Five questions for Barbara Todd

As retirement nears, CU-Boulder registrar reflects on serving community with compassion

Five questions for Barbara Todd
Nobody goes to college to become a registrar, says Barbara Todd. “It is just something you fall into.”

The University of Colorado Boulder’s registrar began working in the office as a student employee in 1980; following this school year, she plans to retire. Initially, she defined the profession as “the keeper of the record and the follower of the rules,” but over the years, she has come to realize that her goals are about developing services for students and faculty in order to “make an education easier to attain.”

She jokes that it often feels as if her primary duty is to attend meetings, but as the registrar since 2002, she plays a critical role in academic policy development, creation of new services for students, and enrollment management.

She works closely with the information system team as the ISIS liaison for the Boulder campus. ISIS is the student information system that encompasses everything from degree auditing to room scheduling to admission applications. As a member of the enrollment management team, she works with admissions, financial aid, institutional research and several other offices. Todd also acts as the primary contact on campus for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and for establishing data security standards to protect student data. She and her staff also work on athletic eligibility, residency determination, grading, student registration, transcript and diploma production, student degree audits, course scheduling, student record ISIS development, and communications to students, faculty and staff on registration and record processes.

She has served in elected positions for the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) and the Association of American Universities Registrars and received a Distinguished Service award from the regional AACRAO organization. “But nothing felt better than the two times that my staff recognized me as Employee of the Year,” she says.

Bill Haid, one of the university’s first registrars, made a big impression on her. “He is the major reason I decided to become a registrar and how I came to understand that the true value of who I am is in the people that I serve, be it students, faculty, staff, parents or my own staff.”

1. What was your earliest connection to the university and when did you begin working at CU-Boulder?

My father was a faculty member at the university in the Department of Kinesiology. He taught exercise science, athletic training, kinesiology and many other interesting topics. I fondly remember our family spending many evenings grading papers (T/F, multiple choice and fill in the blank). I loved coming up to campus to his lab. He had what I considered "fun toys" there, plus we loved typing on his typewriter. I just knew that CU was where I wanted to go to school. I started in 1980 as a student studying exercise science (there is nothing worse than having your father as your professor) and worked in the Office of Registration and Records (one day to become the Office of the Registrar) in the summers, registering students.

My real desire was to go to the CU Health Sciences Center and study physical therapy. I only had one class left to take (two semesters of physics) and then apply. So in 1980 I joined the Office of the Registrar as a full-time staff member, figuring I would work one year while I took physics classes and then apply to the PT program. However, during that year I became tired of being a poor student and decided there were lots of other things I wanted to do (like travel). So I stayed on.

2.  What are the toughest and most enjoyable parts of your job? How has the job changed over the years?

The toughest part of my job is policy enforcement. For example, it is never fun to disappoint students by telling them that they aren't eligible for in-state tuition, which in some cases kills a student's dream of getting an education at CU. But that is much of what our office is responsible for -- carrying out policy decisions made by academic units. I am happiest when I can help a student navigate through this complex place, and even happier when I can contribute to removing some of the barriers that tend to make CU so complex.

This job is totally different from when I first started in the registrar's office. When I started in this office (at the same time I was a student), the job was all about line management. You stood in a line to register; you stood in a line to find out your schedule; you stood in a line to drop and add. You stood in a line to ask a question because people were your only resource (or 16 pages of instructions written on newsprint). We then evolved to telephone registration, but nothing provided us more opportunity than the Internet. The job now requires the registrar to have a good technical background, be a good communicator, have a compassion for people, and, above all else, be a listener.

3. What are some of your favorite memories from the university?

My staff cracks me up. I will definitely miss them when I retire in eight months. I will miss their stories, their games, their humor, their compassion. They truly want to serve our students and do the right thing, despite jobs that are made incredibly complex through the policies they must follow that often differ by college. I have been blessed to work for people with tremendous leadership skills who exhibit professionalism and a love for what it is they are doing. But my favorite memory is driving U.S. 36 to work each day and cresting over Davidson Mesa and seeing this absolutely beautiful campus. In my opinion, we have the prettiest campus in the United States.

4. What are your goals/plans for the next phase of your life after you retire in June?

My husband, Rick, and I have already purchased a home in an "active 55" community in Arizona. It is being built as we speak and will be done in early November. It is on a golf course. We will purchase a golf cart to live in its own garage and we plan to spend all of our time becoming "gym rats,” playing golf and pickle ball, and hanging out with other people our age. We will spend our summers in Colorado with our family, and travel, travel, travel.

5. During all these years at CU, have you “collected” any special items?

I think it has to be my collection of Big 12 mugs. Every October the registrars at the Big 12 schools got together to discuss best practices. Some of these people have become wonderful, close friends, and we still get together at another meeting (since CU is no longer in the Big 12 conference). I collected a mug at each of the schools I visited. I am only short the Baylor mug -- I never made it there.

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