By MARTY LEVINE
There’s probably no bigger planning task at Pitt than creating each term’s course schedule and classroom assignments.
That’s why the registrar’s office has had one of the toughest jobs on campus since last March: from switching classroom assignments to accommodate social distancing and remote-learning technologies to changing grades when students chose the new satisfactory/no-credit option.
“In many respects, we are busier (now),” says Registrar Patricia J. Mathay, having adjusted classroom assignments for two terms so far, and having made more than 7,000 grading changes the office never would have had to undertake normally.
“Because our processes run so far in advance of the term, that requires some re-work,” Mathay says. “That continues as we go through COVID and everything is up in the air.”
Then along came the early-retirement option, and Mathay, who has been working at Pitt since 1976 — first in Pitt IT’s predecessor, then in her current office since 1988 — decided to grab it. But she won’t be leaving until summer and has pledged to stay on at least until Pitt finds a replacement for her post.
“The registrar’s office provides the kinds of services to the University that nobody knows about,” she says. For one, her office is responsible for each student’s academic record. Besides working with schools to create and schedule classes, registrar personnel are busy registering students, creating transcripts and making sure students have fulfilled all their qualifications to graduate.
One of Mathay’s goals for the past few years has been to get rid of all paper processes in the office. But after the staff was sent home to work, they still needed to return to the office to produce requested paper transcripts — including retrieving transcripts from microfilm records that date from before the 1990s.
By July, her office had gotten approvals for staff to rotate in-office duties once a week: grades and graduation one day, transcripts another day, and so on.
“Staff have been wonderful about going in,” she says. “They are extremely careful. They’re happy with the protocols that Pitt put in place.” Remote work continues as well.
And in the midst of all that, several major changes are still being developed for students, which would be happening “even if we didn’t have COVID,” she said.
One is a portal for transfer students to enter in courses taken previously at other institutions. The new tool will tell them which courses will be eligible for transfer and which, for instance, will fulfill a credit but not a department requirement.
The other is a degree planner, to allow students to view their term-by-term progression toward graduation requirements. It will help them build each term’s class schedule across four years so they can graduate in the most timely manner. They also will be able to see what would be required if, say, they changed majors at a certain point.
Mathay hopes the new registrar will continue looking for new tech options coming down the road for further enhancements to student life and to improve the registrar’s processes.
And personally, Mathay is looking forward to traveling, once she retires and the pandemic lifts. She plans to follow the fall down the East Coast, for starters.
“One thing I’m going to miss about Pitt is the people,” she says, “especially the people in the registrar’s office. They make the decision (to retire) tough. I’ve always felt it was a wonderful career.”
Marty Levine is a staff writer for the University Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-758-4859.
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