Facilities picks up the pace for homecoming

A high-pitched alarm blasts in the morning. After a night of studying, I trek from Bryan Hall across George Fox Drive and enter the Facilities and Operations building.

It is 9:00 a.m., early for me. My boss, Conferences and Events Coordinator John Garrison, would consider that sleeping in.

He has been up and working since 5:00 a.m. The same goes for other Facilities staff members, namely those in Environmental Services who tend to housekeeping.

What happens behind the scenes at Guilford College is often overlooked. Yet, a lot of manpower goes into planning, coordinating and pulling off events like Homecoming weekend.

“Oct. 29, 2015, is when we started moving things over for the new Homecoming date,” said Garrison. “As soon as Homecoming is over, they’ll start planning for the next year.”

When the date of the Homecoming football game was settled, Senior Director of Alumni Relations Karrie Manson ‘82 and Associate Director Miriam Biber ’02 begin figuring out weekend reunion and family activities. The Office of Student Leadership and Engagement and the Campus Activities Board also pitch in.

“As far as Conferences and Events involvement (as an organization), I do meet with those folks to discuss things,” said Garrison. “We’re more on the end of the setup and logistics part.”

Accommodating needs for Homecoming and other events includes reserving spaces on campus, setting up audio equipment and renting tents, tables and chairs. According to Facilities and Operations Office Manager Jill Piekiel, one request can spawn a 50 email back-and-forth to hammer out details.

“I’m just kind of the go-between,” said Piekiel. “I make sure all the dots are connected.”

It is hard work mapping out events so they do not overlap.

“For not just Homecoming but other major events, we try to make sure that the folks putting it on aren’t competing with themselves and, to a lesser extent, other people aren’t competing with them,” said Conferences and Events Set-up and Media Services Support Technician James Lyons.

“So, if there’s some big, cool, interesting event going on, we try not to have some other big, cool, interesting event happening on the other end of campus. If there are (events) that could help each other out, it’s kind of nice to have them near each other.”

To ensure everything goes off without a hitch, other departments at Facilities are kept in the know.

“John does a good job of keeping the whole team involved,” said Assistant Director of Facilities and Operations Brian Wenger.

With a few weeks to go before Homecoming, Landscape and Grounds Supervisor Eric Brown and fellow landscapers began mowing, hedging and beautifying the campus. Director of Environmental Services Gerald Little and the housekeeping crew make sure restrooms and public spaces are clean and stocked with necessities like toilet paper.

Even on-call maintenance personnel, led by Maintenance Manager Randy Rasmussen, might see some action.

“I’ll give you an example,” said Wenger. “Knock on wood, I hope this doesn’t happen. If the play clock at the football field were to break before the start of the football game, we’d have somebody here that can fix that. If we had an electrical issue or a plumbing issue on campus, we have somebody here so we don’t have to wait for calling them in to come in and take care of the problem.”

The individual departments and workers are not infallible. Between breakdowns in communication, lapses in attention and lack of information, errors sometimes happen.

“Do we make mistakes?” said Piekiel. “Sure. Do we clean it up and make sure it doesn’t happen again? Absolutely.”

At the end of the day, Homecoming is just a fraction of what Facilities workers do throughout the year.

As Lyons pointed out, First-Year Orientation and Greensboro Symphony Orchestra shows the headline for the fall schedule. Then there are spring events like Serendipity and Commencement, the largest events Guilford hosts.

Each event comes with its own planning, coordination and execution. Facilities workers must also keep up with their regular workflow.

As a student worker in Conferences and Events, I have found camaraderie and professionalism help the staff manage things, both big and small.

“We’re all one huge team that make it all happen,” said Piekiel.

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