On January 11, the University of Toronto Mississauga Campus Academic Affairs Committee held its first meeting of 2021.

In the meeting, Lorretta Neebar, registrar and director of enrollment management at UTM, discussed the challenges faced by the registrar’s office in addition to presenting the enrollment report for the current academic year.

“[In 2003] our office adopted a motto of putting students first online instead of inline,” stated Neebar. “So, this is a philosophy that we have worked with, and a tagline that we’ve worked with for many years.”

Neebar went on to discuss the developments made to the registrar’s online services throughout the years, emphasizing their focus on making the process easier for both students and staff.

“In my view, the registrar’s office has been so successful in moving and pivoting into an environment where pretty much every single registrarial service has been able to be successful,” Neebar continued.

Neebar also discussed the changes adopted by the office following Covid-19 pandemic safety guidelines and lockdown measures.

“We were able to move quickly to an email triage system where rather than lining up for our services, [students] were able to contact us by email. We had systems and security already in place so that all of the checks and balances associated with the work we do were able to exist even though we weren’t physically on campus.”

However, the email triage system was soon found to be unsustainable when it came to the student’s increased reliance on virtual support. This led the registrar’s office to rely on ServiceNow, a software company that makes it easier for companies to operate virtually by managing the digital processes.

“We had already started training our programmers to be working in ServiceNow […] and very quickly, we moved that into an external student-facing service.”

To manage the incoming student inquiries, the registrar’s office redirected the email triage system to ServiceNow, creating the AskRegistrar system.

Regarding the enrollment data for the current academic year, Neebar revealed that the number of students enrolled was below the expected number.

“This year, our target was just under 4,000 students and we have [a] 3,608 total student headcount,” stated Neebar. “I think we did quite well in the international numbers, but we didn’t do as well in the domestic numbers.”

Neebar argued that the enrollment numbers from the domestic students may have come back lower than expected due to universities adopting online education systems.

“It’s very possible that more [local] students who would typically accept offers from UTM have chosen to go to some other schools like Western, Queens, [and] McMaster because they are able to learn remotely and didn’t have to incur the expenses of living away,” stated Neebar.

Following Neebar’s presentation, community member Sultan Akif took a moment to praise Neebar and the registrar’s office for their efforts in helping the university transition its services online.

“I just want to acknowledge […] the level of effort it would have taken for you and your team to literally change the wheels of the car while it’s moving,” stated Akif. “So, I wanted to just commend you on that leadership, and acknowledge just how difficult that really is in real life, and to pull it off is amazing. Thank you.”

The next Academic Affairs Committee meeting will be held on February 11, 2021.

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