Columbia P&S Assistant Professor, Harris Wang, Receives Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.—By Chris Williams
From his office in 210 Kent Hall, Barry Kane, Associate Vice President and University Registrar, supervises a staff of 25 and is responsible for registration and enrollment, degree audit and commencement processing, NCAA reporting and certification, maintenance of the official transcript, implementation of academic policy, classroom assignments, University ID Cards—and the list goes on and on.
Barry took a brief break from his busy day to offer a better look inside the life of Columbia University’s Registrar.
1. What is the most important role of the Registrar?
More than anything else, the Registrar is the guardian of the academic record and is responsible for its accuracy and integrity. There is no room for error in what we do. Our work must be perfect. In that respect, we are different from many other administrative operations. Students depend on us for high-quality academic services and for ensuring that their academic experience at Columbia is a successful one. Even small missteps can often create significant issues for both faculty and students, our primary constituencies.
2. What was your biggest accomplishment during your first year at Columbia?
I would say the implementation of the new class schedule in the Arts and Sciences. A significant amount of work went into making that happen, and I think the results will be very positive for students in terms of having a greater spread of courses from which to choose in any given semester.
3. Describe your office’s busiest time of the year—tell us what goes on.
The six weeks leading up to course registration each November and April. There is a tremendous amount of preparatory work that needs to happen behind the scenes to allow students to register for courses, including the defining of all courses in the central database, the establishing of registration appointment times for students, and the setting of course rules and restrictions.
4. Tell us a celebrity, historical figure, or super hero that would make a good registrar, and why?
I think former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist would make a good registrar. As the head of the Court, he was instrumental in making it run smoothly, but he always shared the glory, usually assigning the writing of major decisions to other Justices.
The best registrars are people who enjoy working behind the scenes in a support role and who tend to shy away from the spotlight. That’s because most of what we do is pretty transparent and not always thought about by faculty and students. In fact, if folks need to think about what we do, it typically means that something is not working quite right.
By Ethan Rouen
Photograph by Eleanor Templeton