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

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

April 2012 By Bob Neubauer
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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."

To prove it (and inspire current employees), the in-plant has a "Where Are They Now" wall with photos of former student employees and bios describing where they are working now—companies like Fujifilm and Consolidated Graphics.

In-plant Snapshot

Arizona State University Print & Imaging Lab
Mesa, Ariz.
14 Employees

Key Software/Equipment:

  • MindFireInc pURL software
  • Bitstream Pageflex iWay Web-to-print system
  • HP SmartStream VDP tools
  • Kodak Prinergy workflow with Preps
  • Kodak Magnus 400 chemical-free platesetter
  • HP Indigo 5500 with seven color units
  • PSI digital envelope press
  • HP 8060 digital inkjet printer
  • HP 9500 Laserjet printer
  • HP 5500 60˝ wide-format printer
  • HP Z6100 60˝ wide-format printer
  • GBC 2064 laminator
  • Heidelberg QuickMaster 42 press
  • Ryobi 512 press
  • Halm envelope press
  • Polar cutter
  • Baum desktop folder
  • Graphic Wizard CreaseMaster
  • Saddlestitching, spiral binding, laminating equipment
  • Heidelberg Windmill letterpress


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