Finding creative print solutions to make connections remotely

April Nero

Editor’s note: Duck of the Week is a section in Around the O Workplace that highlights UO employees and their work. Each story features an interview with one employee, in his or her own words, with light editing for clarity and length only.

April Nero
Print Services Manager

How long have you worked at the UO?

I’ve been in my current role for just over two years, but it will be eight years here in September.

Tell us about your work:

I oversee the print facility here at the University of Oregon, which consists of nine employees including myself. We do everything from recruiting to signage, tax forms and payroll. We manage a full-service digital print facility and have a few small offset presses for things like stationery and envelopes. We have a full-service bindery for finishing, which includes cutting, collating, creating booklets and things like that. My department also has an outsource operation for things that are fairly large in scale. These are things you would see on campus, like the graduation boxes and large banners. This outsource operation, however, is intentionally kept as local as possible. We’re very adamant about making sure that we’re supporting our community, so we partner with several vendors across campus to do those types of production for us.

What does your typical day look like?

My typical day is kind of odd. Sometimes I'm stuffing envelopes and sometimes I'm negotiating contracts, so I would say that I do a little bit of everything. In my previous position, I started off as a mailing services coordinator and managed the mailing side of things. We did printing for the university in addition to all of the daily and bulk mail. Two years ago, our department split and they removed the daily mail responsibility from our plate. I was promoted to production manager during that transition and oversaw all the production and binding folks here in our unit.

After our director left, we restructured and I became department manager. This meant that instead of just overseeing production, I supervised our operations as well. We’ve onboarded an assistant manager that helps with some of those things, but everything has changed drastically over the past year with COVID-19.

My work depends on the day and obviously COVID-19 has affected that pretty substantially. The majority of what we do is work with enrollment management and orientation programs. Departments like business affairs do kind of the same thing every day, so you know you can always expect payroll or taxes to come at a certain time. Enrollment management, on the other hand, has a group of creative minds that sort of operates under a really broad net. We want to appeal to prospective students here on campus who are admitted or even committed to the UO.

What do you like about working at the UO?

I like working at the UO because it really feels like we're making an impact in our community. Before I came here, I just thought it would be great to work at the University of Oregon and meet new people. My perspective has changed since then. Now I realize the direct impact we have on the university community. We’ve had an important part to play in almost everything visually-related on campus, from the signs and banners to graduation gift boxes.

I think in my role specifically, it's been really interesting to see how we can make an impact on someone that lives in a totally different place and knows nothing about Oregon or the University of Oregon until they come here. We start to make those connections with people outside of our community, which has been interesting. We touch almost every area of campus and I really love that aspect of my job. We do a lot of behind-the-scenes work, but our services are a very integral part of our university and what keeps it running.

What keeps you motivated?

One thing that’s been inspiring is our work with enrollment management orientation programs. When COVID-19 shut everything down last year, everybody sort of panicked and didn’t really know what to do next. Our campus felt like its own community before the pandemic hit, so when we had to transition online there was this experience of disconnect that happened very quickly. Everybody was working on their own, people weren’t interacting and there wasn’t an active presence of students, faculty and staff on campus. But the enrollment management teams were really the people in there in those creative positions. They facilitated connections with students so quickly and in such an interesting way. Swag boxes with confetti and other things were sent out to graduates who wanted to celebrate commencement but had to in a virtual setting. It was inspiring to see how people took something that was totally out of the ordinary and redirected it to be able to maintain those relationships.

Another thing that immediately came to mind was a print job we did for a program called PathwayOregon. They typically bring students in for a breakfast and talk about the program. Because of the pandemic, they were trying to figure out a way to do that. What they ended up doing was partnering with catering to mail out pancake mix and other things to students so they could host a virtual event called Pathway Pancakes.

What is something people may not know about you?

I grew up on a farm with an orchard. We grew our own produce, and had cows, chickens, pig, rabbits and more. I don’t have time to raise farm animals, but I definitely love growing my own vegetables now. My childhood on a farm outside of Eugene definitely shaped who I am today. It’s awesome.

April Nero is a part of Print Services.