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Carrie Santaw

We all generally assume a registrar’s office to be a place responsible for holding student records and other important documents, but is that really all there is to it?

A conversation with Carrie Santaw, registrar at Beacon College, demonstrates that’s just not the case. This is particularly true in the area of student engagement.

Serving over 500 students per year, the Registrar’s Office, is involved with students across the college from matriculation to beyond graduation.

Carrie Santaw Santaw explained that students at Beacon receive specialized, one-on-one attention. For example, when a student is admitted to the college, staff is in contact with them prior to their arrival to discuss any missing documents, such as college transcripts that may need to be evaluated for transfer credit.

In addition, Santaw meets all students during the new student check-in as she explains The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to them. She also helps plan and execute the opening convocation ceremony during new student orientation.

“During their time as students here at Beacon, and even once they have left (graduated, withdrawn or transferred), I am in constant contact with students either by phone, email, and in-person helping them in any way I can,” said Santaw.

Student workers can also be seen at Beacon’s Register’s Office, which helps them prepare for the professional world they’ll enter in the future.

And that’s not all. Santaw also holds meetings to prepare students for graduation and personally helps them during the graduation ceremony.

“I play a big role at the graduation ceremony,” she said. “I help the students get dressed in their regalia, make sure they get their portrait taken prior to the ceremony, line them up … I lead them in the process. I pretty much keep everything running smoothly during the ceremony.”

This mission is in keeping with the vision of the future many in education have of the registrar’s office.

A survey conducted this year by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRO) found the respondents felt registrars should be “actively involved in student engagement across the student lifecycle.”

Another 88% of respondents said registrars should be involved in strategic enrollment management. Although at Beacon that responsibility falls to the Admissions and Enrollment Management Office, the Registrar’s Office still has some overlapping responsibilities related to processes happening during a student’s enrollment, particularly record transfers.

A smooth interaction with the registrar is a key component of attracting and retaining students during the earliest part of their college education.

Importantly, the registrar’s office serves as an important data collection tool, which helps the college make practical decisions regarding class offerings and allows it to be in compliance with entities it must report to. Those functions, unknown to most, keep the college running.

“The large responsibility for creating class schedule each semester falls to the department chairs and their staff,” said Santaw. “However, classes that must be offered to ensure students graduate with their associate’s or bachelor’s [degrees] are provided to them by me through the data that is collected from degree audits to determine which courses will be needed by the upcoming projected graduates. We only have so many classrooms and seats in each classroom, so I control the enrollment numbers of each course and where they can be located.”

  The registrar’s main function, of course, continues to be maintaining student records, including, but not limited to official and unofficial transcripts, grades, enrollment verification letters, I-20 letters for international students, diplomas, and more.

In recent years, Beacon has updated its website to allow students to access or request records online. In the future, the office hopes to consolidate traditional paper student records and electronically store them.

Santaw, for her part, hopes her future involves additional student interaction.

“I don’t interact with students like I used to when I was director of housing and residence life. I knew every student by name and I don’t anymore because I don’t have that interaction,” she said. “I believe interaction makes the job exciting and it’s what creates a positive experience for many students at Beacon.”