At ASU In-plant, ‘It’s About the Students’

Arizona State University Print & Imaging Lab staff includes (from left) David Bradford, Hilary Watson, Cathy Skoglund, Gabby Tikhonova, Hannah Minkner, Jan Janiczek and Chris Myers.

Gabby Tikhonova takes sheets out of the HP Indigo 5500.

Student worker Yulia Tikhonova runs the HP Indigo 5500.

Two visiting students learn about pixels and registration at the lab.

With education as its primary goal, the Arizona State University Print & Imaging Lab provides excellent hands-on experience for its student workers.

Student workers are a common sight at higher-ed in-plants, but they’re usually something of an afterthought—a source of cheap labor. It’s rare to find an in-plant where 79 percent of the employees are students.

That’s the scenario at the Arizona State University Print & Imaging Lab, though, where students outnumber full-time employees 11-3. What’s more, the Mesa-based in-plant exists predominantly as an academic enterprise within ASU’s College of Technology and Innovation—even as it pumps out a huge quantity of printing for the university’s four campuses.

“We are an educational laboratory,” explains Cathy Skoglund, manager of operations and business development, who was hired six years ago to expand the shop’s educational focus and modernize its processes. In addition to giving student workers hands-on experience, the lab hosts tours for graphic arts students from ASU and high school groups. Skoglund credits this educational focus with keeping the in-plant in business.

“If [this] wasn’t an educational environment, [it] would have been long gone, replaced with outsourced printing,” she remarks. “But because it’s about the students and we’re providing education to students, it has secured my in-plant.”

Those students are in ASU’s Graphic Information Technology program. In the Print & Imaging Lab, they have access to a range of graphic arts equipment, such as a new seven-color HP Indigo 5500 digital color press, a two-color Heidelberg QuickMaster 42, a Halm envelope press, two HP Designjet wide-format printers and the Bitstream Pageflex iWay online ordering system.

Great Hands-on Experience

Students work about 20 hours a week in the in-plant, located in a 6,500-square-foot facility in the Technology Center on ASU’s Polytechnic Campus. The hands-on experience they get, Skoglund says, all but guarantees them jobs when they graduate.

“It’s exciting to see the students that come in here, and when they graduate, once they get out into the workforce, they’re just absolutely amazed at how much they know,” she says. “They had no idea how much they were actually getting out of working here.”

Bob has served as editor of In-plant Graphics since October of 1994. Prior to that he served for three years as managing editor of Printing Impressions, a commercial printing publication. Mr. Neubauer is very active in the U.S. in-plant industry. He attends all the major in-plant conferences and has visited more than 130 in-plant operations around the world. He has given presentations to numerous in-plant groups in the U.S., Canada and Australia, including the Association of College and University Printers and the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association. He also coordinates the annual In-Print contest, cosponsored by IPMA and In-plant Graphics.

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