The International Office management system that came to be called Sunapsis was conceived in 2003 when the U.S. government implemented new rules that required much closer tracking of foreign students studying in the United States. Increased tracking meant larger and more complex data management; it also meant that a minor failure of reporting could seriously compromise a student’s right to study in the U.S. To complicate matters, the data that needed to be managed resided in two separate places—one in Homeland Security computers and one in university computers.
The earliest version of the software that became Sunapsis provided an innovative link—a synapse—between these two massive sources of data. Developed by the IU Office of International Services, that office quickly realized that far more than immigration status could be effectively managed with the software tools that were becoming part of Sunapsis. Orientation and data collection could begin as soon as students were admitted. Student advising could be more focused and functional in a system that remembered advising sessions as well as important personal data. International admissions, with its own deadline and tracking needs, could also be served by these tools—and in turn serve to collect vital information for active-student tracking later on.
Sunapsis thus became much more than a solution to Homeland Security regulations. In addition to serving the technical reporting requirements of international visitors better, Sunapsis provided ways to assure that their needs didn’t fall between the cracks and to enhance their experience in the U.S. by reducing the time to sort out red tape and expanding communication and so allow students and scholars to be more fully a part of campus life.
The unique features of Sunapsis attracted the interest of other institutions and IU found itself heavily lobbied to make the product available to others. Since 2007, the number of institutions using the software system has grown from one (IU) to 23, representing major universities all over the United States. Once a year, Sunapsis users get together to compare notes and hear about new features.
This week, the Frangipani Room has standing room only crowd, more than a hundred participants from 40 institutions, each participant with laptop in hand, to hear about checklists, encryption, e-forms, and user management. These new tools assure that documents don’t get stuck in someone’s inbox, that collecting information from students and scholars can be handled electronically and managed without expert intervention, and that messages can be programmed to be sent automatically when needed or desired.
The group will also be introduced to a new module that expands the system’s service to students studying abroad. The module manages students throughout the study abroad cycle, from program search, through application processing and dossier review, to completion and standardized reports. Photos: Rendy Schrader