Michigan State University Extension took on an initiative several years ago to develop an events management information system that would make it possible for someone to organize and manage a workshop, field day, training or other educational event in a way that economizes on staff time. We wanted something that was adaptable to the variety of programs we offer and that would allow participants to register online and pay their registration fee online if they desired. We wanted something that would mesh well with our financial system so that revenue would be allocated to the correct MSU account and expenses would be paid directly by MSU using funds in the designated account.
Colleagues in ANR Technology Services, particularly Bob Kriegel and Jim Brija, and in ANR Communications, particularly Megghan Honke, Betsy Braid and Katie Gallagher, have led the process of designing and implementing this system. The system went “live” in March 2012. In order to meet that target date, we agreed to start with a simplified system and then add functions and specialized applications as we gained experience with the system. I am pleased to report that, although the system is still being refined and further developed, and although challenges still need to be overcome, the system is working and MSUE staff are adopting it with greater frequency as their solution for helping to manage the business side of our educational program events.
From the beginning of April 2012 to Jan. 15, 2013, we had 117 events entered into the system. We served 3,589 participants in programs who registered in the system. And what’s particularly encouraging is that as we’ve attempted to balance the tension between statewide program priorities and more centralized support services with local program delivery, I see some sign that we’re managing that balance well. From these 117 events, we had people from every one of Michigan’s 83 counties enroll in the system. That even includes Schoolcraft County, where we currently do not have a partnership with the county nor an office nor staff in the county.
We have more improvements to make in the system, and as demand increases, we’re working to expand our staff dedicated to events management so it works as smoothly and efficiently as possible. If you’ve used the system already, I hope you’ve let folks know about your experience. If you had challenges, please let the staff in ANR Communications know so they can address those in the system. If you’ve found it to be helpful, please let your colleagues know. The more we use this, the more we can make it relevant and efficient for all of our events management needs. Thanks to those who have helped to make this a reality and to those who have been pioneers in using the system. We CAN make the best better, and we’ll continue to work on this system with the 4-H motto as our driving principle.