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Today's word on journalism

Monday, October 30, 2006

"Of all the unhappy trends I have witnessed -- conservative swings on television networks, dwindling newspaper circulation, the jailing of reporters and "spin" -- nothing is more troubling to me than the obsequious press during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. They lapped up everything the Pentagon and White House could dish out--no questions asked."

--Helen Thomas, "dean" of the White House press corps, 2006

New registrar John Mortensen aims to alter office's reputation for red tape and slowness

By Liz Livingston

August 8, 2006 | "The biggest charge I've been given is to serve the students," said John Mortensen, the new USU interim registrar of the Registrar's Office.

Working as the new registrar, Mortensen sees untapped potential in the office staff. He hopes to work with them in an effort to improve responsiveness to students he said.

"This office hasn't had the best reputation for responding. My biggest focus is quality of service and responsiveness," said Mortensen.

Mortensen said he sees a snowball effect occur as phone messages build up due to the university not accepting Visa card payments.

"They go in to pay with a Visa and when they can't, they leave a message with the office. After somebody responds to that call, when they get off the phone there are two or three more messages waiting," said Mortensen.

Mortensen said the decision not to use Visa cards does not belong to the Registrar's Office and is something he would like to see change.

There are a lot of good ideas for change from staff within the office he said.

"Unfortunately a lot of those ideas were never listened to" by his predecessor, said Mortensen.

"I'd like to have the staff be more responsive and reply in a timely way. We're doing what we can to eliminate the lines. We're looking at getting an LCD monitor to be out where the line is and try to anticipate why people are standing in line," he said.

"Get out of line, go online" is a slogan the Registrar's Office is trying to use with the students.

"Why just stand in line when you can go on a computer and do the same thing in just a couple of minutes," said Mortensen.

Mortensen said he thinks some of the students don't know they can do a lot of the same processes online as in the office and in faster time. To help with this he would like to have staff walking the line during the busier times of the semester to help answer students' questions he said.

Mortensen said he would also like to improve the staff morale. He wants the work environment to be more inviting he said. If the staff is in a better mood, then they can better handle answering a commonly asked question he said.

"Even though the people at the counter may have heard the same question for the 1000th time that day, it's the first time that student has asked that question," he said.

Mortensen also said he would like to get better acquainted with the policies in an effort to find which ones are outdated or need to be changed.

"My predecessor was a stickler to policy which I guess in some ways was a good thing. But on the same hand there sure have been a lot of exceptions that probably should have been made. I can think of a lot of exceptions I've made in the last little while -- and I've had people tell me I've done the right thing. Even though a policy is there for a reason you've got to look at the circumstance and sometimes you need to bend policy in an individual case by case basis," said Mortensen.

"I think the students should know that we're really a service to them. We keep track of all their records, employment, official transcripts. We're more than just registration and fee payment. There's a lot of other things, a lot of other tools that we have," he said.

Mortensen spoke about the degree audit program in the works. "Students will be able to print out what they have left to do to graduate," he said.

Mortensen said he recognizes there are a lot of things which can be done to improve the office and they are taking one thing at a time. "I believe you'll see big changes," he said.

"Student services has the motto 'Do whatever it takes to help the students be successful.' I just want students to walk away thinking they were treated with kindness and to have no reservations about going there -- unless they can take care of it online," he said.

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