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The benefits of unifying all University System of New Hampshire (USNH) IT departments to one Enterprise Technology & Services team is already paying off as evidenced by the recent DegreeWorks software application upgrade at PSU.
This spring ET&S pulled resources together from the University of New Hampshire (UNH) and Plymouth State University (PSU) for a DegreeWorks upgrade, saving more than $80,000 in external consultation fees.
DegreeWorks helps students graduate on time by mapping out which courses they should take to receive a degree in their major. It also assists advisors in supporting students by providing them with detailed information about a student’s progress, so they can provide advice and suggestions on how students can best achieve their goals.
Plymouth State University has leveraged DegreeWorks since 2011, while UNH has used it since 2013.
IT staff at both PSU and UNH have traditionally worked independently in the past to manage and provide technical support for DegreeWorks.
In 2019, after PSU’s primary DegreeWorks administrator left, the University relied on vendor support to help with the application.
PSU Registrar Tonya LaBrosse asked for help after learning of the newly formed Enterprise Technology & Services, a group comprised of IT staff from all USNH institutions. This new organizational construct is intended to unify IT as one team while providing staff growth opportunities, gaining organizational efficiencies, and reducing contractual and operational costs.
Bill Poirier, UNH/USNH CIO, offered ET&S help in the way of experienced staff from UNH, who knew the inner workings of DegreeWorks.
Starting in March, ET&S staff from UNH and PSU collectively logged more than 300 hours to move the DegreeWorks instance at PSU from version 4.16 to 5.03 SP1, the latest version of the software. The teams finished the upgrade as scheduled in mid-May, with the final piece coming in the form of a service pack that fixed several vendor application bugs. The upgrade was completed just in time for the PSU Office of the Registrar to release grades and graduate the class of 2020. The final stage of the project involves a phased roll-out of a new user interface called Responsive Dashboard, which will be completed in August.
Kelly Ducharme, an ET&S application portfolio manager, oversaw project management for the effort. There was initially some anxiety and technical challenges but, she said, “we quickly broke down walls and moved forward with the project to upgrade DegreeWorks.”
“Collaboration between individuals in one department or one group is good, but this project showed we can now collaborate between teams, departments, and institutions,” she added.
Registrar LaBrosse’s office provided end-user testing for the project and spoke highly of the new collaboration.
“I can’t say enough about my appreciation for everyone at UNH and everyone at PSU just stopping in their tracks and helping us get this done,” LaBrosse said. “We needed to complete this upgrade before we could move onto other things like grades and graduation.”
Drew Royer works for ET&S as the DegreeWorks system administrator for both Granite State College and UNH. His role in the project involved installing and deploying upgrade scripts and new applications.
“There were massive efficiencies gained by taking lessons learned from the GSC and UNH technical environments and applying them directly to PSU,” Royer said.
He also spoke of the dedication from all levels of the project. “Everybody on the project stopped what they were doing, nobody put forth their personal schedule conflicts, which we all had. We had supervisory and managerial and directorial support all the way up the chain.”
Greg Mallon from ET&S leveraged his PSU experience and provided secondary onsite database administrative support for the initiative.
Whereas DegreeWorks is not the main focus on his work, Mallon said he learned much from the effort.
“While the tangible result is the DegreeWorks upgrade for the Registrar’s Office, it also provided a lot of learning experience for both me and Drew,” he said. “Drew got to use PSU as a testbed for upgrading DegreeWorks, which will be of considerable use down the line for other institution upgrades at Granite State and UNH.”
Mallon also sees this project as a roadmap for future collaborations between ET&S groups across USNH.
Mallon stated, “With the unified ET&S team, collaboration can and should only increase between our institutions. The ability to rely on colleagues at other institutions is invaluable.”
Royer agreed, saying, “This is a tremendous example of the positive effect collaboration can have given the unique circumstances no matter what they are.”