Mississippi In-plant is a Quick Study
With a small but nimble staff, the Research and Curriculum Unit’s in-plant uses digital printing to keep Mississippians well educated.February 2010 By Dawn Greenlaw-Scully
FOR THE in-plant at the Research and Curriculum Unit (RCU) at Mississippi State University, there's always something new to learn about printing—and something new to print about learning.
The mission of the RCU—a cooperative endeavor of Mississippi State University (MSU) and the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE)—is to "enhance intellectual and professional development of Mississippi students and educators, while applying knowledge and educational research to the lives of the people of the state."
Thus, the RCU must keep up with its customers—sponsors such as the MDE's Office of Vocational Education and Workforce Development, and the State Board for Community and Junior Colleges—as they create and respond to evolving educational trends, standards, requirements and recommendations.
For print dissemination of that instruction and intelligence, the RCU counts on its three-employee in-plant to produce a range of materials. These include newsletters, student organization programs, reports, handouts, test booklets and informational booklets.
Staffed by Print Shop Project Manager Johnny W. Jones, Print Shop Specialist Louis Randle and Mailroom Coordinator Kathy Robbins (with the help of a few part-time MSU student workers), the small, yet speedy, operation is well-schooled in meeting demanding deadlines.
"It's just the nature of our sponsors," Jones explains. "They get their information at the last minute and, as soon as they hand a job off to us, we have to get it out extremely quickly and effectively, even if it doesn't seem like we have enough time."
The shop works collaboratively with editors and artists, as well as with Web, video and IT personnel for multimedia delivery. Average print turnaround is about two days.
The Journey from Offset to Digital
Jones joined the RCU as a press operator in 1985, took a hiatus to teach graphics and printing at a local community college, and then returned to the in-plant in 1995. At that time, the RCU, which was located on the MSU campus, housed a traditional print shop complete with a darkroom, stripping tables and various offset presses (e.g., Ryobi, Multi and Solna) for sheets up to 17x22˝. The facility also operated an Océ analog copier. But as the workflow began to change, Jones perceived a need for a technology change as well.
"We started doing more handouts and other work that required stapling and [more complex] finishing," he recalls. "Our customers wanted faster and faster turnaround. Sometimes it felt like we didn't even have time for the ink to dry."
Read a story about RCU from IPMA's newsletter here.