Campus News

Web Allows Welcome Packets to Cut Down on Paper, Save on Postage

Story posted May 20, 2003

Every May, hefty packets of paperwork are sent out to each member of the new, incoming class. Creating the Welcome Packets and mailing them out has always required a lot of paper, days of labor, and a large postage price tag.

This year, the Dean of Student Affairs office and CIS have worked together to improve the Welcome Packet by moving much of it out of the envelope and onto the Web. A new area has been launched on the Bowdoin Web site that replaces some of the Welcome Packet forms with links and PDFs.

The Orientation Materials site, located at http://www.bowdoin.edu/orientation/, has allowed Bowdoin to greatly reduce the amount of paper generated, save on postage, and simplify the packet assembly.

Another important benefit of the site is that it drives incoming students to the Web. According to Margaret Hazlett, associate dean of Student Affairs and dean of first-year students, getting new students into the habit of checking their e-mail on a regular basis, and getting them accustomed to doing things online, will help prepare them for the way much work is accomplished at college.

The Welcome Packet has always comprised forms that students are required to fill out and return to Bowdoin by June 1, forms that were optional, and pages that were strictly informational in nature. It seemed logical that some of those pages could be made available online only.

Hazlett approached CIS about creating a Web site where forms and information could be downloaded or read. Hazlett identified some parts of the Welcome Packet as being necessarily on paper, with other sheets being deemed appropriate for Web only. (The site also includes PDFs of mandatory pages that were mailed.)

The dean's office worked closely with CTC, who built the new Web site and acted as consultants, Network & Operations, who built student accounts, and Outreach & Customer Support who wrote the directions for students to use the site.

The result was a much thinner, less expensive, and more environmentally friendly Welcome Packet, in which 15 sheets of paper were eliminated. With 500 packets being assembled, that's a total of savings of 7,500 sheets of paper.

The cost of postage for the thinner packets also resulted in a big savings (the packets are sent first class, and 25 international mailers were used this year).

Assembly time (collating sheets of paper and stuffing envelopes) was also reduced. In previous years, assembling the packets took three days. The project was completed this year over the course of one evening and half the next day.

The project will continue to be streamlined and improved in the coming months and years. The site will be updated over the course of the summer to include the July and August mailings to students and parents. Down the road, it's possible that the site will move beyond featuring PDFs of forms that must be printed, to a forms interface that can be filled out online, sent back electronically, and automatically downloaded into a database.

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