Undergraduate Studies Offices (USOs)

Reason for the change

In recent years, the University’s student population has undergone strong growth, while its socio-demographic characteristics have changed. As well, program complexity has both increased student movement between faculties and the work of managing student files.

In its Destination 2020 strategic plan, the University committed itself to bettering the student experience. With this in mind, in 2013, a report on work organization in the six direct-entry faculties’ undergraduate studies offices (USOs) was presented to the Council of the Administration Committee, Deans, and University Librarian. In light of the report recommendations, the University adopted a framework model to reorganize work in the USOs. The goal was to provide students with optimal academic support and to recognize the important academic supervision provided by staff in these offices. Implementing the framework model includes a University approach of academic advisement that takes into account the new student information system (SIS). Overall, the aim is to improve and systemize efforts to ensure student success and retention.

Latest news

Since fall 2016, a working group made up of USO managers created a tailored-made training for their staff to foster the implantation of the academic advisement framework and to provide the necessary tools to improve student retention.

During the same period, meetings were held with faculties to provide them with support in terms of work organization and change management. Over the past few months, the working group has also continued to work on the work organization.

Since June 2017, Human Resources received the mandate to coordinate the training and the work organization within the USOs. Also, given the importance and impact of this project on student experience, the Associate Vice-President, Student and International Affairs joined the executive team. It is important to mention that Student Academic Success Service (SASS) and Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM) remain essential partners in ensuring the success of the project 

Timeline

This review of consultations and decisions since 2013 will help you better understand the work reorganization currently being carried out in the direct-entry faculty undergraduate studies offices (USOs).

2013
  • Data on student satisfaction with USO services were presented to the Committee on the Quality of the Student Experience, which recommended that a working group be created to review work organization in the USOs.  A review of academic support practices was suggested, in response to results of a student satisfaction survey on the topic.

Beyond reviewing USO work organization, the group’s mandate included proposing a student-centred model, that is, one that meets student needs by drawing on best practices on student retention and support.  The group, chaired by the Associate Vice-President, Programs, was to report to the Vice-President Academic and Provost, and was made of USO members and managers.

2014
  • The working group responsible for reviewing work organization in the USOs continued its work and prepared its report.
2015
  • In the spring, the working group on the USOs presented its report to the Council of the Administration Committee, Deans, and University Librarian:
    • It contained an analysis of current USO academic support practices and made recommendations in light of it.  A key recommendation was to reorganize the structure for positions focusing on academic support.
  • The Council of the Administration Committee, Deans, and University Librarian unanimously adopted the report recommendations:
    • The resulting new framework model seeks to offer students optimal academic support and to recognize the important work in this area by the USOs. USO staff, combined with the academic advising model and the new student information system (SIS), will be able to improve and systemize efforts to further student success and retention.
  • The USO working group noted the following:
    • The significant growth of our student population and the socio-demographic changes it has undergone since 2002.
    • The growing complexity of our programs of study (their structure and interdisciplinary nature), which has increased student movement between faculties and the work involved in managing student files.
    • The USO work organization model, based on an outmoded view of the now more complex faculty programs and academic regulations.
    • The implementation of new tools such as Talisma and initiatives such as the Cohort Project, as well as mid-level positions that differ from one faculty to another, created to take into account the major changes at the University over the past 15 years.  

The working group also noted that students saw a hierarchical relationship between the two types of USO positions, academic advisers and academic assistants, with their respective classifications, leading to an unequal appreciation of the work of one versus the other in terms of academic support.

  • During the summer, a USO steering committee was established in order to implement the report recommendations. The committee, reporting to the Council of the Administration Committee, Deans, and University Librarian, will assist the faculties for the first two years following the implementation of the framework model.
  • The work organization framework model is based on the creation of four types of positions, divided into two families based on duties:
    • support-related duties, to best handle academic progress and further student retention
    • operations-related duties, to best manage student records and further academic progress as well

The generic descriptions of the four types of positions were assessed and approved by consensus by the joint SSUO job evaluation committee, composed of University of Ottawa and union representatives. 

