Project Spotlight, December 2018

UR Student Spotlight: University Bursar Kathy Blackmon

We caught up with University of Rochester Bursar Kathy Blackmon after she took part in a panel discussion at a Workday user conference in early November. During Kathy’s session, “Workday Student Financials: From Concept to Reality,” she delved into our collaboration on the new system’s design and deployment. Kathy shared some of her experiences and lessons learned on our journey towards University-wide system transformation.

Back at work, Kathy considers herself to be a hands-on business owner. She explained that helping with test scenarios for Student Financials—from end-to-end to day-in-the life testing—are all part of the job. We picked Kathy’s brain to get her assessment of the project’s ultimate benefits as well as some concerns at this point.

“Ultimately, we want to engage students to resolve financial problems so they can move forward in their academic careers.” –Kathy Blackmon, Bursar, University of Rochester

Q: As a Student Finance Special Interest Group member, what are your main concerns for the UR Student Project as end-to-end testing gets underway?

A: First, all the accounting needs to be correct, i.e. the system is recognizing revenue correctly and it is being sent to the right place. Timing is a factor as well. We have a detailed “cutover plan” to deal with converting from the legacy system to UR Student to ensure our ending and beginning balances will be in sync.

Fortunately, there are rules built into the system that govern Student Finance processes that inspire confidence. Here’s a prime example: regardless of who offers the course PhD students are charged at rate of their Academic Unit (e.g. Medical Center)—which then receives the revenue. Of course, they’ll all be tested to confirm the system is sound for go-live.

Q. What do you hope was accomplished (re: resetting expectations) at the UR Student Community Forum in November?

A: We continued to explain why it’s good choice, even with some short-term tradeoffs in functionality that might not be as flexible as we want at first. So questions in the beginning may be something like “Why does it work that way?” Later in December, we’ll be getting a sneak peek of new enhancements to UR Student, and hope to learn about some helpful workarounds to utilize until the full release in March.

Q: For Bursar’s office end-users, what do you see as the greatest benefits of UR Student vs. the legacy system?

A: Real-time visibility for students and their families is number one. There’s no more waiting for a monthly statement to see that a payment was applied to their account. This is especially important to first-year students and their parents. We have also noticed that some populations (e.g. international students) worry about payments getting to us, so the real-time functionality of UR Student should alleviate unnecessary anxiety. For instance, they’ll see their payment as soon as it is posted to their student account. Right now they can’t see that.

Q: What about some, perhaps, unexpected positive changes?

A: Bursars don’t expect to get lots of “likes” on Facebook, but we really want to resolve problems for students and their families. We’ll do whatever works to engage students—and having a new system that’s designed for mobile gives us that advantage. While we have a reasonable expectation that students will check their email for finance-related notifications (which may not always happen) we can utilize the notifications features in the new system to send reminders that they can see on their devices.

Q: Why do you think UR Student will be good for the University in the long term?

A: Being an early adopter of this technology means we get to help with the design so it’s uniquely tailored to our University’s needs. Workday will continue to iterate on the design which will translate into product improvements for everyone into the future.

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