WashU has been preparing to replace its student systems for more than two years. To ensure project success, the team completed an 18-month Discovery Phase that, among other things, pointed to opportunities to improve operations by aligning our myriad academic calendars, consolidating the number of graduate admissions tools that we use, and creating greater consistency among policies related to our joint/dual degree programs. The project is currently engaging campus teams to explore these options. Details below.
Work began on the Student Sunrise project in 2019 with the formation of a small project team and the project’s executive and steering committees. These groups focused on efforts to ready the university for project kickoff, including confirming the selection of Workday Student as our foundational system for student administration, conducting a Discovery Phase and making preparations for several supporting projects.
Selecting Workday Student
A 24-person selection committee initially recommended Workday Student in 2017 as part of the MyDay program, the initiative that implemented Workday HCM and Finance at WashU. A major consideration of this recommendation was the desire to have a unified platform for HR, finance and student administration, in addition to having core functionality to support our academic and student operations.
This recommendation was revisited and reaffirmed in 2019 when more than 100 staff representing academic units across the university were able to see how the Workday Student system has advanced since it was first reviewed. This group’s input reconfirmed that Workday Student is the right system for WashU.
Student Sunrise Discovery Phase
The project team conducted a Discovery Phase in 2020 and early 2021 to establish a solid foundation for the project and the Workday Student implementation in particular.
“The Student Sunrise project is significant in scope, timeline and impact,” said Erin Culbreth, Associate Provost & Student Sunrise Executive Director. “Our focus on strategic activities, risk mitigation and planning efforts during the Discovery Phase helped ensure that we are well prepared to begin implementation this fall.”
The project team used this time to develop the business case, secure initial funding, conduct a stakeholder analysis and make key hires, in addition to mitigating key technical risks related to data conversion and integrations.
Another major focus of the Discovery Phase was to understand how we do things today in our academic and student support areas and identify opportunities for transformation in advance of the Workday Student implementation. In summer 2020, we worked with Huron Consulting to assess our current academic organizational structures, technology systems, processes and policies.
Huron made a number of recommendations to update, unify or reimagine aspects of these core functions. Some of these recommendations were out of scope for the Student Sunrise project and were shared with the provost for further review. The project team focused on developing plans to address the remaining recommendations in the latter half of the Discovery Phase, which concluded in May 2021.
Some Key Findings
Academic Calendar Model
We currently use a highly complex academic calendar model with numerous session types falling within a given semester. Workday requires a simpler, more unified model. A new calendar structure will ultimately provide greater flexibility within our calendar and make it easier to manage dates across our academic units.
The project team is currently reviewing options to better align our calendars. The Student Sunrise Executive Committee will approve a new design by the end of 2021.
Graduate Admissions Tools
A key recommendation from Huron coming out of the Discovery Phase was to consider options to consolidate our graduate admissions tools. We currently use seven main systems and 19 additional tools to support graduate admissions at WashU.
A more unified solution would make it easier for faculty and staff to access quality data to inform graduate admissions decisions and create a smoother process for applicants to our graduate schools. It also would reduce risk related to maintaining multiple different aging graduate admissions systems. The provost and deans will make a decision regarding a new solution this fall.
Dual Degree and Joint Programs
Our dual degree and joint programs are difficult to administer in part because SIS was never set up to support them. Our discovery work identified many challenges we face supporting these programs, including with reporting, records access and communications.
Through the Student Sunrise project, we we’ll work towards greater alignment across schools on processes and policies related to things like grade rules, GPA calculations and add/drop deadlines. Greater alignment and consistency are both beneficial to our students and necessary for the move to Workday.
Learn more about the Discovery Phase findings and review artifacts from this work on the Discovery Phase web page.
Preparing for Implementation Kickoff
The Workday Student implementation will begin in earnest in October 2021 with the start of the Architect, Configure & Prototype Stage. The project is currently in the Plan Stage, during which the team is finalizing implementation strategies and engaging campus teams to explore ways in which we can improve and align high-priority processes in advising, registration, degree audit and course planning. This fall, the Student Sunrise Steering Committee will review recommendations from this work to approve the strategic direction for each transformation area.
In addition to the Workday Student implementation, the Student Sunrise project includes several other projects to fully replace our current SIS environment and support Workday Student at WashU.
Among these are the initiative to replace our legacy STAR system with PowerFAIDS for financial aid administration, as well as the Graduate Admissions System project, which will propose a new solution to streamline admissions at WashU.