Project Orion Update: Data Project to Solve a Number of Problems with Numbers

Think about it: Students entering UT Dallas are assigned as many as three different numbers above and beyond their Social Security numbers — all of which are necessary for identification, system access and tracking purposes.

Project Orion logo

Check the Project Orion Web site for more information.

Now multiply those figures by an entire student body; it conjures a documentation nightmare.

A new solution in the works under UT Dallas’ Project Orion will create a common ID number to help untangle the record-management process and provide a single source of retrieval for all student-related numbers.

Tracking student data — including such information as the aforementioned identification numbers, addresses, grades and every course a student has ever taken — is one of a university’s most important administrative functions.

It makes sense, then, that one of Orion’s first priorities is to simplify
records retrieval.

According to Jennifer McDowell, an associate director of records at the University and Orion functional team lead, one of the more pressing problems has to do with the scenario described above: managing multiple identification numbers or accounts associated with one person.

For example, students often want to enroll at UT Dallas without using a Social Security Number (SSN). Such students are given nine-digit “dummy numbers” for identification purposes. But if they apply for financial aid, they must submit their SSNs, potentially creating duplicate records of themselves.

The same duplication could easily arise for faculty and staff data, too.

“Because a student may use a different form of ID at any point in his academic career, we experience a lot of copied records,” McDowell explained. “The new information interface we’re creating through Orion will give us the ability to better track and manage those numbers, as well as reduce replication.”

Besides SSNs, other identification numbers currently tracked by the University include NetIDs, UTD-IDs and Comet Card numbers.

“Ultimately, we believe the entire system will function better with Orion,” McDowell added. “We anticipate that we will be able to work with the data in a faster, more efficient and more comprehensive way.”

Currently in the prototype, or testing phase, Orion’s student-records module could be available as early as spring 2009 for fall 2009 registration.

About Project Orion
Orion is a Web-based information portal that will one day manage virtually every aspect of a student’s academic career, from registering for classes to paying parking fines, to applying for graduation. Orion operates on the PeopleSoft Campus Solutions platform, a comprehensive suite of software that gives users real-time information. When completed, Orion will serve nearly every consumer of University data, including students, faculty and staff.

For more information about Orion, please visit the project Web site at

Contacts: Jenni Huffenberger, UT Dallas, (972) 883-4431, [email protected]
or Vickie Flores, UT Dallas, (972) 883-4543, [email protected]

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May 26, 2018