Passion: A requirement in Higher Ed

banish waste

I recently returned from a family vacation in Maine where my husband and I set the requirement that we fully relax and disengage from work. Surrounded by the beauty of New England, mission accomplished.

We ended our trip with one last day as a family walking the Freedom Trail in Boston. And there I was, immersed in the mecca of higher education that is the greater Boston area. I was awestruck. After a 25-year career in Higher Ed, I was deeply moved and my passion was ignited.

In the greater Boston area, where higher education began in the United States at Harvard University, there are now 60 such institutions. Our walk through the city reminded me that there was an important time when people began organizing approaches to independence and freedom – and inventing methods of advanced learning – better than my attempts at organizing the pantry in my kitchen.

And then, while riding the “T” subway to our final destination, I saw it – an ad for Suffolk University that read: “Passion is a requirement, not an elective.”

Brilliant marketing Suffolk! And so true. Where there is passion, people tend to excel. So if our ultimate goal is to help students succeed or excel, maybe we should be required to help students find their passion as soon as possible.

In fact, I feel like that was a recurring theme at the AACRAO Tech/AACRAO Transfer Conference I attended during the Fourth of July weekend in Florida. There was so much talk about applying technology to business processes in order to make a difference for students. Boston University’s Marylou O’Donnell-Rundlett, director of project management and business processes, talked about leveraging enterprise content management (ECM) to reduce the amount of staff required to enter data and review applications.

Using its ECM solution, OnBase by Hyland, BU’s student application staff went from 55 people running three shifts down to 20 people. O’Donnell-Rundlett also talked about workflows so simple they can be changed by staff in the Enrollment Management office – no central IT support required.

Columbia College’s Alisa Buck, director of enterprise information systems, also spoke about the impact of technology on capturing student information early, a critical requirement for a successful student advising experience. Using ECM, Columbia is creating a student advising solution that allows advisors to access information directly from Microsoft Outlook. The increased efficiency and access to complete student pictures will enable staff to more easily facilitate student success, and presumably, their passion as well.

Most of us have recently entered a new fiscal year in higher education. We have budgets, optimism and lists of projects to tackle. We have students to welcome to campus and we must require ourselves to help them find their passion and create the most influential experiences of their lives. So what will our passion be this year in Higher Ed?

Here’s mine. I’m determined to make every human interaction I have count. Sounds lofty and nebulous, I know, but I have come to the conclusion after attending a myriad of conferences that our success in higher education will come when we evaluate every interaction with students and staff and make sure that the human-to-human piece brings the deepest value and influence. The rest can be automated with powerful technology. ECM being a great example of that technology.

Suffolk University said it well: “Passion is a requirement, not an elective.”

I’m lucky. I work with a product I can be as passionate about as the industry I work in. I hope I can help re-ignite or inspire your passion, too.

Laurel Stiller brings her passion for helping institutions strategically maximize their efficiency to Hyland as its marketing portfolio manager for Higher Education. A graduate of Miami University, Ohio, with more than 20 years of experience working to map proven solutions to higher education challenges, Laurel implemented ERP solutions at Dickinson College and University of Oregon Foundation before joining the sales and marketing team at Datatel, now Ellucian, Inc. Laurel offers a deep understanding of higher education, dedication to transparency and a fondness for candid conversations about the solutions Hyland develops and delivers to the market. You may reach her at Laurel.Stiller at

Laurel Stiller

Laurel Stiller brings her passion for helping institutions strategically maximize their efficiency to Hyland as its marketing portfolio manager for Higher Education. A graduate of Miami University, Ohio, with more... read more about: Laurel Stiller