DUE Working Group Ideas

By Elizabeth Reed, Senior Associate Dean, DUE

In earlier newsletter articles and in Daniel Hastings’ remarks at our September all-staff, you heard about a few of the ideas which the DUE Working Groups submitted in their reports to the Dean in June. I would like to provide more complete information about their ideas and what is being done to respond.

Those which are moving forward fall into three categories:

#1 – Implement ASAP.
#2 – Has merit/proceed with further analysis.
#3 – Has merit/explore with others within and beyond DUE, and do further analysis as needed.

I did not include the few ideas which are not being considered at this time, including the possibility of merged offices.

Working Group on the First Year Programs

Establish an Advising Center
Category #2/3 – The Dean requested further analysis , and seven advising models were developed for consideration. An important goal for MIT’s approach to advising will be to ensure quality and consistency in the information provided to assist faculty advisors and to support interactions between freshmen and faculty.

Eliminate IAP UROP Mentor Program
Category #1 - This fell entirely within DUE’s purview and has been implemented through UROP’s home office, UAAP.

Reduce Freshman Orientation from six days to three days
Category #2/3 - While this recommendation makes sense, implementation could take several years. Several stakeholder groups will need to be involved in the planning, taking into account interlinked activities such as Residential Exploration and the Advanced Standing Exams which freshmen take. Preliminary discussions with faculty about the Advanced Standing Exams are scheduled for late Fall.

Convert the Freshman mailing to a virtual mailing
Category #1 –The conversion is underway, led by Julie Norman. UAAP and others are working on technical support, communications, content development, etc., with an expected launch in late spring.

Strengthen connections among ESG, Concourse, OME and the Academic Departments
Category 2/3- This is a good idea which is consistent with one of the Institute Task Force recommendations for MIT’s three alternative freshman programs. Kim Vandiver, Director of the Office of Experiential Learning, is in the process of developing collaborations among the programs and considering resource implications.

Create a Task Force to Streamline Tutorial Services
Category #1/2 –This idea could lead to potential savings and efficiencies, and will be explored by a committee to be co-chaired by Elizabeth Reed and a faculty member. The committee, which will include DUE staff, academic department and student representatives, will do further analysis, with the goal of improving efficiency and reducing costs.

Advise the OME director to explore synergies between F/ASIP and Second Summer
The Dean has discussed with OME Director, DiOnetta Jones.

Working Group on Supporting Faculty in Lean Times

Adopt a common principle of strategic prioritization for project adoption across DUE offices (with agreed upon % of effort to three different project types)
Category #1 –This has particular merit for OEIT, OFS and TLL, and may be more broadly applicable across DUE. The heads of these three offices recently shared mission and responsibilities, modes of prioritization and current project assignments and have collaborated on initiatives related to assessment and educational innovation, with more to come.

Mind the gap: concentrate faculty support in areas not already captured by the Departments/Schools
Category #1 – This recommendation has potential for positioning DUE well with regard to the faculty. OEIT, OFS and TLL, as well as other DUE offices, have been asked to consider how this might be implemented (including in which areas DUE is likely to achieve the greatest impact, and with what priority) within our constrained resources and to report back to the Dean. The primary goal is to increase the impact of DUE activities, with broader faculty recognition of DUE’s value-added in supporting educational excellence.

Streamline and coordinate events to produce cost savings across offices
Category #2 – DUE Headquarters has compiled information about the events each office plans to sponsor this year. The office heads will discuss in November with the goal of identifying opportunities to collaborate on agendas, timing and resource allocation. A number off DUE staff have been working on a set of recommendations related to standards for DUE faculty, student and staff events. These standards will support a more consistent coordinated approach to events and may significantly reduce our food and meeting costs.

Improve procedures for communication and information management
Category #2 – We need to strategically use current resources available across DUE in order to do this. Elizabeth Reed and Anna Babbi Klein are gathering more information and deciding how best to move forward, with DUE’s Communications Affinity Team likely to play a role.

