The Health Professions Office (HPO) at Rutgers University is a key resource for students interested in the application process to the medical and dental schools nationwide. Located on the main campus in New Brunswick, NJ, the office serves over 2,000 students in the pre-medical, pre-dental and other health fields. The HPO faculty counsel and advise students during their undergraduate years, as well as handle the application process for graduate and doctoral studies.
In the past, HPO received hundreds of phone calls each day from students inquiring about their application status. HPO staff members used Microsoft Access to keep track of students' statuses and would report that information to students over the phone. Then they would back up all of the applicants' information on an annual basis into a single file for historical purposes. While the previous system was getting the job done, it required a lot of manual input from staff and was limited in availability, as the information could only be accessed from inside the office. As the department continued to grow, this system couldn't track all the required information in an organized fashion.
The faculty and IT department at Rutgers knew that they needed a solution of higher caliber that would allow students to track their applications independently. Something as publically accessible as a web application was the logical choice, but it had to be secure enough to safeguard each student's personal information. Additionally, the students were looking to monitor their application information in real-time status.
Having worked with two other departments within Rutgers prior to being introduced to the staff at HPO, IT Solutions was selected to build a custom online database that could be integrated into the existing web site. ITS recommended a Microsoft .NET and SQL Server-based application that would allow staff and students to enter, update, and review all pertinent academic data for thousands of students interested in pursuing healthcare professions.
Following a detailed analysis phase, ITS built and implemented a solution with the following functionality:
- Administrative front end for data entry with the ability to search and sort on a variety of fields
- A WebGrid control to enable other advanced grid functions (filtering, inline editing, etc.)
- Administrative user functionality to track multiple student-related attributes including multiple letters of recommendation received, regardless of their location
The administrative front end includes six custom reports. Through the user-friendly SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services module, additional custom reports are easily created and saved by users through a web interface. The administrative front end is password protected with form-based authentication against Microsoft Active Directory. The students interface with the application through a similar, but read-only, interface with a subset of their pertinent data. Each student can log in using his or her campus network ID and the data transfer is encrypted. The student's home pages contain a customizable section for external links and additional information. "When I met the staff at IT Solutions, I could tell that they had the know-how and ability," commented Rutgers HPO Program Coordinator Loretta Stepka.
The greatest return is that the students have easy access to their own files and can see updates the second that they are entered into the system. The new system significantly reduces the amount of phone calls the staff receives each day. It also enables HPO staff and Rutgers faculty to interact with students regarding their applications on any of the campus locations because each student's file is accessible online for those with appropriate site credentials.