Universities, departments gather to exchange ideas

Executive vice president of MIT, Sherwin Greenblatt, speaks to University faculty for the Quality Fair at McNamara Center Thursday.  Greenblatt’s message for the University was to “work smarter” when presented with challenges.

Ashley Goetz

Executive vice president of MIT, Sherwin Greenblatt, speaks to University faculty for the Quality Fair at McNamara Center Thursday. Greenblatt’s message for the University was to “work smarter” when presented with challenges.

Sarah Belcher stood enthusiastically in front of a plastic salad container, eager to talk to passersby about the innovative corn-based polylactic acid material used to construct it. âÄúIn a compost site, itâÄôll break down within 45 days,âÄù she said. The senior recreation resources management major was one of nearly 1,000 people who gathered in the McNamara Alumni Center Thursday to swap ideas at the third-annual Quality Fair. Each year, the fair brings together administrators, faculty, staff and students from a variety of offices within each of the five University of Minnesota campuses to collaborate and share their time, money and resource-saving projects. For Belcher, a member of the University Dining ServiceâÄô s Green Team , the fair gives her a chance to share UDSâÄôs sustainability initiatives with representatives from other Minnesota campuses. Alisa Salewski , improvement leader for the Office of Service and Continuous Improvement which put together the event, said the idea is to come together and allow people to learn from what others are doing. âÄúWe hope that you come and see an idea or a solution that you can then go back and implement in your workplace,âÄù she said. Each of the ideas presented Thursday have actually been implemented within the University system in the past 12 months. The OSCI, an office created five years ago to provide cross-campus internal support within the University system, chose posters to receive first, second and third place awards, as well as awards for innovation, data-driven decision making and measurable outcomes. âÄúWeâÄôre trying to stress the data behind it, not just that gut feeling,âÄù Salewski said. âÄúWeâÄôre looking for measurable outcomes.âÄù The Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs took home the first place award for their project that developed strategies to better understand course demand, make more informed scheduling and cancellation decisions, keep courses around that meet enrollment quotas and strengthen the stability of course offerings. Beth Isensee, undergraduate student services coordinator for the Office of International Programs , said she came to the event last year to see what it was all about and left with ideas she actually used âÄî like setting up a free blog through the University library. This year, sheâÄôs presenting her project, for which 10 University departments came together to improve the accessibility of their operations to international students. âÄúWhat weâÄôre presenting are models that other colleges or departments could use,âÄù she said, adding the project could easily be replicated in other departments. There were speakers throughout the day, including Sherwin Greenblatt , former president of the Bose Corporation and former interim executive vice president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology . University President Bob Bruininks was also there to ring in the ceremony. One of the best things about the Quality Fair, Inensee said, is that it helps her network and collect resources. âÄúItâÄôs great to have ideas,âÄù she said. âÄúBut if you donâÄôt have resources, which help you move along the project, itâÄôs just an idea.âÄù