courses in the correct sequence. We also want to ensure, to the best of our ability, that the courses they need are available. The new system addresses all of these issues.

11. How will the credit transfer system help the faculty?
The knowledge and experience of our transfer office and our faculty will remain the key component of the course evaluation process. The new electronic system cannot replace their judgment, but it can eliminate repetitive tasks by reducing duplication of effort. The transfer office and faculty can now concentrate on the review and evaluation process. Once a determination of a particular course from a specific college or university is placed into the system, it can be used for that course in perpetuity.  Of course we’ll review the electronic records just as we did the paper Transfer Guide each year or so to ensure our evaluations and articulations are still relevant.  It will just be easier.

12. Where are you in the new system implementation process for degree audit?
The pilot program for Degree Audit is up and running. There are currently 110 active majors, second majors and minors on the Degree Audit system. The team has mapped out course requirements for the remaining academic departments and entered many of them into the production database. Automating all 68 majors and 78 minors is an ongoing process that should be completed within a year.

13. What about credit transfer program implementation?
We piloted the credit transfer program with two of our primary feeder schools, Nassau Community College and Suffolk County Community College. We are very pleased that more than 90 percent of the students who were invited participated. We have also completed the process with Farmingdale State College and are now working with a number of other feeder schools to finalize the credit transfer program. This is an ongoing process because we receive transfers from more than 600 colleges and universities each year. Once we automate the system, students, faculty and administrators will have more time to focus of the reason we are all here — academic success.

October 11, 2012 
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