  • The following principles underlie the framework model:
    • an overall vision of student support, from recruitment to graduation
    • integration of the roles of the two position families within each USO, to further staff synergy and coordination
    • direct contact between veteran staff and students, including at-risk students, while taking into account that the new SIS is based on student autonomy and responsibility implementation of University-wide professional development programs for USO staff
    • succession planning
  • In the fall, a multisector committee (HR, SASS, SEM) was established. It conducted a literature review on approaches to academic advisement (proactive, prescriptive, developmental and appreciative) and the development of a University model. 
  • Between September and November, the steering committee ensured that all USO managers had a good understanding of the goals of the new framework model. It held a first series of meetings in order to listen to and document the concerns of managers. A comparative analysis of these concerns led to a second series of meetings with managers to explain how the framework model will be implemented in each USO. While meeting the framework model goals, this will be done so as to harmonize practices and acknowledge the particular characteristics of each faculty, for example, in terms of its student population and programs of study.
  • Between November and December, job matching and posting took place, with the assistance of HR advisers for each faculty.
2016
  • Between November 2015 and December 2016, the multisector committee (HR, SASS, GES) worked to determine the skills needed to practice academic advisement, in order to further student academic success.
  • In March the multisector committee offered managers from the six direct-entry faculty USOs two introductory training sessions on the advisement model.
  • In April, a team made up of members of the multisector committee, Human Resources and SEM began to develop team charters with each USO.

The team charters are an instrument to reorganize work within the USOs, redeploy staff and prepare advisement training content. They are meant to encourage synergy among teams and an understanding within them of the roles and know-how represented by the four position types, in order to achieve the framework models goals (including with regard to student retention).  Many meetings have been planned with each USO team over the coming year. These meetings will facilitate work reorganization by highlighting each faculty’s best practices and encouraging a shared understanding of the new approach adopted. 

2017
  • From fall 2016 to summer 2017, the working group made up of USO managers created a tailored-made training for their staff to foster the implantation of the academic advisement framework and to provide the necessary tools to improve student retention.
  • During the year, meetings were held with faculties to provide them with support in terms of work organization and change management.
  • The working group has also continued to work on the work organization.
  • Since spring, Human Resources received the mandate to coordinate the training and the work organization within the USOs. Also, given the importance and impact of this project on student experience, the Associate Vice-President, Student and International Affairs joined the executive team.
  • During the fall, three training modules, designed for the USO staff, will be offered and will aim at fostering the implantation of the academic advisement framework.

Training

Different types of training have been offered subsequent to the implementation of the framework model. In September 2015, direct-entry faculty USO managers were invited to attend training on creating a climate of trust during workplace change. In October, they received training on management coaching. In spring 2016, direct-entry faculty USO managers and other staff attended two introductory sessions on the advisement model.

The main features of the advisement model were first presented to managers in late fall 2015. The model, as well as a training program, was then presented in greater detail to managers and other staff in spring 2016. The following months, a working group made up of direct-entry faculty USO managers was responsible for developing the program content and present advisement model approaches. In summer 2017, the working group made up of USO managers, finalized the development of the program’s content. It introduces the academic advisement framework approach. Three modules will be offered in fall 2017. The working group has also developed tools that will be used by USO employees in their day-to-day activities, according to their new respective functions.

Committees and groups involved

Several consultation and communication groups were put in place.

Steering committee
  • Elvio Buono
    Associate Vice-President, Human Resources
    Human Resources
  • Manon Dugal
    Senior HR Director and Strategic Initiatives
    Human Resources
  • Sophie Ménard
    Director, Leadership, Learning and Organizational Development
    Human Resources
  • Linda Pietrantonio
    Associate Vice-President, Programs
    Office of the Vice-President Academic and Provost
  • Véronic Tardif
    Manager University Experience
    Office of the Vice-President Academic and Provost
Multisector committee (HR, SASS, SEM)
  • Jean-Luc Daoust
    Manager, Academic Support Unit
    Student Academic Success Service
  • Isabelle Denis
    e-Learning Adviser
    Human Resources
  • Jean-Philippe Gagnon
    Senior Adviser, Talent Management
    Human Resource
  • Nathalie Jacob
    Learning and Organizational Development Adviser
    Human Resources
  • Sophie Ménard
    Director, Leadership, Learning and Organizational Development
    Human Resources
Coordination of team structures with faculties
  • Jean-Philippe Gagnon
    Senior Adviser, Talent Management
    Human Resource
  • Nathalie Jacob
    Learning and Organizational Development Adviser
    Human Resources
Sub-group on academic advisement training
  • Isabelle Denis
    e-Learning Adviser
    Human Resources

Full list of working group members to come.

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