From Self-Op to BNC Operated: Pitt-Greensburg’s Campus Store Transformation
The University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg (Pitt-Greensburg) operated its own campus store for decades – until the increasing complexity of collegiate bookstore and retail operations led the institution to find a new approach. Pitt-Greensburg selected Barnes & Noble College as their partner to operate the campus store and implement the First Day® Complete equitable access program.
CHOOSING FIRST DAY® COMPLETE
First Day Complete is an innovative course material model that removes barriers from higher education by improving access, affordability and convenience. The ability to facilitate a more successful academic journey for students and faculty was a key factor in Pitt-Greensburg’s decision to partner with BNC.
“The program just made sense to us because the greatest importance was for the students, that it would be helping them to keep their costs down,” said Ronna Colland, the university’s Director of Finance and Risk Management.
IMPLEMENTING THE PROGRAM
Colland highlighted three key elements that contributed to a successful start to First Day Complete at Pitt-Greensburg.
1. Resources and Planning Support
“I’m a planner, and BNC had a great plan for us that brought in all our stakeholders and made sure that we would put processes in place on time. They were able to give us marketing information, both marketing the program itself and materials explaining to faculty what they needed to do to make it successful. Information for our entire community.
The plan went beyond just our students and our academic advising and business offices to include stakeholders such as our advisory board members. They wanted to hear about what we were doing to help the students be successful. We really tried to make sure that we were pulling as many people together as we could to let them know about the program.”
2. Adoption & Insights Portal (AIP)
“The adoption portal was like an aha moment for the committee as we were listening to the proposals. Just the ease of use seemed like a tremendous advantage.
We did a Zoom session where faculty could ask questions and see a demo of the Adoption & Insights Portal. We also made sure they knew they could contact the store manager with any questions. Just giving them the knowledge and communicating with them every step of the way seemed to be the greatest things we could do to make this successful.”
3. Program Communication and Branding
“One of our lessons learned is to communicate with all your stakeholders and make sure they understand how the program works. That includes everyone from prospective students and parents coming to take a look at our campus on preview day to the new students coming for orientation.
Also, at first, we just referred to the program as First Day Complete. Just this past year, we rebranded to the Bobcat Book Bundle. I think that was a good idea because the name gives the program a more meaningful feel – and it tells you what it is, a book bundle.
Making sure everyone had a better understanding of what the program is, how it works and where you can go if you have questions was key for us. It all comes to communication, in my opinion.”
DECIDING TO TRANSITION OPERATIONS
The move to equitable access is a key factor driving colleges and universities to partner with BNC. However, many institutions like Pitt-Greensburg also value BNC’s retail and operations expertise, transforming the campus store and creating better experiences for students and customers in a complex environment.
“We were challenged by resources. We had some profitability concerns. It was becoming more and more costly to operate a store on our own and, from a human resource standpoint, difficult to find qualified managers and people that know a lot about textbooks and sourcing the materials,” said Colland.
The selection process began in January 2020 and moved quickly to ensure the university had the support it needed during a time of rapid evolution. As one of the University of Pittsburgh’s five regional campuses, Pitt-Greensburg coordinated decision-making on its own campus as well as with university administrators at the Pittsburgh campus.
“We had a committee that heard the proposals, we made our selection, and within about a month and a half, the transition happened. I know that sounds really hard to believe, but it was a time that called for all hands on board to help,” said Colland.
“Barnes & Noble College was a tremendous partner for that, with the timing and just everything happening. The partnership has been a huge help to our campus – and especially to our students, who are now getting their course materials on time.”