Provide effective support for faculty committees
Category #2 – Consideration is being given to how DUE supports faculty committees, looking at such aspects as what kind and level of support is needed, and what skills are required in those who do this work. This is important both because DUE has a lot of committee work and because we can show by example how to be more efficient in providing support.

Revenue Generation: pursue funding opportunities aligned with DUE priorities
Category #2/3 - Relying on revenues to offset core operating budgets will require a cultural shift in DUE. A leadership team discussion of this proposal at the July 2009 offsite clarified which offices may be able to raise funds through fees, grants and other sources. Further discussions are occurring this fall during the FY11 budget process, as we consider how to reduce our GIB and/or replace GIB through other funding sources. A proposal primer, detailing how to create and properly route a proposal through Office of Sponsored Programs, will also be created.

MIT should allow DUE to sponsor and train postdoctoral associates in teaching and research, who can also help us with data analysis
Category #1 – Some of this is already happening in DUE. We will investigate areas where there might be a possibility.

DUE would benefit from more internal cross training and dissemination of learning from individual training programs across Offices
Category #1 – We will implement dissemination of learning/information, following OH meeting discussion of professional development opportunities currently and potentially available. We will also ask the DUE/DSL Committee to use at least one annual event for cross training/dissemination of learning across the Deans’ areas.

Working Group on Staffing Models

Creation of new system of shared staff positions that bridge two or more DUE offices
Category #2/3 - This idea merits further consideration and calls for adoption/participation by at least a subset of Office Heads. During the budget process this Fall and as openings occur in DUE, each Office Head has been encouraged to seriously consider creating shared positions with another DUE office. A number of other units at MIT are doing this.

Reductions in workload, effort and programs to achieve scalable reductions
Category #2/3 - The Program Review Process instituted in DUE this fall will help us prioritize and make decisions regarding work elimination and potential reductions in effort and workload. The Office Heads have been asked to give serious consideration to whether some positions may be less than full time, as part of this Fall’s budget exercise.

Use of furloughs could provide department wide savings
Category #2 – Furloughs will not help us make sustainable decreases in our base budget so this would not constitute a permanent solution. However, Jeanne Hillery and Sharon Bridburg will determine where there may be circumstances in which furloughs could be used as temporary measures while permanent reductions are phased in.

Creation of a cluster AO position
Category #2/3 – Jeanne Hillery and Sharon Bridburg are reviewing the current model for administrative support (Finance, HR, Administration) across DUE offices to see if this or an alternative model might provide greater optimization of DUE administrative resources.

Outsourcing solutions and vendor selection
Category #1 - All DUE offices have been asked to review their outsourcing and vendor contracts to see if they can be renegotiated and savings realized. Offices are accountable for periodically assessing whether their contracts are competitively priced and/or whether the goods or services for which they are contracting could be provided at MIT. This will be discussed at a Fall Office Heads meeting.

Technology enhanced services/standardized use of MIT-wide systems
Category #1 – This recommendation reinforces and is implicit in the Institute recommendation, Digital MIT. DUE offices need to identify opportunities to apply it locally, including using existing functionality. We will discuss this recommendation at a DUE OH meeting and Dan Hastings asks that all offices explore and implement, where feasible, technology changes. This includes making better use of technologies already in place.

Consolidation of server hosting in DUE
Category #2 – This idea merits further analysis. Steve Burke, head of Desktop Support, has been gathering additional data on current use of servers and projected need to see if there is a more cost effective solution for DUE.

Use of revenue generation to replace GIB funds for staffing and programming
Category #2/3 – (Please refer back to Working Group 2 recommendation for Revenue Generation- #6 bullet.) Jeanne Hillery and Dan Hastings are working with the DUE Office Heads to identify possible sources of revenue as part of the FY11 budget process. It seems feasible that some offices can raise 10-15% of their resources in this manner and the Dean will ask some offices to do that. In order to help the development of resources, we have engaged in some Office Heads discussions on how to raise money by those who do it well.

These ideas reflect four months of deeply appreciated effort by 17 DUE and one DSL staff members, one alumna and three faculty. Taken as a whole, the Working Group reports have provided a good basis to consider changes that position us well for both the short and longer term.