Student Sunrise kicks off its Discovery Phase

The Student Sunrise leadership teams have been meeting since fall 2019 to ready the university for the Student Sunrise project, which will replace our aging and fractured student administrative systems and make significant transformations within our academic and student support environment.

“Our goal is not only to transform and modernize our rapidly aging technology through the Student Sunrise project, but to allow the schools and academic support units to better serve students and faculty,” said Erin Culbreth, associate vice chancellor and Student Sunrise project executive director. “This is an exciting and ambitious project that is critical to the future of Washington University.”

Specifically, Student Sunrise will consolidate many of our current student applications into a single, integrated system to streamline operations, reduce manual processes and provide faster, easier reporting for decision making. While improving the technology infrastructure that supports key areas like registration, advising, curriculum management and student financials, we’ll also take this opportunity to enhance or redesign aspects of our support structure, processes and policies for these areas.

Student Sunrise Discovery Phase

The Student Sunrise project team is currently conducting a discovery phase that will run through spring 2021 and establish a solid foundation for the Workday Student implementation and other Student Sunrise projects.

“The Student Sunrise project is significant in scope, timeline and impact. Focusing on strategic activities, risk mitigation and planning efforts will ensure we are well prepared to begin implementation next year,” said Culbreth.

The discovery phase consists of several related efforts that will help us understand our current structure, systems and processes and begin preparing academic and student support units for the work ahead. These include an assessment of our current student administrative structure, a comprehensive review of our administrative processes, and the roll out of PowerFAIDS, a new financial aid system.

Student Structure Assessment

The Student Structure Assessment will help us understand how we operate today by mapping our academic and student support structures, policies and procedures. We’ve brought in an external consultant, Huron, to help us with this work. Through interviews with leaders of our schools and academic units, Huron will map how we’re organized and the operational rules we follow. They also will provide benchmarks as to how we compare with our peers in these areas and present options for any structural or policy changes we may want to consider in advance of implementing a new student system. This assessment will be completed in fall 2020.

Academic Process Assessment

Like the Student Structure Assessment, the Academic Process Assessment will deepen our understanding of our current state by mapping out the way our student operations actually work, including how we use student data across the university.

Details from this effort will help us identify areas where we can improve or standardize our processes, which will help us as we design our new student system. For instance, in order to understand how to “add a new course,” we also need to understand how professors request new courses, how course content is approved and how the new course is posted to the course listing. We also need to identify who manages or is ultimately accountable for each of these processes, which in the case of adding new courses, is the university registrar.

Additionally, this assessment will help us identify which university systems use or manage student data today to ensure that all of us can find the data we need when we eventually go live with a new student system. This includes inventorying all systems that integrate with (pull data from or send data to) our student systems and understanding who manages each piece of data, from student records and finances to curriculum and course listings. We’ll also identify the various reports that we rely on to make decisions for the student area.

Student financial aid system replacement

This year, we also will be implementing PowerFAIDs to replace our aging, homegrown student financial aid systems. PowerFAIDs integrates with the new student systems we are considering, as well as with Slate, which is the system we use to recruit our undergraduate students. We’ll implement PowerFAIDs in fall 2020 and be fully operational by spring 2021.

Why are we putting in a new financial aid system right before a new student system? Due to risks related to the age and upkeep required for our current student financial aid systems, we have a significant need to replace them now before our new student system is in place in 2025. Also, the new student systems we are considering do not yet meet our needs with regard to financial aid. Consequently, a gap solution like PowerFAIDs is needed.

Other work

The Student Sunrise Discovery Phase also includes preliminary project setup work, like establishing a governance structure, staffing and mitigating key areas of risk. We’ll also conduct a stakeholder analysis to identify key parties that we need to engage throughout the implementation. This will help us understand how a new system and processes will impact our community and ensure the right people are brought into the project at the right time.

“Fundamentally, this system serves the schools, faculty and students,” said Culbreth. “I am thankful for the fabulous team we are putting together and the already active engagement from our schools and student support units on this project.”

The project team will share findings from the Discovery Phase efforts directly with the academic and student support units as they become available throughout the summer and into the fall.