Jenn Hubbs guides the Graduate School through COMPASS implementation

COMPASS Graduate and Professional Team Lead Jenn Hubbs knows the University of Florida’s campus intimately. 

It isn’t because she has a Master of Science degree from UF’s Department of Chemistry, nor that she’s been a staff member with the university since 2011.

No, Jenn Hubbs knows UF’s campus through Geocaching.

Geocaching is an internet-based treasure hunting game where users search for objects hidden by other users.  Geocaching has taken Jenn deep into the woods, to other states, and even back to her professional home base, Grinter Hall, home of UF’s Graduate School.

Jenn Hubbs is the associate director of the University of Florida Graduate School’s Data Management Office and the COMPASS Graduate and Professional Team lead.  Within the project, Jenn and fellow team members Margann Enholm and Vickie Thomas represent the interests of the Graduate School and graduate programs, ensuring their business needs are identified and met.

Like many other large and complex universities, UF has a decentralized, but collaborative model of graduate education.  Graduate degree programs are under the direct purview of colleges and departments, reflecting a basic understanding that faculty in the specific fields know the curricular needs of their students.  On the other hand, the Graduate School oversees all graduate programs across the university.  The Graduate School works with UF’s 16 colleges, as well as each graduate degree program to uphold all the requirements for graduate education university-wide.  Having a centralized home for selected aspects of graduate education, Jenn says, has important advantages.

“I think one of the biggest advantages is that there is one central, strong voice for what the University of Florida seeks to achieve in graduate education,” Jenn said. “Because what’s best for graduate education is often very different than what’s best for undergraduate education.”

Aside from providing the university with policy and guidance, Jenn says, the Graduate School works hand in hand with graduate students and faculty.  Primary goals of the Graduate School, Jenn says, include certification and quality control of graduate degrees, assisting students with professional development, providing faculty with data and resources to assist with academic activities reporting, tenure-related information and grants, and fostering a diverse space that reflects the demographics of our nation’s population. 

Upholding the standards and quality of graduate education across the university is also an important goal and function of the Graduate School, which has a number of associated offices working to achieve these initiatives.

  • Division of Graduate Student Affairs, which includes:
    • Office of Graduate Diversity Initiatives – responsible for the recruitment and retention of underrepresented graduate students
    • Graduate International Outreach – responsible for international recruitment and outreach, as well as identifying career and research opportunities for students abroad
    • Graduate Professional Development – offering resources and opportunities for employment within and outside of academia
  • Editorial Office – coordinates the publication of the graduate course catalog and oversees thesis and dissertation processes, putting these into the institutional repository for long-term keeping
  • Graduate Records – oversees checks for graduation, certifies all graduate degrees, and maintains graduate student records
  • Data Management – supports the above functions as well as the Graduate Information Management System (GIMS) and the Graduate School website (gradschool.ufl.edu)

Jenn oversees this last office, Data Management.

Before joining the Graduate School, she worked in the UF Office of Research, where she helped coordinate submissions of grant proposals. Jenn says around this time she found that having both a liberal arts education, from Reed College in Oregon, and a chemistry education from UF was very helpful.  Not only, she says, did she have a thorough understanding of how research worked, but also possessed key writing, editing and general analytical skills.

“I did that for about four years… and then I began working with IT staff on creating a funding-opportunities database and found that I really liked the technical side of things.  So I decided to start taking some programming classes and look into expanding the technical side of my expertise.  And when this position came open at the Graduate School, which required a general understanding of how higher education at UF works, research and graduate programs, but also was more on the technical side, I just jumped at the chance.”

Honing her technical expertise prepared Jenn to work closely with GIMS, a homegrown, locally written system that was created to meet the specific needs of the Graduate School, and UF’s wide-ranging graduate degree programs.  It has become a central point for all things graduate education and has a number of important graduate-specific functions:

  • Facilitates the submission of theses and dissertations
  • Executes I-20 processing for all levels of students
  • Stores professional development videos
  • Provides key data pertaining to enrollment, retention, graduation figures, as well as standardized profiles of all PhD programs and “dashboard” style summaries of key information sought by applicants
  • Assists the Graduate School in certifying degrees

“The Graduate School needed a system that didn’t require staff to look at every single student’s record and compare it visually with the course catalog to figure out if students had met all their graduate degree requirements,” Jenn said. “That was how GIMS came to be.  Graduate School staff programed an engine that could systematically go through a student’s record from the registrar’s office and the information that we currently maintain in GIMS on committees, milestones and those sorts of things, and combine all of that information into figuring out whether students were meeting degree requirements, based on the graduate school’s requirements.”

Within the scope of COMPASS, Jenn has analyzed the capabilities of GIMS, as well as the new student information system, and is coordinating the integration of the two specialized systems.  She is also working to bring enhancements and upgrades to UF’s professional schools, including university-wide calendar assimilation, and new capabilities in the learning ecosystem, reporting and analytics, and the ONE.UF and myUFL portals.   

“The Graduate School is committed to continuing to have a very high quality system to track graduate student records, outcomes etc.  So we’re going to be working very closely with both the Enrollment Management offices and also within our own team to make sure that things like the committee system, and the thesis and dissertation system, all of those things that are really particular to graduate students continue to be of the highest quality.  We’re constantly evaluating what the best software is for those.  In some cases, it’s still GIMS right now.   But, like I said, we’re looking to make sure that we are in sync with the university and providing all of those unique things that graduate education requires.”