December 04, 2003

Jansen named manager of University Bookstore

by Tom Woolf

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Robert P. Jansen is back where he got his start.

The Follett Higher Education Group has hired the two-degree graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale is the new manager of the University Bookstore in SIUC's Student Center.

A native of the Chicago area, Jansen earned his bachelor's degree in philosophy in 1981 and a master's of business administration in 1987. His professional background includes six years as manager/owner of a food service establishment, medical and financial sales and six years as a department manager/buyer for an area bookstore.

For the past five years, Jansen managed the bookstore at Southeastern Illinois College in Harrisburg. Within his first two years of overseeing the operation, sales increased 40 percent and yearly net educational revenues more than doubled.

"I was excited about the opportunity to come here," he said of his new position. "I had unprecedented success in my previous job, but I had reached the limit of what I could do at Southeastern."

T.J. Rutherford, Student Center director, said Jansen had "terrific credentials for this job."

And Jansen hasn't wasted any time looking for ways to improve the operation. "The challenges here were operational organization," Jansen said. "They needed a leader to provide a vision."

He started by organizing stockrooms, noting, "We need to know what we have to be able to respond to customer needs."

He also reorganized the textbook shelves, reducing the number of aisles from eight to six. That may seem like a minor point, but Jansen's goal was to make the textbook area "less of a maze and to create wider aisles for our customers."

The Follett Higher Education Group holds the contract for the bookstore, and Jansen expects it will take him a year to learn the parent company's technology as well as the needs of SIUC students.

"One thing I do know is we want to get the students in and out of the store during our busy rush periods," he said. "We need to find out what they need, and when they need it. We need to think through how we can move the customer through the store, how we can make the students' experience better."

Along with his customer-service focus, Jansen wants to develop a close working relationship with faculty members. That will benefit students as well.

"I want to work with faculty so book adoption decisions can take place closer to our deadline each semester," he said, noting industry statistics show that 83 percent of students want used textbooks. "The single biggest factor contributing to us helping students save money through used books is faculty turning in their book adoption forms in a timely fashion."

As Rutherford pointed out, that cooperation means "two students benefit, the student selling the book back for top dollar and the student buying the book at a lower cost."