Global Engagement Solutions for Higher Education

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Transformation at
University of Florida
BETTER SERVING INTERNATIONAL
STUDENTS, SCHOLARS AND
EXCHANGE VISITORS

The University of Florida consistently ranks among the top public universities in the country, and it attracts thousands of international students to its Gainesville, Florida, campus every year.

With an international population over 6,000, day-to-day operations consisted of data entry and paper processes. Although they had a software provider to support their operations, this platform was growing in price and shrinking in functionality.

University of Florida wanted to offer a better experience for both incoming students and their administrators, so they made the move to Terra Dotta, allowing them to better serve international students, scholars, and exchange visitors.

BY THE NUMBERS
During a typical year, UF hosts or supports more than

6,000

INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS
4,000
CURRENT ACTIVE INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS
700
OPTIONAL PRACTICAL TRAINING STUDENTS
1,200–1,500
STEM OPTIONAL PRACTICAL TRAINING STUDENTS
250
J1 VISA SPONSORED EXCHANGE STUDENTS
57,840
TOTAL
STUDENTS
The way we were doing it before was slow for the students. We didn’t have enough time.”

— Yanina Morero
Data Management Analyst

 
 
BEFORE TERRA DOTTA
With thousands of students, UF’s international team had a lot of records to maintain and needed a more efficient system to track the records, query the reports, and assist students.

Little Online Interaction
Students used to set up in-person appointments and brought paper documents to the meetings when needed.

Time-intensive data entry
Because of all those paper documents, the J1 visa exchange program required time-intensive data entry. A part-time student was hired to help with the workload.

No integration
Staff had to make duplicate entries in both SEVIS and its previous student management platform with the same information.

Inefficient workflows
Counselors juggled many students' requests, often stopping in the middle of a process to address an urgent situation. They then needed to review SEVIS and the previous management platform to determine if they had completed the process in both systems.

Long wait times
Students grew frustrated because issues weren’t always resolved quickly.

WITH TERRA DOTTA
Once Terra Dotta ISSS was deployed, the benefits were immediately evident.

Online and Automated
Students, foreign partner institutions and other approved stakeholders can easily create profiles and submit and update documents within the platform. The move to virtual meetings and operations was seamless during COVID because of the already existing online portal.

No more data entry
UF’s international team has more time for strategic tasks and pressing student issues. And that part-time student position handling J1 visa data was eliminated.

Integration possible
Through RTI Connect, users download information from SEVIS into Terra Dotta, eliminating manual updates and data discrepancies.

Workflows optimized
Through intuitive reporting, counselors work more efficiently, scheduling their time with students in an organized way that allows them to address particular concerns, such as visa status or OPT issues, on specific days.

Questions answered
Appointments for questions are still available, but much more information and application instructions are available to students via the ISSS portal, thereby reducing the need for frequent in-person meetings.

 
We’re able to process more cases in a shorter amount of time so students aren’t waiting as long.

  — Ethel Porras
Assistant Director, International
Student Compliance services

Quick and Effective: Terra Dotta for ISSS in Action at University of Florida

AN ILLUSTRATIVE EXAMPLE
Post-completion OPT applications can be submitted to U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services as early as 90 days before graduation. But, before they deployed Terra Dotta, that process led to a big bottleneck.

Before Terra Dotta

  • Scheduling for in-person appointments would begin within the 90-day window to safeguard against students submitting applications to USCIS too early.
  • But demand for OPT I-20s is high at the start of the 90-day window, and this triggered a bottleneck.  
  • Each ISS advisor could only process six to 10 cases in a typical day of full in-person OPT appointments.

With Terra Dotta

  • Students can submit the applications for the OPT I-20s as early as they wish, as long as they are within the semester of their graduation.
  • The ISS advisors can review the applications ahead of time, allowing students to resolve any errors more quickly.
  • Within the 90-day window, the advisors can now easily process 10 or more cases within a few hours, addressing the high demand at the beginning of the OPT processing cycle.
A BETTER STUDENT EXPERIENCE:
‘THIS IS WHAT STUDENTS EXPECT’

Like any software implementation, UF’s move to Terra Dotta wasn’t without challenges. It required buy-in from staff and stakeholders and a learning curve as users mastered the platform.

But, that hard work was worth it. Terra Dotta for ISSS has transformed the way UF’s international team handles its students’ critical documents. Terra Dotta’s team quickly responds to their suggestions for ways to make improvements and technical issues that need to be resolved. And students have embraced the solution.

I can’t get behind it enough. … It’s 2021, and this is what students know, what students expect. This is the direction the world is moving.

  — Carolyn Cesarotti
Director, Exchange
Student Services

See for yourself.

Ready to learn more about how to streamline your international student and scholar processes? Contact us.

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