AMP Leverages Home-Grown Talent to Innovate University Processes
Smith School’s QUEST program brings a fresh eye and a student voice to Administrative Modernization Program
For nearly 25 years, the University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business has engaged undergraduate business students in consulting projects with real clients through the Quality Enhancement Systems and Teams (QUEST), or QUEST Honors Program. While the hands-on nature and practical experience of QUEST produces graduates ready for work, QUEST also has a proven track record of delivering high-quality project work to clients that focus on operations, customer experience and technology application; corporate clients ranging from the Advisory Board Company to AT&T have benefited from the thoughtful analysis, research and informed recommendations woven into each QUEST project. So, when the university’s Administrative Modernization Program (AMP) began identifying areas for investment, they looked no further than across campus for help.
“The work we are undertaking at AMP is formidable, and bringing in a variety of insights into campus processes is critical to its success,” said Mariah Bauer, Director of Strategic Initiatives and Planning, Office of the Provost. “We are fortunate to have this home-grown talent right here at Maryland, who can look at our challenges with fresh eyes and innovative thinking.”
The innovation and resourcefulness nurtured through the QUEST program is a natural fit with AMP’s mission, providing fresh perspectives into long-held campus procedure. Launching last fall with two pilot projects, a memorandum of understanding that will last two years set into motion this spring, adding three additional projects to the roster. Projects have examined a number of operational and fiscal priorities for the university, including business travel, procurement procedures, and student services like the advising process and international student orientation.
Integral to the process is the in-depth research and interviews each team conducts with the university community. The discoveries culled from staff, administrators, faculty and students provide crucial insight to the challenges faced during day-to-day operations, and what opportunities exist. The teams use this information to form recommendations—some just small tweaks to existing programming—that will potentially have a big impact on both campus efficiency and culture.
“Sometimes, there is apprehension among faculty and staff to share their ideas with administrators,” said Pamela Armstrong, Clinical Associate Professor at the Smith School. “The students are able to hear what is on people minds in a different way. By gathering information directly from people effected, they will feel more invested in the changes if some of their ideas are used.”
“Many of the recommendations from the QUEST students are straightforward and ripe for implementation,” said Natalie Weinstein, AMP Project Manager. “Enhancing and working to streamline processes across campus not only makes it easier to conduct day-to-day business, it enhances the student experience and frees up time for faculty and staff to think creatively.”
While students work on a curtailed timeline—just 13 weeks—many of the projects are evergreen, rolling into new iterations each semester. Last fall, a student team examined best practices found at BSOS’s smart center, which handles travel for the college. Using data and insight from that report, a second team examined the feasibility of doing it elsewhere on campus, using the university’s School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation as a case study. The projects also open the door to job opportunities and internships within the administration down the line, where students can continue making an impact.
“These students are well-positioned to work on these projects, not just because of their education, but because many of these projects effect their campus experience,” said Michael Eismeier, Director of AMP. “This is an opportunity to capitalize on their resourcefulness, experience and perspective, both as students and emerging professionals.”
Read more about the QUEST program here.