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"Bright Ideas" Lead to Money-Saving Measures for the College

Late last fall, in the early days of a new Smith presidency and amid a faltering national economy, President Carol T. Christ issued a collegewide call: every member of the Smith community was invited to submit ideas for ways to help the college save money.

The response to the program, dubbed "Bright Ideas," has been surprising; the program has garnered some 60 suggestions from every sector of the college. The suggestions have been varied and creative: decreasing energy-use campuswide by installing automatic light switches with motion detectors, for example, and ways of conserving on air conditioning and heating. Others urged scaling back on paper usage by moving publications to the Web.

Richard Myers, director of budget and financial planning, coordinates the Bright Ideas program. He is charged with reviewing all the submissions, then forwarding the viable ones to appropriate offices.

"I think Bright Ideas is a wonderful program," says Myers. "Involving the college community in a process that's going to have such an impact on the college community is very important," he notes.

Ruth Constantine, vice president of finance and administration, explains: "We wanted to engage the entire community and get everybody's input on ways the college can save money," she says. "Everybody has a unique perspective. It's interesting what ideas come about when people put their antennas up and try to think of ways to be helpful."

Some of those helpful ideas have already been introduced. In keeping with the large number of suggestions involving reduced paper usage, the controller's office will electronically distribute monthly financial reports to managers through its new E-Print program beginning this fall. Previously, paper versions were mailed to each manager monthly.

"Many of these early ideas, such as energy conservation, were already underway at the college," explains Myers. The Physical Plant had come up with several ways to conserve energy across campus, and several departments had begun saving paper by relying more on electronic communication. -- ESW

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