ASU Goes Green With Digital Graduation Program

By · Monday, July 8th, 2013


College graduation is a big deal! Young adults have completed four years, or more, of school and are ready (or not) to enter the working world. They have learned at the feet of great professors, learned how to live on their own and learned what they want to be when they grow up. Sharing such a big accomplishment is a traditional part of completing those college years, with parties and parents coming in to celebrate and getting a bit of closure for the investment they have made. There are caps and gowns to order, cards to send out, ceremonies to attend and dinners to enjoy.  But the greatest moment for a graduate is walking across the stage to receive a diploma. For family and friends watching that moment is also a milestone moment.

Universities do a lot of work to create that moment. They have entire administrative staffs to organize, arrange and prepare the graduation ceremonies – from Senior Nights, to Convocations and Commencements. Communicating the many important events to students and their families is complicated and often costly and the use of paper and its impact on the environment is astounding.  Arizona State University has reduced that impact for the second year in a row by using digital Flash Pacs with USB drives that contain program information that would have been printed in the past.

Melissa Werner

Melissa Werner is Director of University Ceremonies at Arizona State University.  She is responsible for producing four commencement ceremonies and scheduling more than 20 convocation ceremonies each semester for the 17,000+ students who graduate from ASU each year.

Arizona State University is has made a commitment to sustainability and was named one of the nation’s “Greenest Universities” by The Princeton Review in 2012.  Melissa Werner explains, “It was time for the celebration of graduation to become an activity committed to sustainability as well.  We turned to US Digital Media to assist with our pilot program to put commencement programs on USB drives for the first time in December of 2012.” As the manufacturer and supplier of custom USB drives, PremiumUSB was proud to be selected to create and furnish ASU with a digital program on a custom USB drive and exclusive packaging.

ASU Grad Pac

Having commencement programs digitally available makes them a keepsake forever. I am grateful that I have been able to search through and find my dad’s old graduation program, but it has yellowed and started to deteriorate with age. My grandpas is really showing signs of aging. If I had it digitally, I could print one out and see it like he did when he graduated in 1950.

The ASU Grad Pac is fully branded with the iconic ASU logo. Brandishing the Maroon and Gold, the reusable USB and case are a great remembrance of times well spent at Arizona State. The custom flash drive features the ASU pitchfork and logo.


ASU Grad Pac Insert

The team at ASU University Ceremonies was clever to make sure that the most important information available to students would be available on the ASU thumb drives. To make sure they knew what they were getting, they included a quick table on contents on the inside cover. This way, students knew at a glance what they could find once they plugged in their drives.

“Each graduate received a drive after crossing the stage. This way we were able to ensure that each student went home with a full commencement program. We distributed approximately 6,000 in December of 2012 and 12,000 in May of 2013. We received a good deal of positive feedback from graduates and faculty on this new format,” Werner says.


ASU Grad Pac Digital Contents

1. Full Graduation Program

The ASU graduation program for May 2013 is 268 pages! That is a hefty program that would have cost a great deal. Further it would have meant the elimination of hundreds of trees. Along with ASU, PremiumUSB is proud to proclaim that, combined with an abridged printed program, the ASU Digital Program and Grad Pac yielded a 9.5 million page reduction in the amount of printed materials distributed.

2. Welcome from the ASU Alumni Association & Sponsored Advertisements

As a way of keeping in touch with their NEWEST alumni, the school worked with their Alumni Association to put in a special offer that would reduce the cost of lifelong alumni membership. Better yet, they offered a Target Gift Card for joining through the special offer on the ASU USB drive!

By engaging other departments within the university, the Office of Commencement was able to offset the cost of the Grad Pac and provide a unique value to its newest grads! Werner explains, “We do not print advertisements in the program. This is an archival piece that will be kept for the long term, but the external drive offers space for advertisers to include ads, short videos, or other marketing pieces.  This spring many of the colleges took the opportunity to brand drives with the college logo as well as including information specific to the college including photos, a letter of congratulations from the dean of the college or other items that make the piece of particular importance for graduates from that college. This level of personalization cannot be done in a print piece. It would be cost-prohibitive but it’s a simple process on the external drive.”

Sustainable Graduation Ceremonies

ASU-SustainabilityThere are a lot of ways to go green for graduation. There are sites that sell gowns made from recycled plastic soda bottles and others that specialize in printing with special inks that biodegrade.

The Flash Pac Mini is a great way to cut down on paper! With a huge reduction in paper waste, ASU found a way to go green and provide a valuable memento for ASU grads. Susan Durkee, President of the North American Association of Commencement Officers (NAACO) and the office technology analyst in enrollment services at Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec states, “The majority of commencement paper products ultimately are discarded, so many institutions […] are downsizing the quantity of paper used.”

This trend is only growing, as public and private institutions are putting a greater emphasis on climate change as well as sustainability. Durkee explains:

The greening of graduation still is a relatively new trend, but a growing number of institutions of higher learning are making a greater effort to integrate environmentally-intelligent practices and products into their graduation events. As colleges and universities depend on their campus environments to be a major factor in attracting prospective students, it makes sense to nurture these valuable environmental assets, as well as promote the sustainability of the world around them.

US Digital Media is pleased to continue their relationship with ASU and develop innovative ways to reduce, reuse and recycle. Werner states, “While we started this as a pilot project, the response has been very positive. The plan is to continue this program. I have also spoken to colleagues from other US and Canadian schools about the digital program. This soon may be the way that students receive a full commencement program.”

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