How and why the University of Wisconsin-Stout Registrar delivered an audit-aware planner to campus

The Registrar is in a unique position to create meaningful change for students and other constituents on campus. 

This was the case for the University of Wisconsin-Stout, whose search for a degree planning tool evolved into a collaborative and multi-faceted implementation of Stellic’s unified degree management platform – all spearheaded by the Registrar. 

Here is the story of UW-Stout through his perspective: from identifying Stellic as the best-fit solution, to building the collaboration and engagement that led to a successful implementation, to seeing the platform’s value unfold in live time for students, his office, and campus partners. 

Be sure to read to the bottom for key takeaways from Stout’s journey. 


The University of Wisconsin-Stout, branded as Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University, blends hands-on learning and interdisciplinary academics to guide students to career-readiness. Those opportunities aren’t limited to students on campus – about 20% of Stout students are enrolled in Stout Online, which provides flexible and customized instruction to adult learners that accommodates the scheduling needs of working professionals.

For several years, UW-Stout's leaders focused on enhancing student retention and success to carry out this mission. They homed the approach on degree planning, to help students navigate their educational journey to graduation.

Chapter I – Identifying the right technology

Joshua Lind has been the University Registrar since 2016. Responsible for areas like FERPA and student records, he was also very involved in the discussions about degree planning. In 2018, he started looking for degree planning tools that allowed both on-campus and online students to map their route to completion by sequencing their course requirements. 

He was quick to learn that few solutions out there could carry that out. 

“Most of those degree planners were what I’d call ‘‘software on an island’ – you go there for one thing and one thing only. Those tools weren’t aware of what the students were doing as far as enrollment or progress.” - Josh Lind, University Registrar, University of Wisconsin-Stout

When Josh discovered Stellic at a conference a few years later, he immediately noticed that it was the opposite of “software on an island”.

He saw that the student’s degree audit and remaining requirements were woven into the planning experience, meaning they could make informed, “audit-aware” decisions.  And within the same platform, advisors and program directors could provide more support on those decisions, and even build out course sequences for student populations. The platform’s data and design made it easy for them to identify the students who needed additional help. 

Discovering the "audit-aware" planning capabilities of the platform presented Stout an exciting opportunity to rehaul their degree audits entirely, which until then were a component of their SIS and went underused because of the outdated experience.

“Our advising center didn’t want to use it. So they used a planning sheet for a student’s first 2 years. After that, our students go to the department for advising, which meant we had over 50 program directors all doing advising in their own way.”

Having a legacy degree audit in this advising model meant that substitution requests were common. That process was cumbersome – it required many steps before even getting to the Records and Registration Office to get approval. 

Josh realized that Stellic mitigated the need for so many requests and incorporated the request and approval process directly into the audit, introducing greater efficiency. 

He was convinced that Stellic would have a transformative impact at UW-Stout, and reached across campus to bring others into the fold.

“The goal was to get others to understand that this was a win for students and a win for everybody else. To generate the enthusiasm to make it happen, we had to articulate the different benefits of Stellic that mattered to each person, as well as the bigger picture of what we’d achieve.”

Chapter II – Implementation and communication

Josh, still at the center of the operation, drew upon the lessons learned from previous projects when it came time to implement. He understood that a successful implementation of this kind of platform required more than belief in its potential — it called for strong collaboration, endurance, and widespread enthusiasm. 

Accordingly, one of his first actions was assembling a team with a wingspan like no other.

“Everyone had a seat at that table. Folks from advising, IT, Records and Registration, program directors, the Provost’s office, Stout Online, and many more. The goal was to make sure everyone had an ear into what we were working on and what the outcomes would be so that they could influence those positively.”

The inclusive, representative approach established clear channels between the core project team and their different areas of campus. This was true even for groups like faculty, who had less proximity to the implementation process at the time of kick-off. The result was better decision-making and communication.

“Our time together was spent cementing direction and keeping everyone on the same page, instead of sorting out internal decisions. They did a great job of intentionally building a team of champions.” - Ashlyn Friend, Project Manager, Stellic

Since the implementation required effort and resources from different campus partners, like the IT department, Josh knew it was important they felt supported and connected to the bigger picture.

“I made sure they knew that I would do any work I needed to make things easier for them. I wanted to make it clear to them, and to all our campus partners, that we were on this road together."

