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Behind the Scenes: Office of Undergraduate Admissions and Orientation

Tyson Brown

Tyson Brown, Associate Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Orientation, uses RT to answer questions from prospective UMBC students.

In addition to helping the UMBC community find solutions to their problems, RT serves as a channel that prospective students and parents can go through in order to ask their own questions. Tyson Brown is the individual who oversees this process. As Associate Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Orientation, Brown is in charge of everything from applications and campus tours to troubleshooting and acceptance audits. He also serves as the contact for various vendors such as Common App and College Board. As someone who is so heavily involved with the stressful, and sometimes confusing, application process, Brown has come to expect the thousands of questions his office receives each year from students and parents.

Before switching to RT, Admissions used an email system provided by CollegeNET called E-Sponse to answer any inquiries. “It wasn’t pretty, but it did the job for us at the time,” admits Brown. The service was free since UMBC provided the company with over 10,000 applications per year, and it provided a way for staff to communicate with students when they contacted the office. With changes in technology and the volume of UMBC applications, Admissions eventually chose to use Common App exclusively for online applications. Knowing that he would need a new help system, Brown decided to look into RT.

Admissions began working with DoIT towards the end of December 2011, and by early April they were able to fully launch RT. Brown had seen the success of the RT system in the Registrar’s Office, and thought that something similar would be helpful in his own office. The Admissions staff was already somewhat familiar with RT because they had been using a version of the system to keep track of prospective student test scores, which made for an easy transition overall. “I think RT is clean, functional, and concise,” Brown explains. “There’s not a lot you can do wrong.” The RT Wiki help pages written by DoIT were also helpful to Admissions, allowing the staff to completely change over to the new system in just two days.

Not only was the transition seamless for Admissions staff, but it also proved to be flawless for prospective students. Admissions was able to work with DoIT to design a webform with dropdown menus and blank information fields that guides individuals as they submit a question online. The form also has space to include a message so that the problem can be outlined in detail. Unknown to those completing the form, an RT ticket is automatically created upon its submission. Brown likes the addition of the webform to their website because it eliminates any confusion or problems with missing information. “You can’t mess it up because you’re using prompts,” says Brown.

Another big change that RT has brought to Admissions is the ability for staff to see how many tickets are waiting to be resolved. With the previous system there was no way to gauge the amount of work, and staff just had to work through requests until they were completed. Now, the more organized workflow means that staff can prioritize and distribute work, and tickets are being resolved in about 24 to 48 hours. Brown believes that the RT interface itself also contributes to this productivity.“Clean presentation just makes people work faster,” he explains. As a staff member works on a ticket, he or she can leave comments that only other UMBC staff members can see. The ticket can also be sent for review by members of other departments to ensure that the question is answered correctly and thoroughly.

After a ticket is resolved, it can be closed and moved out of the queues. If an individual replies to a closet ticket, the ticket is re-opened and and the staff member who worked on that issue is notified. All previous correspondence is recorded in the ticket thread, which makes solving the same problems at a later date much easier. In addition, the threads make it possible for information in the tickets to be verified quickly if an individual calls the office. Brown also likes how they can use frequently asked questions in the tickets to figure out what information needs to be clarified on the website in order to reduce tickets in the future.

In addition to RT, Admissions uses Document Imaging to help streamline tasks. When an application is submitted, staff members no longer need to make multiple copies to distribute to various counselors. Instead, the application can be scanned and made available online. This means that applications can be read from anywhere, and counselors can even look at applications and help tickets at the same time if needed.

After the success that Admissions has achieved with RT, the office has developed a big goal for the future: Get rid of voicemail altogether. Voicemails are tricky, because in many cases contact information and what the caller is specifically asking for is not clear. “People don’t realize that someone has to listen to that message over and over, even if it’s just to make out the phone number,” Brown explains. After all that that, a staff member still needs to call back and clarify the question before proceeding. The RT system has proved that there is an alternative way to resolve problems, and it’s much faster and convenient than any other method. By using RT, prospective students can experience the kind of service they will find once at UMBC.

–Article and photo by Laura Lefavor ’13, Summer 2012