Oklahoma Higher Education Campus E-Clips sponsored by the Communicators Council

October 2010

USAO Finds ‘Savings Through Strategy’


Responding to painful budget cuts with characteristic ingenuity, USAO staff and faculty are imagining new ways to harness available dollars. The school shaved $350,000 a year off its energy bills by creating Oklahoma’s first energy performance contract in higher education back in 2001, but now more state budget cuts are requiring even more imagination.

In the last year alone, the physical plant saved nearly $50,000 on the new crown molding atop 100-year-old Troutt Hall, and the library shaved $15,000 off its energy bills by installing heat-resistant film on its giant west windows.

“Hard times can fuel creativity,” said USAO President John Feaver. “We’re hearing about new and creative initiatives all the time that are conceived by staff and faculty to reduce costs. We call it ‘savings through strategy,’ and it’s making a difference in protecting the Mission Enhancement Plan and its strategic goals.”

Easily the biggest prize for savings goes to the USAO Physical Plant crew that installed a new French drain system and a massive concrete skirt around the base of historic Troutt Hall, built in 1910. Under the leadership of Physical Plant Director Tim Stiger, the in-house crew spent maybe $16,000 and saved more than $200,000 in labor.

“I’m very proud of our people who really stepped up,” said Stiger, who prepared himself for this challenge by adding various roofing, plumbing and HVAC training to his three academic degrees. “In the past, our people were focused primarily on maintenance issues, but these new projects gave our crews a chance to shine – to design and implement their designs. Our people have shown terrific dedication and team spirit, and performed very well.”

Faculty are helping too. When Dr. Cylathia Daniel posts her class syllabi or shares class handouts in her deaf education courses, everything is online. “I posted these on my old website even before USAO launched a new website for faculty to do so,” Daniel said. “It seems logical that information like an article or set of instructions could be read and absorbed by the students, on their own time, without wasting available resources. Students can more efficiently store and retrieve articles electronically. It also makes moving much easier later on.” Daniel joined the faculty in 2008.

It may be old-school thinking, but Dr. Kevin Crow puts quizzes and exams on transparencies, so that students see the questions on a screen, write down the answers on a blank piece of paper, and turn that in for a grade. “Why waste the paper?” Crow asks. “No one told me I couldn’t print my quizzes. We’re simply making the best of the situation at hand and working together to solve it.” Crow has taught history at USAO since 2005.

More than $50,000 was saved this year when information services put all campus computers on a five-year replacement cycle, instead of USAO’s traditional four. “We are committed to providing maximum support to meet faculty and staff computing needs, but we have found that most computers can serve a longer duty cycle than we have been requiring,” said Lynn Boyce, vice president for information services and technology.

In July, an enthusiastic 1989 alumnus, Ron Carr, launched and managed the hugely successful 1980s-90s reunion event – without spending a dime or printing anything. Absolutely everything, from invitations and registration, to feedback and sharing photographs, took place on Facebook.

From his home in Irving, Texas, Ron and his wife, Jennifer, a 1990 alum, created and managed the event.

“I’ve wanted to do something for the university that helped me get started in my career,” said Carr, a business systems analyst at American Express, when he addressed the July 10 banquet on campus that brought in 75 alumni friends from three states. “I believe that every one of us should find a way to give back.”

See the full version of this story online at www.usaomag.com.

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