Introducing BU’s New Registrar
Jeff Von Munkwitz-Smith has a “phobia of lines”
When Jeff Von Munkwitz-Smith was studying Sanskrit for his PhD, he had no idea he was preparing for a career as a college registrar.
“Sanskrit is an incredibly complex language,” he says. “If you can understand that, you can understand student-athlete eligibility rules.”
Von Munkwitz-Smith became BU’s registrar and an assistant vice president on March 1. He arrived from the University of Connecticut, where he had been registrar for 16 years.
“This is a very important position, ensuring that BU has a sound framework around everything from academic records to classroom scheduling,” says Jean Morrison, University provost and chief academic officer. “We look forward to Jeff stepping into this critical role and to working with him to support his success.”
Next month he also becomes president of the 11,000-member American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, the primary national organization for those professions.
The Office of the University Registrar maintains student records, issues diplomas, and produces the class schedules, among other responsibilities. Von Munkwitz-Smith hopes to adjust the process of scheduling classes to make it easier for students to take courses in more than one college and to make greater use of some underused classrooms. Unlike UConn, where the registrar controls all classrooms, the BU registrar controls only about two thirds of them. The rest fall under the provenance of individual schools and academic departments. Those rooms are used on average about 30 percent of the time, compared to 70 percent for rooms managed by the registrar’s office. The new registrar would like that ratio to become more balanced.
Just weeks into his job, Von Munkwitz-Smith is already busy touring classrooms across campus, with a goal of visiting all of them by early summer. Armed with that firsthand knowledge, he says, he’ll be in a position to reduce use among the less desirable classrooms and increase use among the best. “You need to have good classrooms for teaching and learning,” he says.
With his move to BU, Von Munkwitz-Smith, who sports a white ponytail and favors bow ties, returns to his home state. He grew up in West Springfield, moved to Minnesota to attend Macalester College as an undergraduate, and then went on to earn a PhD in South Asian languages from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. While studying for his doctorate, he worked in the registrar’s office.
“I eventually realized there aren’t jobs for Sanskrit scholars,” he says, “but there are jobs for registrars everywhere.”
Von Munkwitz-Smith spent the next 22 years in the University of Minnesota Registrar’s office, eventually becoming associate registrar. In the early days, he recalls, he had to write transcripts by hand and all 65,000 students had to register in person each semester.
“I have a phobia of lines that dates back to that,” he admits. “I really don’t like lines. I make that clear to people who work for me.”
He returned to the East Coast in 1996 to be closer to his parents. Now 60, he says he decided to join BU in order to live in a big city again. He was also ready for a new challenge.
“I am at the point of my life where I could have decided to just cruise into retirement, but that’s not me,” he says.4 Comments