Global Engagement Solutions for Higher Education

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FROM PAPER TO 21ST CENTURY:
How UMBC Grew its Programs
With Terra Dotta

UMBC’S PROGRAMS for international and study abroad students have grown over the decades. But a simple fact stymied the programs’ potential: Until a few years ago, University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s global education team relied on entirely paper processes to log, manage and update student information.

UMBC’s analog approach  meant staff couldn’t focus on the most important work for global education teams — cultivating relationships with students and developing new programs and opportunities that met the needs of the university community.

It was time for UMBC to join the digital age. And that’s exactly what happened when the university deployed Terra Dotta’s solutions for both incoming and outgoing students. The move transformed the way UMBC  handles student applications and paperwork — and sparked growth in programs and participants.

Part of the University System of Maryland, UMBC is a public
research university founded in 1966 and located in Baltimore, Maryland.
10,932
UNDERGRADUATE
STUDENTS
2,565
GRADUATE
STUDENTS
1180
ACTIVE
F-1 STUDENTS
50-75
ACTIVE
SCHOLARS
250
STUDY ABROAD
STUDENTS
 
BEFORE TERRA DOTTA
In 2015, when Caylie Middleton returned to UMBC, her alma mater, to become Assistant Director of Study Abroad, the office was still using the same paper application that she filled out as a student a decade before. It was a similar story for the international education team. Neither group had the time to focus on the strategic business of growing and improving UMBC’s programs.

100% PAPER

File cabinets were stuffed with applications and documents for both incoming and outgoing students. Records were incomplete. Manual data entry led to errors. Staffers were spending about 30% of their time simply on paper processing.

With both offices swamped with the work of tracking applications and ensuring students stayed in compliance, “compliance was all they could focus on,” said Middleton, now UMBC’s Associate Director of Education Abroad.
REMOTE WORK IMPOSSIBLE

Without a cloud-based system that was accessible wherever staffers were, there was no way to work remotely or pull up information quickly during an emergency. When somebody needed to access information after hours, they had to drive to campus and pull paperwork from the file cabinet. “That’s not an acceptable process anymore,” Middleton said.

LITTLE TIME FOR STUDENTS

One-on-one time with students often focused on the fineprint of international education — polishing applications or answering logistical questions about compliance or optional practical training. There was little time to engage with students about ways to make their experiences more meaningful.

Staffers were spending about 30% of their time simply on paper processing.
The Terra Dotta tools that UMBC used to transform its incoming and outgoing programs:
ISSS
The ISSS portal centralizes all critical academic, biographic and SEVIS information in one place so programs can easily maintain compliance.
STUDY ABROAD
Study Abroad lets programs revolutionize their workflows through customized online applications, enhanced experiences for applicants and streamlined management of agreements and program information.
TRAVEL REGISTRY
Travel Registry for outgoing students streamlines workflows, mitigates institutional risk and captures travel itineraries for students and faculty.
ALERTTRAVELER
Using real-time country intelligence, AlertTraveler notifies students and faculty members abroad to emergencies that may affect them and lets administrators send check-in requests to ensure travelers are safe.
 
 
WITH TERRA DOTTA
With Terra Dotta’s solutions for both incoming and outgoing students, UMBC has more time to advance its programs and respond to students’ needs. Here’s what it gained:
MORE TIME, MORE PROGRAMS, MORE STUDENTS

UMBC’s international education team once spent 30% of its time dedicated to paper processes. “With Terra Dotta, we got that time back to put into programming,” Middleton said.

The result: a new program grows and more students travel abroad.

UMBC had just one faculty-led study abroad program with seven students in 2016. Once it deployed Terra Dotta in 2017, those numbers began to grow. Middleton’s team had more time to market the program to faculty and students could apply online instead of via a paper application.

2017   2 programs  |  22 students

2018   4 programs  |  42 students

2019   8 programs  |  > 100 students

2020 / 2021  Education abroad ‚Ä®suspended due to COVID

2022  10 programs [approved so far]

BEFORE TERRA DOTTA
125–150
students usually traveled abroad on semester-long programs.*
AFTER TERRA DOTTA
200–250
students travel abroad each year on both semester-long and faculty-led programs.  

*Though it’s impossible to know the exact number because UMBC wasn’t accurately tracking the totals.

COMPLETE, RELIABLE RECORDS

Information for both incoming and outgoing students is stored within Terra Dotta’s platform, providing a one-stop shop for both sides of the department to access the data they need quickly and efficiently. Students gained an easy and intuitive system to apply, track applications or upload required documents.

SELF-SERVICE BUILT IN

Instead of repeatedly answering the same questions during one-on-one sessions with students, advisors can now steer them to Terra Dotta where they’ll find answers to common questions.

“A lot of the advising is now built into the system,” MIddleton said. “So rather than having to sit down with each individual student and have the same conversation over and over again, it’s now self-guided.”

International students also can access draft copies of their I-20s via Terra Dotta, saving UMBC the cost of shipping physical versions via FedEx. For students, that access has been critical  during COVID as they attempt to schedule visa appointments in their home countries.

SEAMLESS MOVE TO VIRTUAL

The transition to remote work during COVID was made easy thanks to Terra Dotta’s cloud-based platform. “The portal became the center of the office, and people used it to communicate with each other and their students. It was a seamless step,” noted Adam Julian UMBC’s Director of International Student and Scholar Services. “There’s absolutely no way anybody in ISS could have transitioned during the pandemic without a solution like Terra Dotta.”

Tracking International Travelers
UMBC was already using Terra Dotta’s AlertTraveler app to track study abroad students and alert them during an emergency. When travel resumes after the pandemic, UMBC’s study abroad team will begin using Terra Dotta’s Travel Registry to monitor the movements of all students, faculty and staff who are traveling abroad on university business.
Our hopes are that when people travel, we are able to support them throughout the whole experience. If something happens, we can quickly identify where they are and make sure they're safe. This also allows us to get a full picture of the international activity on campus.

  — CAYLIE MIDDLETON

       Associate Director of Study Abroad

 
UMBC into the Future
Going forward, UMBC’s global education team has big plans to use the portal for programming, marketing and the continued growth of its programs.
We wouldn’t be able to do the things we do now if it weren’t for Terra Dotta

  — ADAM JULIAN

And the software provided by Terra Dotta is helping us get to where we want to go.

  — CAYLIE MIDDLETON

See for yourself.

Learn how to streamline your international education processes with Terra Dotta:

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