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Diplomas delivered with care

How exceptional service adds up to exceptional savings

By Kasi Williamson, Academic Support Resources

Frank Blalark and Kathy Georges 185x165
Frank Blalark and Kathy Georges inspect diplomas and ready them for delivery.

February 16, 2010

Last week, more than 2,000 University of Minnesota fall semester graduates received their diplomas. For the graduates, this is good news enough. But for the University, the delivery of diplomas is an example of how cost-savings and high-care service can come together to make a big difference for students.

Beginning in 2002, the University moved its diploma printing to University Printing Services from an external vendor. Since the switch, the University has saved over $60,000 in printing 118,841 diplomas for degrees it has awarded in that time.

Bob Swoverland from University Printing Services worked with the Office of the Registrar (OTR), a unit within Academic Support Resources, on the transition. Swoverland recalls the diploma project as an exemplary case of two administrative units collaborating to solve a problem, cut costs, and provide improved service to students.

"When we choose to enter into that kind of problem solving together," Swoverland observes, "the end results are always better."

Printing the diplomas internally has added up to more than cost savings; it also means that OTR’s academic records unit is able to get diplomas in the hands of recent graduates one to two weeks faster.

How do they do it? With care, personal attention, and good company. When the diplomas come in, all OTR hands are on deck, gathered around the breakroom table. Each diploma is reviewed for the accuracy of name and degree, and each is inspected for stray marks or ink spots. As Swoverland comments, "After all the energy that goes into earning the degree, the last thing you want is a bad diploma." If the diploma passes inspection, it is packaged and labeled for pickup from mailing services. This year, only 11 out of the total 2,407 diplomas had to be reprinted.

Such detailed work doesn’t slow OTR down. Fall semester diplomas arrived in OTR’s St. Paul office on Feb. 3. They were ready for pickup by 10:30 a.m., Feb. 4--six weeks and two days after the end of fall semester, and just two weeks after colleges confirmed that students had completed their degree requirements.

The fall semester diplomas were the first to feature a new design. "The redesigned diploma has University colors, and it looks more historic and prestigious," according to Frank Blalark, director of the academic records unit, who spearheaded the redesign process and worked with designers from University Printing Services on the new look.

"We wanted the diploma to truly symbolize the accomplishments of those who graduate from the University of Minnesota."