ND Innovates inspires examination of processes, including what’s working at Notre Dame Magazine


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In October, University leadership introduced the initiative ND Innovates, inviting faculty and staff to submit ideas that could increase the overall efficiency and effectiveness of Notre Dame. 

Since then, process-conscious ideas have been streaming into the Office of Strategic Planning and Institutional Research. For example, one staff member suggested that fewer copies of Notre Dame Magazine could be printed by letting subscribers know they can opt out of receiving it. 

Keeping the magazine’s mailing list in check is a priority for editor Kerry Temple and business manager Julie Ettl. Since 2008, the magazine periodically reminds subscribers that they can unsubscribe. Why would someone want to opt out? Notre Dame alumni and employees/retirees receive the magazine at home for free. That means, for example, alumni who work at the University could be receiving two copies. One copy at the home would suffice. 

Magazine management has to be on top of the mailing list because each summer another 4,500 addresses — 2,500 graduates and 2,000 freshman parent/guardians — are added to it, a number that exceeds the number of deceased alumni coming off the rolls.

“My primary responsibility is being a good steward of the magazine’s resources,” says Ettl. “I constantly review ways to trim expenses whether in postage, printing, paper, circulation and other variables that are always changing in the print media market. Careful monitoring of these line items this year has realized significant savings for the magazine.”

The magazine also takes the extra steps every couple of years to encourage parents whose child(ren) graduated six or more years ago and all friends of the University who have not contributed to the magazine in five years to become paid subscribers or be removed from the mailing list. That happened earlier this calendar year, and 13,509 fewer people will receive the next issue. 

“Because such a large portion of our budget is underwritten by the generosity of our readers, we’re always trying to produce a magazine that uses those funds wisely while giving our readers and the University the quality they expect,” says Temple. “All alumni receive the magazine and we think parents deserve it. Beyond that, our mailing lists reflect our meeting the needs of the other departments.” 

Any employee who would like to opt out of receiving the magazine at home may email Ettl at jettl@nd.edu. 

The evolution of Continuous Improvement

When ND Innovates launched in October 2018 University leadership invited faculty and staff to identify opportunities to increase the overall efficiency and effectiveness of Notre Dame. The initial response was overwhelmingly positive, with more than 130 ideas submitted in the first wave. The campus’ collective ability and eagerness to spot inefficiencies is due, in large part, to the work of and training by the Office of Continuous Improvement (OCI).

The University launched OCI more than nine years ago to help Notre Dame more effectively steward its resources. OCI introduced Lean Six Sigma — a process improvement methodology — as the primary approach for campus divisions to identify waste and inefficiencies in processes and make improvements. To this end, there are 125 Lean Six Sigma Green Belt-certified project leaders on campus who have successfully completed projects and more than 1,500 staff who have taken Yellow Belt Training designed to introduce concepts of good process.

ND Innovates serves as a natural evolution of Notre Dame’s continuous improvement journey. Stewardship of the University’s human, physical and financial resources remains central to carrying out our mission. Leveraging the expertise and efficient thinking of faculty and staff will broaden the number of enterprise-wide projects we complete and deepen the campus impact.

Innovative ideas! 

Faculty and staff have submitted more than 130 ideas to innovates.nd.edu and more come in every day. Eighty-two projects are in the works. Here are three of them.

• Print fewer Notre Dame Magazines; let employees know they can opt out.

– Debrah Gillean, administrator, Department of Electrical Engineering

• Renegotiate vendor contracts to improve the procurement process.*

– Angela Kindig, assistant archivist, Hesburgh Libraries

• Minimize use of desktop printers and printing overall.*
Kevin Strite, endpoint computing services manager, Office of Information Technologies

*Visit go.nd.edu/ndinnovates to read about these projects.