St. Bonaventure University

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SBU students show initiative in solving records-storage problem

May 01, 2024

Determining a way to manage inactive records wasn’t part of his job description, but Jacob Brockel, a junior Accounting major from Allegany, New York, tackled the problem anyway.

As a student worker in St. Bonaventure University’s Office of the Registrar, he learned fast during the first semester of his freshman year that moving graduated student folders from active to inactive filing was no easy feat.Pictured l to r_Brandon Nguyen_Jacob Brockel_and Conner Plato_web

“I really struggled. The drawers in inactive filing were just so full. I could barely fit my fingers into the drawers, let alone a folder,” he said. 

There also wasn’t room to add additional filing cabinets to the secure storage area. 

His suggested solution? Move some of the inactive records to a depository in the University Archives. 

“I worked with the registrar’s office to come up with a good date, and we settled on any records prior to 1967,” he said, adding that most transcript and degree verification requests typically don’t extend that far back.

For the next three semesters, he and his fellow student workers — Brandon Nguyen, a senior Computer Science major from Bronx, New York, and Conner Plato, a sophomore Sports Management major from Penfield, New York — reviewed nearly 81,000 documents and folders, sending almost 6,500 to the archives in a total of 60 boxes. 

Genny Brockel, SBU’s assistant registrar (Jacob’s mom), said the students enjoyed the challenge. “It almost became like a contest to see which of them could find the oldest file, with 1938 being the oldest file found,” she said. 

The task of tending to the records now shifts to University Archivist Dennis Frank.

“The most important archival records we have are in these files,” Frank said, noting that the records help document the history of the university as well as reflect its community.

For an institution as old as St. Bonaventure (founded in 1858), space limitations and a growing number of files present an ongoing challenge. 

“The records are saved as part of our permanent files,” Frank said. “The new material is integrated into the existing records to create a continuous alphabetical sequence to make them easily retrievable. Many of the files are still ‘active,’ as the students they represent are still alive and fall under FERPA regulations. Those are only accessible when the records office gives permission.” 

Frank explained that hundreds of manpower hours are spent managing and keeping the files in order.

“Older files are most often used by family historians or descendants of the people represented who are trying to learn more about their fathers, mothers and other family members,” Frank said. “I’ve had quite a few requests from people who never knew their parent and are trying to fill in the story of that person. Others are looking to fill in the stories of honored members of their family whose background they don’t know. And many are simply filling in a genealogical chart.”

When asked about the most memorable records request received, Frank didn’t hesitate, noting that it was one of his first, more than 20 years ago.

“It was from a gentleman in his 80s,” Frank said. “He wanted to become a substitute teacher and needed his transcript.”

The files were retrieved and the mission accomplished.

Today, through the help of the registrar’s student workers, more requests will be fulfilled just as easily.

“I was really impressed they were able to complete this project before the semester ended,” Genny Brockel said. “It seemed like a daunting task, but the students tackled it head on with enthusiasm.”  

By Susan Anderson