California State University, Long Beach
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According to Nejat, Mail Services “Like a Big Extended Family”

Published: August 17, 2009

For the past 23 years, Mitra Nejat has been in charge of CSULB’s active mail room, taking great pride in overseeing what she considers to be one of the largest “extended families” on campus.

“The upside of this job is to be able to work with a lot of campus people, especially the students,” said Nejat, the Mail Services coordinator. “I would say 60-70 percent of our workforce is made up of students. And, as nice as it is to work with them, in the end it’s equally as sad to see them go. We have 20-30 students every year and some stay and work with us for four years, so we all become really close. One of the reasons I would consider us successful is that students stay with us. In my 23 years we’ve had as many as 300 students come through here and it becomes like a big extended family.”

When students are hired, it generally takes a month or two for them to learn the campus layout, the various and numerous mail runs, to get a license to drive the cart, to get to know the tasks that they have to perform on a daily basis and become familiar with faculty and staff.

“They come in and they like working with the other students and in this environment,” added Nejat. “We have flexible schedules for students, but they have to give us a minimum block of two hours or four hours if they are going to do the runs. We’re demanding, but we’re positive.”

Nejat understands that mailrooms in general have stereotyped reputations of being late with the mail deliveries or being on the messy side, but she insists that is not the case at CSULB.

“I know everyone complains about mail, and we do our best and I think we do a good job,” she said. “We keep it pretty organized. We have one or two days a month when it might be messier than others, but usually it’s always clean. From 9-11 a.m. it’s the busiest time because we have to sort the mail, band it up and then deliver it. Then they come back and clean up so we’re always busy.”

In addition to Nejat, the mailroom currently has three full-time employees—Set Pena, assistant mail services supervisor, and mail clerks Mike Waddell and Mir Kamal Shafeh.

Like most departments, a big change in mail room operations over the years has been the increased mail volume, and updated technology.

“We’ve been on top of technology ever since I have come here,” said Nejat. “It’s been a constant change, but it’s really helped.”

But, the single biggest change according to Nejat, has been the move of Mail Services under the umbrella of Procurement Services and its director Charlie Hughes, who retired on Aug. 17.

“Ever since we’ve worked under Procurement Services, things have gotten better,” she said. “I have meetings with Charlie Hughes and it’s been much, much easier to get things we need, even small things like water. We have better equipment and we get the equipment we need when we need it. Management support and management itself has been great. And, I think my people feel it too; they’re happier and they do their job better.”

Mail Services
Photo by David J. Nelson
Running Mail Services on campus are (l-r) Mike Waddell, Set Pena, Mitra Nejat and Mir Kamal Shafeh.

“Mail services does a great job, considering the size of the campus and the shortage of staffing,” said Hughes. “While most offices would be ecstatic about a success rate of 99.9 percent accuracy, the mailroom has to exceed that every day and it does.”

Remember when Mail Services was located on the ground floor of Brotman Hall? So does Nejat, noting that the move to their current location as part of the receiving warehouse on the east side of campus about six years ago is another thing that has made a huge improvement.

“Ever since we moved over here we hardly ever have a backlog and we are always on time,” she said. “Being in Brotman Hall was somewhat stressful because everybody is right there and there were a lot of distractions and a lot of inquiries at the door because it was easy access. Now, it’s not that way. We don’t get everybody walking by all the time looking for something or wanting something like stamps, which we don’t have.”

Another thing that helped is going from two to one mail runs a day, which became permanent about two years ago.

“There was a time when we did two deliveries a day, but now we do one a day,” she said. “In a way we still do a second run, but now it’s based solely on need and volume. If we get packages in the afternoon after our morning runs then we call people and notify them that we have the package and they have the choice to pick it up or have us deliver it the next day.”

So, what can you do to help Mail Services be even more efficient?

“The main thing faculty and staff need to know is that to help us sort mail more efficiently, we need the department name and the four-digit mailstop number. Those two things alone make a big difference,” she said. “If anyone has any questions, they can call or e-mail us and we will get back to them. If we don’t know what the problem is, we can’t do anything about it. It’s that simple.”

The U.S. Postal Service approved new prices for mailing services, including a two-cent increase in the price of a first-class mail stamp to 44 cents. Prices for mailing services are reviewed annually and adjusted each May.