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March 24, 2005
CONTACT: Carol Anderson

EMU employees develop creative ideas for generating revenue, cutting costs

YPSILANTI - Creativity has its own rewards and at Eastern Michigan University, it also generates revenue and reduces costs.

EMU's Innovagency is an initiative started in 2000 by the Division of Student Affairs to encourage creative thinking for meeting the needs of EMU students, faculty and staff. This year's theme asked for ideas that would generate revenue or cut costs.

The "Best of the Best" innovation awards will be presented to 11 winners at a noon luncheon April 12 in the Halle Library's Carillon Room.   The winners were chosen from a pool of 40 submissions.

Winning ideas included a paperless flexible spending plan, a discount tuition program and the creation of a temporary student worker pool. Winners will receive a framed certificate, a $25 gift card to the bookstore and an account set up with funds to implement their ideas. One of last year's winners also will be awarded a trophy for successful implementation of their idea.

"I love being the first one to read all the ideas," said Vickie Bagherzadeh, director of business operations for student affairs and facilitator of Innovagency. 'They really mirrored this year's theme of revenue generation and cost cutting."

Several winners adapted ideas from the auto industry and one such proposal came from Janet Gerding, a pharmacist at EMU's Snow Health Center.

Gerding's husband works at the auto supplier Visteon, that recently started a paperless flexible compensation program to cover medical and childcare expenses. The amount is predetermined by the employee in the previous year and deducted from their paycheck, before taxes, throughout the following year.

Instead of submitting receipts and getting a direct deposit or a check in the mail, Visteon employees receive a debit card encoded with the individual's allocated balance for the year, said

Gerding, a resident of Saline. At the point of purchase, a clerk just swipes the card and the transaction is complete.

"It would be easier for everyone, but the details have to be worked out," said Gerding, who will receive $1,000 to bring the proposal to reality.   "There may have to be an auditing process, perhaps a random checking of receipts."

Another winning idea was inspired by the auto industry's discount vehicle plan for friends and relatives of employees. Eric Ward's proposed E-Plan uses personal recommendations and a tuition discount to bring in new students to EMU for their first semester.

Ward, a wellness coordinator at Snow Health Center, will receive $7,000 for his proposal that, he said, is a long-term investment to increase students on campus.

"There's no other plan offered like this one at another university," said Ward, a resident of Dearborn.

Another proposal would establish a temporary pool of student workers for departments needing help on a short-term basis.

Belleville resident Tracey Buhinicek, senior secretary at McKenny Union and Campus Life, suggested the plan. She'll develop schedules of students who have two-or three-hour blocks of time, possess clerical skills and are interested in office work.

"This is quite exciting, but the more I thought about it, the more complicated it became. But I'm up to the challenge," said Buhinicek. Her idea will be funded for $250.

The other eight winning ideas are:

  • Creating a marketing plan to increase awareness of the campus food options for commuter students;
  • Setting up a payroll deduction program so faculty and staff could purchase goods and services on campus;
  • Continuing to operate the Student Conflict Resolution Center;
  • Allowing a company to collect paper from campus and pay EMU for every two tons generated;
  • Stationing people around campus during the first week of the fall semester to help new students locate their classes;
  • Buying printer cartridges from an Internet company;  
  • Collecting two semesters of student housing rent on a 60/40 basis; and
  • Starting a cost-saving tips newsletter.

For more information, contact Bagherzadeh at 734.487.4190.

Eastern Michigan University is a public, comprehensive university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their careers and lives, and to be better citizens.


Eastern Michigan University is a public, comprehensive university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their career and lives, and to be better citizens.

Editor's Note: Looking for an expert source for a story? Check out EMU's Eastern Experts online at www.emich.edu/univcomm/easternexperts.

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