Wraparound Case Management with Advocate at Michigan State University

Michigan State University (MSU) is a large, public university home to over 50,000 students in East Lansing, Michigan. With over 16,000 students living on campus housing, MSU's office of Residential Care and Community Expectations utilizes Symplicity Advocate for all aspects of managing campus activities around conduct, care, and students in crisis. Since 2011, MSU has continued to expand its use of Advocate to make data-driven decisions and heavily relying on Advocate for every instance of case management. Advocate’s deep integration into MSU's operational framework ensures that MSU can manage everything from roommate conflicts to high-level crises proactively.

“It’s a whirlwind of opportunity to best support a student, because the more you're connecting and getting people to be able to see a full picture, the better it is for the student."


Kelsey Skinner,

Assistant Director of Residential Care and Community Expectations, Michigan State University

Case Management Workflows

Michigan State University relies on Symplicity Advocate as its primary case management system, facilitating the flow of information from incidents in residence halls to the appropriate staff members for further action. As the Assistant Director for Residential Care and Community Expectations, Kelsey Skinner oversees it all within Advocate. The system streamlines processes starting with incident reports, offering different levels of access tailored to users' roles from resident assistants, community leaders, police, and more. When an incident occurs and is reported through Advocate, Skinner can control which partners see what in order for information to be shared to the appropriate parties without compromising student data.

With Advocate, MSU has scheduled reports that provide daily summaries tailored to different staff levels based on their role, protecting student information and access. Additionally, these incident summary reports serve as a critical tool to grasp campus-wide activities, prioritize tasks, and customize scheduled updates to specific staff members. This customization ensures that relevant information reaches the right individuals promptly, optimizing their workflow and enabling efficient decision-making based on real-time data campus-wide, in a residential hall, or elsewhere.

"Every morning our staff in the areas get an incident summary email...that's my easy way to look through and be like, ‘Oh yes, okay, this is my priority,” Skinner told Symplicity. This enables a seamless flow of information and ensures that all incidents are promptly and efficiently addressed.

For conduct incidents, MSU routinely uses the incident actions feature. This allows Skinner to assign steps automatically directly to staff and community partners to ensure they are following MSU’s process and compliance procedures. Additionally, Advocate’s automatic, customized letter templates ensure that once a case is opened that is connected to a student, an email gets sent directly to the student about next steps. Because of the controls and access in each case management workflow, particular letters are assigned for each incident and report eliminating human error of the wrong letter type going to a student. This automation in Advocate ensures that reports and emails are sent directly to appropriate parties in a streamlined, efficient way.

Reporting Sheds Light on Campus Trends

Utilizing the reporting and data in Advocate Skinner and her team are able to identify and see patterns of behavior at MSU. “We can see that there are a lot of reports of a similar behavior or similar concerns in a community lets us know we have to address something… This helps us determine what programming, what outreach, what initiatives we want to focus on in the future,” Skinner told Symplicity. This includes creating specialized, targeted programming for a particular community, target training, or do a messaging campaign on community bulletin boards to address areas of concern.

Moreover, MSU maximizes the notes feature within Advocate for comprehensive data tracking and analysis. Skinner mentions how staff utilize this feature to document meeting details, actions taken, and key outcomes, including tracking student engagement and progress towards learning goals. By leveraging the notes section post-meeting, the university can assess student development and measure meeting effectiveness.

Skinner appreciates features like scheduled reports and location-based rules that enhance efficiency, such as automatic email notifications to community directors when incidents are reported in their area. Having this data and reporting all in one place makes a big difference for Skinner and MSU. “Having everything in one system allows us to collect so much data that I don't even know what to do with all of it,” said Skinner.

“We can see that there are a lot of reports of a similar behavior or similar concerns in a community lets us know we have to address something… This helps us determine what programming, what outreach, what initiatives we want to focus on in the future."


