Congratulation to the CUNY SPS Class of 2020. Many of our CUNY SPS graduates are celebrating graduating this Spring and at the same time wondering when will graduates receive their diploma. The Kiosk spoke with Thomas J. Jennings, Assistant Dean and Registrar CUNY SPS to get the scoop.

What are some of the challenges CUNY SPS Registrar have faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

“The biggest challenge was the sudden shut down of our access to the campus. The fact that it happened quickly was the right decision, but it left us scrambling to shift to a distance mode. While we have a long history of online instruction administratively, we relied on a physical presence.”

“In fact, prior to this pandemic, CUNY did not formally allow work from home. I happened to have experience because I was out on medical leave during February and connected through a laptop. Once we realized that we would not be returning to 119 West 31st Street soon, my staff and I analyzed what we could do remotely and what services we could not provide.”

“Transcripts, diplomas, and signed verifications were our biggest challenges and the four of us did what we could to help students get what they need. We were able to switch to an outside vendor to issue transcripts remotely. Now, using Credentials Solutions student can get or send transcripts verifying their academic record. In reality, a transcript is the official documentation rather than the actual diploma. I then, suggested to the University to investigate contracting with Parchment, a division of Credentials Solutions to issue diplomas remotely.”

“As with anything that involves a large organization, it takes time to get contracts approved. I am delighted to report that on July 1st, we got a contract approved, and we have been included in the first wave of campuses that will work out details with Parchment beginning July 13th. I am hoping that we can quickly authorize them to produce our diplomas. In the past, we have tried to produce them in house using software and materials in our office. For verifications, if the organization does not understand the impact of the pandemic, I call them to explain circumstances, and to date, have been able to provide the certification required.”

In the past, what was the method and wait time for graduates to receive diplomas after graduation?

“As I just explained, we produced the diploma in-house. The diploma is the end product of a lengthy process that uses DegreeWorks CUNYfirst, and the interaction with academic advisors. Typically, it took about two months to review, certify, and produce diplomas. We issue upwards of 400 after the Fall and Spring terms and about 75 after the Summer term.”

What is the current wait time now for diplomas?

“Because we got authorization yesterday, I don’t want to commit to a distribution date without having a direct conversation with the vendor, but the fact that we are in the first wave with Parchment we will work to be in the first cohort. I have created a file that contains the names of 440 graduates that will be in this group. One of the benefits of this vendor is its ability to issue a virtual diploma that is an exact replica of the hard copy that will be sent shortly thereafter.”

How many graduates have reached out to you about receiving their diploma?

Michelle Kim Registar Assisant – “My records indicate that we have had 113 students reach out to us regarding diplomas since we have been working remotely.”

What would you personally like CUNY SPS graduates to know?

“I and my associates, Jennifer Lee, Alexandra Helmers, and Michelle Kim, are here to try to help students provide solutions. Even though we do not have access to our physical space, we are here for you. We pride ourselves on trying to help where we can.”

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