StarRez Super Star: Rona Skinner

Rona Skinner
Executive Director, Student Auxiliary Services Technology & Business Analytics
Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT)
StarRez user since 2009

 

 

How did you start your career in housing operations?

My background is actually in education. I have a master’s degree in secondary education and history — nothing to do with housing. I moved to Rochester when my spouse got a job at RIT. While I was waiting to get my New York state teaching certificate, I took a temp job in RIT’s housing office and 20 years later I’m still at RIT.

I started working as an assignment coordinator. I did that for four or five years and realized that we desperately needed to change our manual and paper-based processes. My first year at RIT, we were assigning housing selection timeslots by literally pulling a piece of paper out of box. Students would wait in a long line, sometimes missing class to get an appointment time for their group. Then I went to a professional development conference and stumbled upon a session presented by StarRez.

After we implemented StarRez, we realized that while it was great for assignments and other housing operations, we could use it for so much more. So, RIT created a new role for me: administrator of all things StarRez. I handled the configurations and business processes, and we expanded the power of StarRez to multiple departments across campus.

From there, I was moved out of housing and put in charge of technology and analytics for all of auxiliary services. My career has been an evolution, and StarRez was a great opportunity for me to grow as a professional. I’m always looking for a new challenge and StarRez came into my life at the perfect time.

I learn something new every day with StarRez or from the user community. There’s always another new process to figure out or more ways to create staff efficiencies.

 

“I learn something new every day with StarRez or from the user community. There’s always another new process to figure out or more ways to create staff efficiencies.”

What do you like most about your job?

I enjoy making things perform better. I’m a continual improvement kind of person. I’m always thinking, “How can we do this better, make it easier?” I enjoy finding efficiencies for our staff and students. I was just telling some Student Affairs staff, “If I can use StarRez to automate some of the manual things you do, then you can spend more time doing what you do best — talking to the students and making sure they have the support they need to succeed.”

 

How has StarRez impacted the way you work?

If you ask our Executive Director of Housing, she will tell you that purchasing StarRez is the best decision we ever made.  (We just celebrated our 10-year anniversary of our implementation!) She calls it “transformational” because it opened up so many possibilities and changed the way we think about our business processes. The system is very flexible, which allows us to be flexible.

StarRez started out at RIT as a housing solution. Now we consider it an enterprise solution because we use it in so many departments — dining, post office, residence life, public safety, athletics, student affairs, maintenance — you name a department.

For me personally, the data subscription module was our best purchase. That tool definitely paid for itself multiple times over in the first year. We have really leveraged data subs for automation; it’s a very powerful tool. For example, we were able to automate multiple manual processes for our maintenance staff to the point that they were able to open up headcount. We then used that headcount to hire a business analyst to help automate even more processes across various departments. We wanted to show what the return on investment was for the module, so we put a quantitative cost savings to each data subscription we write.

For example, say it takes 1 minute to write and send an email, and we need to send that email 14,000 times a year. If we used to pay a student worker $11 to send emails and now, through a simple data subscription, we automate that email, we just saved that department more than $2,500 a year.

 

What would you tell someone considering StarRez that they may not know?

I would say, the basics in StarRez are great; very user friendly. You can easily make housing assignments and do all the normal housing office functions. But what really sets StarRez apart is the other tools you get on top of that. Like the reporting tool — it’s so well built; reporting is so easy that even a former history teacher like me, has no problems. And the dashboards — we use those like crazy and it really helps make our organization more efficient and run on a higher level than it would otherwise. And, most importantly, with the StarRez community, you have a built-in network that really supports you.  I’ve learned so much just from sharing ideas with colleagues (well, really more like friends and family now) from other StarRez schools. Great company, great product, great community.

Heading to StarRez Global Connect 2019?

Don’t miss Rona’s presentation, “If you build it, they will come: Using Portal X and StarRez Web to create a student affairs field of dreams,” taking place on Monday, July 15 at 3:15 – 4:00 pm.

Register Now