Carnegie Mellon University

The Piper

CMU Community News

Piper Logo
July 22, 2020

Signed, Sealed and Soon Delivered

By Kelly Saavedra

It was unusually hot in Pittsburgh for early July, but many things were unusual about this year, including an enormous task that awaited some Carnegie Mellon University staff in Wiegand Gym.

Towering stacks of newly assembled flat boxes — approximately 3,100 — lined the gymnasium walls for nearly two weeks as volunteers from Events, Advancement, Enrollment Services and the Registrar’s Office donned masks and doused hand sanitizer to assemble, pack, label and ship diploma packages to the Class of 2020.
Image of girl assembling diploma box next to stacks of flat white boxes

To onlookers, the scene might have appeared less like sending graduates off into a brave, new world and more like an efficient pizza shop operation, but underneath it all was a Tartan spirit that could have rivaled any Commencement day.

With appropriate physical distancing between stations, about 35 staff served on the assembly line in two 4-hour shifts per day, July 6-14, completing the work three days ahead of schedule.

Among them was Matt McCamley, assistant director of development, who knows what this milestone means to the graduates since he speaks to CMU alumni every day.

“Our alumni always talk about the hard work and grit it took to obtain their CMU degrees. They didn’t come to CMU because they thought it would be easy; they came here to be challenged, to be different,” McCamley said. “As soon as I heard about the mission, I wanted to help. This project took on a lot of meaning for me in understanding that the contents of this package will resonate as one of the greatest accomplishments in each of these individuals' lives.”

Image of Matt McCamley carrying stack of flat white boxesEach box was carefully packed with the graduate’s diploma, a Record of Graduates booklet and, if applicable, a university honors medallion and college honors cords. Kate Walter, director of University Events, said at times it felt like the project might never end, but “our plans really did work out incredibly well, and things went very smoothly, not just in terms of the work itself but also the safety precautions for staff and volunteers.”

McCamley hopes the graduates will feel a sense of pride and loyalty when they open their packages.

“They were exemplary students who have accomplished something extraordinary,” McCamley said. “They are now part of an elite, global network of alumni who know what it takes to be a Tartan.”

Jon Samuels, assistant registrar for records who led much of the packing effort, noted he hadn’t been on campus since mid-March.

“It was nice to see people in person again, even though we still had to keep six feet apart,” Samuels said. “This has been a long process, but our team did a great job of making sure all the pieces were ready to fall into place long before diplomas even arrived.”

Truth be told, Samuels won’t rest until he sees signs from the other side.

“I’ll just be glad when the social media posts start coming in from the alumni saying their diplomas arrived safely,” he said.

Image of health and safety signage inside Wiegand Gym
With health and safety precautions in place, about 35 staff volunteers worked in shifts for nearly two weeks to ensure the Class of 2020 would get their diplomas.
Overhead image of Wiegand Gym showing assembly line
Stations were set in accordance with social distancing requirements so that staff volunteers could work safely and efficiently to get the job done.
Image of two tall stacks of flat white boxes
More than 3,100 boxes had to be assembled before the packing could even begin.
Image of Station 2 where Matt Stephens is assembling boxes on a table
It was unusually hot in Pittsburgh for early July, but many things were unusual about this year including the enormous task accomplished by CMU staff volunteers in Wiegand Gym.
Image of honors cords on hangars
Each box was carefully packed with the graduate’s diploma, a Record of Graduates booklet, and college honors cords where applicable.
Image of Matt Stephens assembling a box
Good planning and process design enabled the staff volunteers to be so efficient, the project was completed three days ahead of schedule.
Image of signage for health and safety inside Wiegand Gym
Signage placed in and around Wiegand Gym served as a reminder to physically distance, wash hands frequently, and wear facial coverings properly.
Image of Matt McCamley carrying a stack of diploma boxes
Matt McCamley, assistant director of development (pictured), was eager to help with the diploma packing project having heard firsthand from so many CMU alumni that their diploma represents one of the greatest accomplishments of their lives.