The Ins and Outs of Penn State’s Oversight Committee

There is no one way to implement a faculty activity reporting solution on campus. But some universities have found a methodology that works for them. In the case of Pennsylvania State University (Penn State), having an Oversight Committee involved in anything and everything to do with faculty activity reporting has proven to be beneficial. For Penn State, the Oversight Committee has become a collective way to address any issues as well as discuss specific challenges and successes. During a recent conversation, Penn State shared how an Oversight Committee has played an integral part in the successful adoption of Activity Insight at their university.

Background

Founded in 1855, Penn State’s land-grant mission embraces teaching, research, and public service in order to support the citizens of the Commonwealth, collaborating with industrial, educational and agricultural partners to create, disseminate, integrate and apply knowledge that is valuable to society. The university spans twenty-four campuses across the Commonwealth, including its core campus at University Park. With over 17,000 faculty and 100,000 students enrolled at the university, Penn State confers more than 22,000 degrees at all levels annually.

Penn State partnered with Digital Measures in 2007 to help facilitate several faculty reporting processes on campus—from annual reporting and accreditation to promotion and tenure. While Penn State first implemented one unit (the University Libraries), they now use Activity Insight at 18+ units across the Commonwealth.

Who Makes Up Your Oversight Committee?

Originally stemming from the University Libraries, Penn State has always had a team offering their personal insight on the use of Activity Insight on campus. A few individuals from the University Libraries and the Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs comprised the original team. As the implementation of Activity Insight expanded, the team grew as well. With more and more faculty using the system, Penn State wanted to ensure representation on the Oversight Committee from all units using Activity Insight. The committee now includes more than 30 faculty and staff members who each represent their specific unit (campus or college) With their dispersed campus, Penn State has also made it a point to include users from all their geographic locations.

“It was obvious who the champions of Activity Insight on campus were. They stood out. It was important that these people were brought onto the Oversight Committee because they help drive the usage of Activity Insight in their unit and can offer support to their faculty and staff,” said Grace Long, Activity Insight Administrator.

Curious who makes up the Oversight Committee at Penn State? See the point of contact for each unit using the system here.

What is the Role of the Oversight Committee?

Nicola Kiver, Director of Administrative Operations for the College of the Liberal Arts and Chair of the Oversight Committee, described the committee as a group that meets bi-monthly to achieve specific objectives. “We send out an agenda to preface the meeting and meeting minutes to recap it. Our Solution Specialist provides us with a “DM Update” report, and we get updates from different perspectives about issues we are discussing or thinking about implementing,” she said. “The management team addresses completed initiatives, proposed changes and other issues that we can talk through as a group.”

Any and all alterations made to Activity Insight pass through the Oversight Committee. In fact, this group vets everything from screen changes specific to one unit to university-wide changes. “As an example, the College of Science may want to make a screen revision and the Oversight Committee reviews it to see if it’s beneficial university-wide or only for this college. If it’s approved to implement university-wide, then it’s passed to the university’s Activity Insight Administrators for their thoughts and then implemented as appropriate. Then it’s the responsibility of the Oversight Committee representative for each unit to let their faculty and staff know what is changing,” said Nicole Gampe, Activity Insight Administrator. “If we make a change that will affect everyone, it’s important the Oversight Committee is involved because we need buy-in across all units,” added Kiver.

It’s best practice to communicate any changes approved by the Oversight Committee to others who may be affected. If it’s decided that a change be made university-wide, the Oversight Committee will also send an email to their Stakeholders Group—about 180 people, at all levels, who are working with Activity Insight—letting them know that a change has been approved and to provide the proper contact for questions.

At Penn State, the Oversight Committee has become a community. The individuals who make up this group have had similar challenges and successes in implementing Activity Insight for their units. Yet each is in a different stage of helping their units derive the most value from Activity Insight. While it wasn’t the initial goal of creating this group, the Committee has turned into a coaching community of sorts. “We have a great group of people to turn to for questions and we have many experts across the university. It creates a good sense of morale. We know if an issue comes up, there will be someone who can help us work through it,” said Kiver.

How Has the Oversight Committee Led to Buy-In?

For Penn State, the role of the Oversight Committee has been an important factor in achieving buy-in at the unit level as well as university-wide. “Faculty will buy-in to the effort of faculty activity reporting if they know that the process is being well-managed and they will receive prompt feedback about their suggestions, and this is where the Oversight Committee has been very successful,” said Kiver.

Penn State has found a process that works for them and allows them to be successful with the implementation and ongoing use of their faculty activity reporting solution. A good faculty activity reporting solution plus the involvement of your faculty and staff will position your university to capture information once and use it infinitely.

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