One of the later steps was communication to their end users, and it involved drawing attention to functional outcomes people needed that Stellic would address. For instance, the planner would give program directors foresight into which courses students wanted to take, which would help departments align their course offerings to match student interest. Josh leaned on the team to spread these benefits across their corners of campus, such as the Director of Advisement, who could articulate exactly how it would benefit advisors. 

Together, the team organized workshops, email campaigns, one-on-meetings, classroom visits, and webpages in the weeks leading to a Fall launch. It was outright hard for someone to have never heard the name “Stellic” — and that was the goal.

Chapter III – Seeing the current (and future) value

The hard work and communication paid off. In less than 6 months, they’ve already observed over 24,000 student sessions with 64% adoption, as well as over 21,000 advisor sessions with 75% adoption. And all this has happened even as platform functionality continues to roll out.

The planning ability that Stout’s leadership sought in the first place is being realized. The platform has helped students see and plan their journey according to their degree progress. It’s bringing advisors into the process, too, which has already made a big difference for first-year students – 75% of whom have already done some level of planning upon logging in.

“For the first-year population, our engagement has been really strong because as they enroll, they build a 4-year plan with a centralized professional advisor – they’re doing that planning at a time when they have an advising resource on hand to make sure they’re making wise choices”

Progress-aware degree planning has been hugely meaningful for Stout Online’s predominantly adult student population. 99% of them bring in transfer credit that their Stellic degree plan accounts for. 

Stout Online students also can’t take campus-based sections, resulting in fewer course selections for them. To guide and keep them on track, program directors have developed specific pathways in Stellic that serve as guardrails for these students.

“It’s turning out to be really wonderful for the online students because we’re able to better set their expectations by having suggested courses mapped out for them sooner – it’s been really impactful.”

Additionally, many of the functional outcomes that Josh communicated to advisors and program directors have come to fruition. Robust filtering functionality has allowed advisors to scale their guidance and allowed program directors to do their own enrollment management.

“The program directors can just click on filters to see how many students are  planning to take a certain course in a certain semester. It puts information in the hands of people who have always been asking for it.”
“Our advisors and program directors are starting to see the efficiency. Those same filters let them see which students are planning courses that meet no requirements, and then they click a button to reach out to those students.”

Administrators and staff have enjoyed massive wins in efficiency, particularly in the substitution request process. Where it previously took 5 minutes to approve each request, they are now approved in seconds when they make it to the Records and Registration Office.

Still on the journey to deepen the impact, the UW-Stout team is working closely with Ashlyn and Stellic's product team to expand their use of workflows and deliver registration functionality to students directly in the platform. 

“I think Stout has a real spirit of iteration and sees Stellic as a living breathing thing that can keep changing to even better suit their needs.” – Ashlyn Friend, Project Manager, Stellic

The wins that the platform has delivered so far, as well as the value it will deliver in the future, speak to Stout’s thoughtful implementation and desire to make big change for their students and colleagues.

Note from Stellic

Though this impact story highlights Josh’s position as University Registrar, we want to celebrate all the folks at UW-Stout who’ve played – and continue to play – a pivotal role. Thank you for opening your hearts, minds, and muscles to make a difference on campus.

Key takeaways

Here are some insights to abstract from Stout’s story to help Registrars and other campus constituents implement software like this on campus. 

Communicate, communicate, communicate

  • To get buy-in during procurement and implementation, Josh made it a point to articulate functional outcomes that people wanted to see through Stellic. He collaborated with his team and leveraged different mediums like emails and one-on-one meetings to get this message across.
  • He and the team positioned Stellic as a “movement” for the campus. Even though offices like admissions and residential life weren’t directly touched by degree planning or audit, he made sure they knew about Stellic and what it meant for students.

Know your data and processes

  • New systems will put existing data in the spotlight. Josh’s team made sure to know how their data worked, what the elements meant, and how it could be useful to the project.
  • It’s important to understand how different business processes (e.g. exceptions requests, curriculum development) work across the institution. The UW-Stout team made sure to understand the implications a new tool had on their business processes.

Relationships are key

  • Josh made thoughtful and informed requests to project collaborators like IT.  He made sure they knew he was going to whatever he could to make things easier for them, and made sure they felt appreciated for their contributions. 
  • He empowered boosters, like their Director of Advisement, to generate enthusiasm about the platform’s value by establishing a relationship based on trust and mutual interest.

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