Since the launch of Methodist University’s Engineering program in Fall of 2016, the top-tier program has created a positive impact on MU students by instilling critical thinking, and training them with first-rate problem-solving solutions. So, it’s no surprise when the University’s new Student Facing Business Process (SFBP) team was requested to review the school’s student onboarding process, they turned inward to the Engineering program.
Dr. Denise Bauer, a professor and chair/director of the Engineering program, and Dr. Girish Upreti, assistant professor of Engineering, assigned the project to a team of senior engineering students (Jaquez Dedeaux and Hailey Carlyle) and oversaw the work.
“Each year we look for meaningful, impactful projects for our senior Engineering students either on campus, or with local industry that allows them to apply their four years of coursework to a real-life problem,” said Bauer. “They must use the engineering tools they have gained to analyze the open-ended problem and suggest possible solutions with the given constraints.”
A clear and smooth admission process is crucial to any higher-learning institution. MU currently serves nearly 2,000 students who have gone through the onboarding process. The Engineering students rallied around the mission statement: “The admissions and clearance process for incoming students should be easy to navigate and comprehend.” All departments that have a hand in the enrollment process, hoped to increase the quality and make the process smoother for all involved.
To better understand the enrollment process from start to finish, the Engineering students created a map by using a Fishbone Diagram to illustrate the cause and effect from within. Subsequently, they interviewed students and faculty about their experiences with their admission process at MU. To stay on track, they set a timeline and goals.
During their research, the students identified and eliminated steps that created efficiencies. They used a methodology called DMAIC, a data-driven strategy used to improve processes where they defined, measured, analyzed, improved, and controlled the data. They met with all departments involved to gather feedback, interviewed key personnel, and created a student survey to gather crucial information necessary to understand their needs and streamline the process.
Creating a map of the process helped them identify areas that could be improved. The Engineering students quickly identified possible bottlenecks in the system and compared it with issues from what they learned from their student surveys.
“To improve the process, we met with software and system programmers and offered solutions,” said Carlyle. “We found new solutions that were achievable and then suggested integrating training for the student portal in the upcoming student orientation, so students and parents could have a better understanding of the system.”
To help MU students better navigate the portal, the Engineering team suggested a clearly defined course checklist so students can easily identify which classes they have taken, and which ones are required. They presented their data to MU’s SFBP team along with their suggestions.
Minnu Paul, director of MU’s International Programs, is leading the SFBP team’s initiative to improve the student enrollment process.
“The Engineering students reviewed the clearance processes of a new MU student and developed a process map, conducted a pain-point analysis, and presented recommendations to SFBP,” Paul said. “Their recommendations were instrumental in shaping the final product for the SFBP Initiative toward increasing the quality of a new MU student experience and subsequently augmenting their undergraduate journey.”
Bauer knows how important these types of projects are for Engineering graduates.
“The idea of using students in these types of projects on campus allows them to gain experience for their future careers and the opportunity to make a difference on campus,” Bauer said. “It is especially rewarding to them when they see that their suggestions are implemented. It gives them confidence to see their hard work pay off with an impactful contribution to Methodist University.”