Most people find administrative work laborious and unexciting. Simply ask any five-year-old child what he or she would like to become one day.
In fact, Ashmind Daniels, new Deputy Registrar at Stellenbosch University (SU), is willing to bet his entire pension on it that no one will ever answer that they dream of becoming an academic administrator one day. “It is just not heard of and being an academic administrator is not considered a real profession.”
Ashmind would like to see administrative staff be recognised for the important contribution that they make. He says this is one of the reasons why he assisted in establishing the Association of Academic Administrators (AAA), a soon to be launched professional body that will accredit and recognise academic administrators as professionals. As the Deputy Chairperson of this association, his aim is furthermore to register an accredited academic administration qualification. Students would thus also be able to study towards becoming an academic administrator one day.
Ashmind commenced with his work at SU at the beginning of March 2019, after working at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) for twelve years. He started there as an administrative officer and ended up as Manager: Academic Administration.
Clearly, administrative work has become part of his life and passion. He cannot work without challenges, which administrative work has plenty of.
Ashmind shows excitement when speaking about the rewarding moments as an academic administrator and the job satisfaction that comes from having completed a task successfully. “The most rewarding moment is when the students graduate and they have completed their studies successfully,” he says.
Academic administration is an important component, and to get a student to that point of graduating takes a lot of work from the Registrar’s office. Some of the work entails the governance and administration of rules and policies, class schedules, university calendars, certification, courses, enrolment planning, timetables, administrative information system support and access, audits and risk management. “It’s a huge job and the Registrar’s office plays a crucial role in the student life cycle.”
Within the first few days in his new position, Ashmind already started reviewing and learning all the rules of SU. His goal is to know the rules to the T. “Give me a year and I will quote the rules and their numbers in this general calendar,” he says while pointing to his sticky notes attached to some pages.
Rules are important to create order and to let processes run smoothly, but Ashmind feels that rules, processes and systems should not be rigid. “There is no certainty, only unpredictability. As a sector we operate in a very complex environment and because we are dealing with individuals, one size does not fit all.”
He explains that there are already different modes of delivering courses and this has had a huge impact on the administrative process. Technology is changing our landscape. Technology has positive and negative effects: Negative, especially as administrative positions can become redundant in the future if academic administrators are reluctant to change and adapt.
There are already a lot of administrative queries that are managed online and that are automated. He is therefore eager to develop administrative staff members’ skills and to equip them for the world of tomorrow. Staff members should be encouraged to think creatively and to think out of the box. “Just because something was done in a particular way for years, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it remains the best way to do things,” he says.
In the meantime, Ashmind has set his target of completing his Masters in Public Administration. While juggling all his responsibilities, he is determined not to drop any balls, especially when it comes to spending time with his wife and two young children.
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