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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.

Amy Sutherland, What Shamu Taught Me About Life Love and Marriage, Boston Globe, Boston University
Amy Sutherland

Amy Sutherland can be reached at alks@bu.edu.

4 Comments on Introducing BU’s New Registrar

  • Lee Roberts on 04.03.2012 at 7:50 am

    The attitude on rooms controlled by the departments and registrar: “Those rooms are used on average about 30 percent of the time, compared to 70 percent for rooms managed by the registrar’s office.” bodes ill for the flexibility necessary for department space. It is important that departments and schools have space that is not used regularly for classes, since the flexibility to have impromptu seminars, research group meetings, etc. is essential to the research and graduate teaching mission of the University. I can’t think of any area that Boston University would want to emulate UConn, but if they exist, this particular issue is certainly not one of them.

  • John Hall on 04.03.2012 at 9:06 am

    I stood in those lines at the U of M! I attended the U in the early ’80s, when we still used punch cards for computer classes and had to wait in line for everything. It seems such a long road from there to today’s online registration.

    It will be great if our new registar can do something about avoiding those awful windowless closets they call classrooms in the PSY basement.

  • Anne DiNoto on 04.03.2012 at 9:11 am

    Welcome “Uncle Jeff”!

  • Susie Jacob on 04.03.2012 at 11:02 am

    Post-it organization never bodes well if you don’t eventually remove the post-its.

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