Cornell Alumni-Student
Mentoring Program

Cornell University

Alumni-Student Mentoring Program / 2011

Cornell Alumni-Student Mentoring Program (CASMP) was created with the aim to enable personal and professional relationships between students and alumni at Cornell University. Over 900 alumni and 1,000 students have been matched through this program on the basis of gender, ethnicity, course of study, career field, and location.

Business Need

The alumni-student mentoring process was in the need of a complete overhaul to expedite the alumni and student registrations. The goal was to streamline the alumni and student registration process and increase the participation by alumni and students. Some of the issues like application inaccuracies, incomplete forms, lack of signatures and human error inputting data from hard copy forms to the online database were causing processing time delays.

Another important area of concern was missing waivers from the students to share their data with potential alumni, to be FERPA compliant. This caused extra time and work for staff to follow up to get the signed waivers and update the database. Achieving the ever-present goal to increase registration rates was hindered by a slow, outdated system and the need to automate the process.

Key Challenges

  • Manual data input from paper forms to database often contained errors.
  • Repetition of tasks to check for inaccuracies delayed the entire process.
  • Some users were not submitting complete information, even after repeated calls/emails.
  • Users were not sending the signed waivers to comply with FERPA regulations, causing further delay in matching.
  • Existing registration process created lower response rates.
  • The time required to process a single registration often took weeks or sometimes months.

Solution

Sanmita worked collaboratively with the CASMP staff to review the complete registration and waiver process. Once key areas of improvements were identified, we started automating key steps, e.g. creating online forms with required fields so that once the form was submitted it captured all the information needed for the matching process, added help instructions on the form so that users entered the correct information on the forms, let users save their form and return later to complete the form and submit, sent automated reminders to the users who did not submit the forms or did not complete the FERPA waiver process, and so on.

Since there was no commercially available digital signature service at that time, Sanmita team created a unique digital signature process where the student and alumni used their unique netid (provided by the institution) to validate their identity and sign the waiver documents.

Results

  • FERPA compliance application set up using Single Sign-on technology.
  • Registration agreement processing time reduced  from weeks and months to few minutes.
  • Student agreement completion rates increased from 40% to 100%, and alumni agreement completion rates increased from 80% to 100%.
  • Annual operating costs to process and clean applications went down from 450hrs to almost zero, resulting in a saving of about $11,250 per year.
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