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University creates online forum for ‘great ideas’

President Carol Cartwright and the Office of Human Resources are encouraging the University community to share its ideas through a new online forum, the Great Ideas Web site.

An idea of Cartwright’s, the site was launched Dec. 19 and allows the University community to share their thoughts on reducing costs, generating new revenue sources and retaining and recruiting students with University administrators.

“I shared my e-mail address with the campus community during my opening day address and told everyone that I welcomed their input and suggestions,” Cartwright said in an e-mail. “I have been receiving ideas ever since. The Great Ideas program is an extension of that – a way for faculty, staff and students to share their ideas.”

Rebecca Ferguson, assistant vice president in the Office of Human Resources, said submitted ideas can be simple, like the suggestion acted upon 20 years ago to cut costs by recycling envelopes.

“We’re looking for ideas like that, but we’re also looking for the next, ‘My gosh, we never thought about that one!'” Ferguson said.

The suggestions sent to the Great Ideas site are first received by a generic inbox in the Office of Human Resources, Ferguson said.

“Our office is behind the scenes, filtering where the suggestions should go,” she said.

Human Resources begins the filtering process by responding with thank-you e-mails. Then, the department forwards the ideas to designated administrators who directly respond to the messages. Each administrator is assigned ideas within a specific category, including faculty issues, staff issues, facilities, entrepreneurial ideas, technology, student affairs and student life, residence life and student retention and recruitment.

Bryan Benner, associate vice president for administration, receives ideas regarding facilities improvement and he is pleased with ideas thus far. He said he received a suggestion about lowering the water temperature in the academic facilities, and the idea is being given serious consideration.

“It’s always a useful exercise to seek ideas from various parts of the University community,” he said.

Once responses have been sent, the Office of Marketing and Communications summarizes the ideas and responses and posts them to the site, which is updated about every two weeks.

“Our role is to communicate the ideas to all of campus after they’ve been submitted and gone through the process,” said David Kielmeyer, University spokesman.

Upon learning about the site, several students voiced their ideas for possible submissions.

Junior Lauren Riesterer suggested holding off Stroh Center construction (a 5,000-seat arena set to be completed in 2011) in order to cut costs.

“Why are they going to spend so much money on this new facility when we already have something that works and that’s good?” Riesterer said, referring to Anderson Arena.

Junior Terra Richardson had another idea for the site.

As an off-campus student who frequently has a hard time finding a parking spot, Richardson said she would like to see either the addition of more parking lots for off-campus students or the combination of faculty and commuter parking lots.

“Just make it parking for everyone. That way, you wouldn’t have to spend money at all,” Richardson said.

Overall, Cartwright is happy with the University’s response to the site.

“I have been very pleased, both with the number of suggestions and the quality of the ideas,” Cartwright said in an e-mail. “We have very good minds on campus and have received some terrific recommendations for developing new revenue sources, saving money and acknowledging our people.”

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