The Cornell University Graduate School in Ithaca, New York, offers research and professional training opportunities in more than 90 major fields of study, including Food Science and Technology. An integral part of the prestigious Ivy League school since its founding in the 17th Century, graduate studies at Cornell allow advanced-degree candidates access to a great variety of cross-disciplinary educational opportunities. That extraordinary flexibility and freedom enables graduate students to not only gain expertise in their chosen fields, but to significantly advance those fields or even create new ones.
This richness of choice and opportunity also dramatically increases the complexity of tracking the individual education plans, performance, goals, projects, accomplishments and institutional contributions of the school’s graduate students.
That complexity is accompanied by a need for thoroughness and speed, as Cornell’s Graduate School proudly makes available comprehensive information about applications, enrollment, attrition and completion, PhD outcomes, median time to degree, and job placement. This information is available through Cornell’s public website, in searches filterable by degree type, broad discipline groups, and graduate fields of study.
The challenge: Provide an affordable, flexible and easy-to-use database application capable of containing thousands of information records on the educational plans, performance, projects and accomplishments of past and present graduate students in Cornell Graduate School’s field of Food Science and Technology.
Janette Robbins is the Student Programs Coordinator for the Department of Food Science’s Graduate Field of Food Science and Technology. She has a busy job working closely with graduate students from application to the awarding of degrees, and managing a variety of departmental projects.
The department offers a wide variety of concentrations within food science including general food science, dairy science, oenology, food chemistry, food engineering, food microbiology, food processing waste technology, international food science, and sensory evaluation.
Students also have access to the educational resources of affiliated faculty in agricultural and biological engineering, nutritional sciences, veterinary medicine, animal science, fruit and vegetable science, and chemical engineering.
When you factor in the various on- and off-campus testing facilities, production plants, research centers and institutes at which graduate students can study and teach, the volume of information students can generate becomes clear.
The solution: Robbins, who joined Cornell 12 years ago, had created her own Microsoft Access database to start tracking the department’s graduate students and alumnae.
What I created was, well, frankly it was terrible,” Robbins says with a laugh. “I’m a computer literate person, and I was able to get everything I needed into the database. But, after a while, I found that the really important thing is being able to get out what you need.
“I was spending all of my time trying to get the information I needed out of that database. It was frustrating. I realized I needed some help.”
Sasha Froyland, founder and CEO of Help4Access, says frustration is a frequent source of his company’s clients.
“People who are trying to juggle huge volumes of information will often, like Janette, develop their own databases or spreadsheet systems to keep track of everything,” Froyland says. “However, after a while, successful organizations collect so much information that it becomes unwieldy. In Janette’s case, for example, her database held more than 15 years worth of information on graduate students.
“She realized the great institutional value of all of that information, but she also realized that the value of a database is severely diminished if you can’t easily get what you need from it.”
Robbins needed the ability to quickly and easily generate more than a dozen different reports for student tracking, academic planning, exam administration, project management including deadlines, grant applications, event management, organizational performance reviews, financial information and other needs.
Robbins did a web search for Access database expertise, discovered Help4Access’ website, and gave them a call.
“Right from the start, I found Help4Access responsive, transparent and professional. They really listened, determined what I needed and how much it would cost, then made it happen a lot faster than I ever thought possible.”
Over the course of a few weeks, Robbins collected report samples and sent them to Help4Access. “Once they had what they needed, it took them a week to finish the database. I was amazed.”
Froyland says his company’s greatest differentiating strength is its experience in building more than 800 custom-designed database applications. “Our experience ensures we are quick and efficient. We have developed time-tested modules and templates that really cut down development time. This translates into lower costs for our clients.”
The Help4Access team designed and built a Microsoft Access-based solution that provides customized functionality, tracking the progress of each student as they complete their courses and degree requirements, allowing for continued tracking and support even after graduation. The application supports the needs of all of the Department of Food Science’s graduate programs.
The result: Robbins says she was highly impressed with Help4Access’ performance.
“Our new database works beautifully. What used to take forever is now fast and easy. It really is a remarkable time-saver.”
Robbins said she especially likes being able to call Help4Access if she runs into trouble or needs to add a new report.
“I could not be more satisfied. We got a great database at a price that was less than what competitors wanted. Working with Sasha and his team was terrific,” Robbins said.