Behind the Mail - Q&A with Jim Patten
Updated: Mar 30
HAMPSHIRE COLLEGE - Jim Patten is the post office assistant at Hampshire College and has worked at Hampshire for fourteen years. Read about his experience at Hampshire and what it’s like to work in the Mail Industry.
When did you come to Hampshire College?
For Hampshire, it was 2006. My first day was a snow day and the school was closed. I worked a year for Duplications as a contractor with IKON Office Solutions. I was copying, printing and scanning. I got to know the campus and the people. There was an opening in the post office after a year I was there. I knew Hampshire would be permanent and I knew I couldn’t get transferred to another location. I also had mailroom background experience with Phoenix Insurance Company for years and with IKON as well. I eventually said, “yes” and did an interview and got the job. This is my fourteenth year at Hampshire College.
How do you like working at Hampshire?
It feels good. I just love Hampshire and the atmosphere and the people here are great. I love serving people. I’ve always been a people-person helping people out. I love being in the post office. It’s not just indoors; you get to see the people and be outside, too. You see different offices and it’s more personal. I get to interact with the community, help them at the window or with their packages.
Helping people is the biggest thing because it’s all about customer service. But also connecting with people, not only within Hampshire, but outside Hampshire. We deal directly with the post office in town and we also work together with UMass. I get to know people outside Hampshire within the Mail Industry. We are part of the Association of College and University Mail Services. There are conferences for that. You get to meet people from other colleges and get to know them. You hear about what’s happening in the Industry of Mail, the changes and what’s going on as far as pricing and other mail information. The connectivity between the people is great. I love the industry. Mail connects everyone somehow.
Tell me about the behind the scenes!
We go twice a day to Amherst U.S. Post Office and collect the mail. We sort it all out and deliver it to offices on campus. There is a lot of behind the scenes stuff people don’t realize we do. I do all the ordering for supplies and keep up the stock. I also keep the van maintained, forward mail home to those no longer here, assist my manager with reports and mailbox changes. I train our student workers and help them with any questions they have. We provide not only to Hampshire, but our neighbors. Applewood residents stop in since we are so close by for them. We ship UPS and receive packages from them and FedEx, DHL and Staples. We get mail from within the Five Colleges, as well. There is a driver that delivers between all of them and we have bins here for those colleges, so mail can get there with that driver. We ehave a driving route in the morning for most offices and a walking route in the afternoon for mail being delivered closer to the library building. No matter the weather, we deliver.
How did you discover Hampshire?
My first experience with Hampshire, I was a drum major for my high school marching band. The George N. Parks Drum Major Academy was here at Hampshire that year. I was here for a week during the summer of 1990 and I stayed in the Hampshire dorms where I learned about how to be a leader. We marched the fields of Hampshire College and we learned how to conduct, all the commands and even to twirl the mace. I came back here full circle. I was working for IKON Office Solutions at BayState Medical Center in Springfield and they knew I wanted to be closer to Amherst. Originally, Duplications used to be all Hampshire employees. IKON had one worker here and one Hampshire employee who was retiring. I then took their spot in Duplications. When I got here, it was summer and my supervisor was glad to see me because there were piles of books to scan for course readers. It was time consuming and he was glad I helped out. It was a tough job, people are demanding and they wait for the last minute for stuff. You had to have stuff printed, bound and ready for UPS pick up at times. It was a time crunch and you had to manage your time, prioritize and figure out what you are going to do first. You have to figure out what to get done quickly and then jump on something else. You had a deadline to make.
I heard you knew someone famous who went to Hampshire?
Back when I used to take lunch outside on the wall in front of the library, when Lupita was here, I would sit outside the library and talk. She was so down-to-earth and up beat. I remember her. She would come get her mail, we would sit on the wall and talk sometimes. She had the coolest earrings. Even seeing her speak now, she was like that back then. She’s so knowledgeable and well spoken. She’s a remarkable person and down-to-earth.
I’ve met a lot of people throughout my time here. There are so many great people you meet while you are here. Then they go off in the world and do what they want to do. You wonder if they still think about you. I’ve had some great student workers in my time here and miss them, too.
Lynn Miller, professor of biology I would talk to. I consider him a celebrity because he was a founder of Hampshire and one of our first professors here. He would play music for the greenhouse plants. He was a science professor and very knowledgeable. I would walk by him, and I would ask, “how are you doing?” And he would reply, “I’m still alive.” I miss him. The people you see everyday and all of the sudden they are gone. When I did a staff speech in 2010 commencement, Lynn Miller was the Faculty speaker that year. That was an amazing experience.