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Q&A: New registrar Johanna Metzgar discusses what it takes to keep Stanford running

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Johanna Metzgar is Stanford’s new Associate Vice Provost for Student and Academic Services and the University Registrar. She oversees six different departments: the Registrar’s Office, Student Financial Services, Student Information Systems, Graduate Admissions, the Student Services Center and the Bechtel International Center.

Metzgar was previously associate registrar at the University of California, Berkeley and has also worked in student services at Columbia University. She came to Stanford in May.

The Stanford Daily (TSD): What are some of your main priorities as Associate Vice Provost for Student and Academic Services?

Johanna Metzgar (JM): I think that a high-level priority is to make sure that the core administrative and operational functions that support the academic enterprise that we’re responsible for are really well-managed … My job is to make sure that we have the resources and we are prioritized in a way that meets the needs of students, faculty and academic staff.

The things that we do, for instance, at the Registrar’s Office, are to schedule classes, assign classrooms, schedule final examinations, collect grades, clear students for graduation, provide transcripts and verify degrees… [In Student Financial Services], we bill and collect tuition and fees from students, but we do a lot more than that because we also partner with financial aid and departments… We run special loan programs for both graduate and undergraduate students if there is a gap from when they start school and when their funding comes in.

Then we have Student Information Systems, which supports an enterprise student information system across admissions, financial aid, student records, campus community and student billing. It’s a really complex, large system, and there are dozens of other systems that interface in some way with this core system… They all need data, and we have to make sure that it’s secure. One of our ultimate jobs is protecting student privacy.

Then we have Graduate Admissions, where the applications for all of the graduate schools come through our office and we make sure that everybody applying has a complete application.

We have the Student Services Center, which is a one-stop shop in Tresidder where students can ask questions if something is confusing, or ask about their bill.

The Bechtel International Center supports all of the international students on campus, both in ensuring compliance with governmental regulations and with programming to support international students and their families who are coming and integrating into this new culture … I’m very interested in learning more about what’s important to students, because I think our job is to support them in these core areas and to support those who support students.

TSD: Why is your role important for the University?

JM: I think this role is important because we stand at a crossroads – every department has its own administrative infrastructure that supports that department. But the Registrar’s Office has to think about all students … We can try to create efficiencies or address needs across the enterprise for students, which I think is an important role in the registrar’s office. Same with Student Financial Services. Students are funded in many ways, but this role looks out for the whole enterprise and the entire process of all the money coming in and going out … I’ve always enjoyed this part of central administration, and I think it’s very important. We are a university, and there’s a lot of decentralization; that’s wonderful in many ways, but certain things need to be overseen centrally and they need to be standardized to make the path smooth for everybody.

TSD: Why did you choose Stanford?

JM: I was thrilled for the opportunity to come to Stanford. I didn’t even have to think twice. I’m super excited to be working with Susie Brubaker-Cole, who is the Vice Provost for Student Affairs. She’s relatively new, and she has a really great list of strategic priorities for the division … It’s kind of a new administration and there’s so much excitement, synergy, attention and thoughtfulness about the opportunity we have now to shape Stanford and take it into the future.

I love having the opportunity to work in this role. It’s bringing together all of the skills, values and aspirations that I have in my career. I think we’re going to accomplish really great things for the students at Stanford and for everyone else in the Stanford community. There are really sincere efforts to bring students into decision-making more, and there’s a movement to ensure that staff voices are brought into decision-making and planning. We’re all dedicated to opening up and listening to make sure that Stanford is inclusive.

TSD: What initiatives are you working on now, or do you plan to work on at Stanford?

JM: The first big initiative was approved before I came, which is the degree audit. A degree audit system has all of the different degree requirements for every major and minor on campus encoded into it, and any individual student’s record can be optimized to show what is still needed to obtain a degree. It sounds simple, but it’s actually not because one course could meet multiple requirements across multiple degrees, majors and minors. It also helps with the currently manual process of clearing students to graduate … So, that’s going to be a great system that will help us and students a lot.

Another thing that we’re moving forward with is curriculum management. A curriculum management system would really help students because it would gather all of the curricula into one system.

One more big initiative is the Mind Over Money program for student financial literacy. It was supported by stakeholders all over campus, and it took off and has now gotten support and funding from the Charles Schwab Foundation [a nonprofit dedicated to financial education and empowerment]. The Haven Money Tool helps students manage their money online, and there’s one-on-one financial coaching available as well as courses. Last quarter they had the kickoff, and it was very well-attended and highly rated by students. So it’s a popular program, and it was a great process because there were a lot of alumni who were very helpful in this, who understood the anxiety around managing money and paying for college. Upon getting to Stanford, people are prepared in different ways, and this is a way to level the playing field and give all students healthy financial habits.

TSD: What are some of the largest difficulties you face in this role at Stanford?

JM: None of the hurdles I face feel like they’re not solvable, predominantly because I have such an amazing staff … One of the hurdles at Stanford is how decentralized it is; to get the level of funding, input and participation that we need across the enterprise to make these things work, we need a high level of participation and buy-in. But because Stanford is so decentralized, getting that means that we need to communicate to many different people at many different levels, and that takes a lot of time, patience and persistence. I don’t think of it necessarily as a hurdle, but it is a lot of work. And that’s not a bad thing – it’s very worth it.

 

This transcript has been lightly edited and condensed.

Contact Tyler Johnson at tjohn21 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Tyler Johnson '21 is a writer in for the University beat. He intends to major in Computer Science. Contact him at tyler.johnson “at” stanford.edu.