Kelsey Skinner,

Assistant Director of Residential Care and Community Expectations, Michigan State University

MSU's Favorite Advocate Features

When it comes to reporting, one of Skinner’s favorite features in Advocate is the tagging capabilities to categorize types of students. For instance, in Advocate Skinner has student athletes tagged in the system. This enables Skinner and her team to better communicate and partner with athletic directors to notify them of students involved in campus misconduct. “I have a scheduled report that goes to our athletic partners every day. And so they are getting a report that just shows incident reports that have athletes in them, so they know what occurred each day,” Skinner said.

This also includes maintenance issues. By tagging incident reports related to facilities and maintenance requests, a report gets automatically sent out to facilities to prioritize what needs to be addressed. By tagging and building in a workflow for automatic reporting enables Skinner and her team to safe time and ensure information is standardized. “I would 100% say that being able to use those scheduled reports is super helpful for communication with various partners. And it happens automatically, so it doesn't require me to take any additional steps.”

With the workflows in the system Additionally the letter templates within Advocate ensure communication is standardized. Plus, with the customized letter templates in Advocate, Skinner and her team and partners can ensure that each incident gets the appropriate, corresponding letter automatically sent to the student involved. This process eliminates human error and has removed administrative hours to enable MSU to focus on students.

Finally, once an incident is in a workflow depending on the type of incident, appropriate partners can follow up with the student. With the notes feature in Advocate, it ensures that staff are engaged with the student throughout the duration of the incident process which are inputted into the platform. At each step, the notes follow with the incident and corresponding student so no information gets lost on what was discussed, the status of an incident, and the appropriate action taken. “We can track things like, did the student show up to the meeting or not? And it allows us to track certain learning outcomes that we for each meeting with a student,” said Skinner.

Wraparound Support with CARE and Campus Collaboration

MSU heavily relies on the CARE report side of Advocate, to seamlessly transition incident reports into CARE reports for continued support and follow-up actions. This includes incorporating bias response initiatives into their CARE module for a more holistic approach to student welfare. This means that incidents that don’t follow in a typical student conduct or incident report still get addressed. For incident bias reporting, they typically don’t get to a criminal level, but do require certain actions to be taken on campus where a student would benefit from support and resources.

In addition, the police department that works with MSU has access to certain features within Advocate to ensure seamless communication and information sharing all sitting in a central hub. “Honestly, that's an example of a great connection because now I'm getting information from the police that I hadn't gotten before,” explained Skinner. “So, I can see when they submit something, and see ‘Oh, this was a residential student impacted.’ I can then notify our DEI team as well as the hall staff to share that an incident occurred in a classroom, off-campus, or somewhere on campus to let team members know to be aware of if it’s of concern… We can ideally see, on a larger scope, a students’ experience at MSU and support student holistically.”

Saving Time and Added Support Backed by Data

Since 2019, Skinner was working with a team of two full-time staff members with over 80 hours of work between them. With the reporting in Advocate, Skinner was able show to stakeholders and leaders the amount of hours her and her team were doing with little support. Between 2019 to 2022, it went from 80 hours to 240 hours, a significant increase in less than five years, almost quadrupling the amount of student support hours Skinner and her team do. Increasing Skinner’s staff size was driven by data within Advocate, “We have been able to demonstrate this increase in reports, the increase in types of reports, the increase in hours dedicated to conduct, and the increase related to CARE with Advocate,” said Skinner. “This data showed how many reports we increased by and push for more support.”

Today, there are three full-time staff members, a part time administrative assistance, and three graduate students working half-time. More support and streamlined processes have freed up more time for MSU to focus on training and development and do targeted outreach to students of concern.

Client Success with Standout Support

 Critical to MSU’s success has been the client support team at Symplicity. “Over the past few years being able to connect with someone to tell them our issues has been huge support to help us accomplish what we are trying to do and build better connections,” Skinner said. “You have the client manager who can help us think proactively or fix a problem, but then even the support has been a significant improvement over the last few years to being able to actually help reiterate what things are or go back and fix something that occurred, even if it was our error and help us kind of fix through that has been instrumental.”

For more information about virtualizing student services with Advocate, emailinfo@symplicity.comor schedule a conversation. 


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