Staff heroes: Pandemic forced move from paper to online processes

Five women standing arm in arm in a hallway


The past 11 months of working remotely has been “kind of an eye opener” for Lisa Marie Machi — data specialist in Student Records, in the Office of the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies in the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences — concerning office processes.

Machi, along with her colleagues, normally handles 1,800 graduation applications for each April’s ceremony, with another 400 arriving for graduation in August and 500 for December. It’s all been on paper since Machi joined Student Records in 1991, five years into her Pitt career — and doubtless has been that way since 1787.

She also works to notify students that they have made the dean’s list, which once involved sending them a certificate. Similarly, she and her office mates reach out to Dietrich departments twice a year to let them know who has declared each department’s majors. Her office also provides Pitt’s Phi Beta Kappa committee with the transcripts of all students eligible for membership in this honors society, including their high-school transcripts to see whether they’ve met all the foreign-language requirements, for instance.

Last March, her whole office worked as a team to change all these processes to online forms. Graduation applications required their own separate email address to handle the onslaught. The new PDF forms had to be coded with students’ majors (sometimes double or triple majors) and minors and matched with data on Pitt’s PeopleSoft records, and then part of each PDF had to be extracted and shared with the registrar’s office — first through Box and lately via SharePoint.

Her office is still working to refine the process, Machi says: “We are meeting with a committee next week to put together an online graduation application that will hopefully fix the current issues we are having with students applying online that will better serve the students and our office.

“They have to figure that out before we move forward,” she added, “but I’m sure that’s going to be the way of the future.”

On top of those changes, a lot of student advisors in Dietrich departments took advantage of the early retirement program, Machi says, and she found herself coaching their replacements on all the processes necessary for graduation.

“No more seven-and-a-half-hour workdays for me,” Machi muses. And yet there have been good results from the changes too: “I’m a very efficient person, and I like that I did have access to our advisors or assistant deans. If they decided to reach out to you (with questions for Student Records) you can help them a bit quicker because I have access to the records and information that can assist — because it is online.

“This was a learning experience,” she says. “We don’t have to use paper, and it can be more efficient in some ways.”

Marty Levine is a staff writer for the University Times. Reach him at or 412-758-4859.


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