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Content Any Way U Want It!

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Custodians build relationships with students


On campus, there are members of the University staff who love communicating with students so much, they’re taking classes in it.

The 120 custodians who work on campus 24 hours a day, seven days a week, enjoy connecting with students while they’re working. There are unintentional and intentional interactions.

“The staff mentors the students, they have relationships with them,” said Andrea Depinet, director of campus services.

Day-to-day interactions with the campus community are one reason custodial staff members are taking classes in communication from Terra Community College, as they were not offered through the University.

“It’s to increase interaction, to increase perspective and provide tools they need to communicate effectively,” she said.

Donna Wilch, custodial working team leader, has been at the University almost 28 years and enjoys talking to students and connecting with their lives.

Wilch asks students who are crying or look distraught if they’re OK and tries to ask how people are doing as she encounters them on her day shift in Kohl and Founders.

“The staff doesn’t butt into what students are doing but they just can’t turn a blind eye,” Depinet said. “They grow up on our watch and we have a different opportunity to influence that.”

Karen Heinze, manager of academic custodians, has worked at the University for 29 years and likes her job because each day is different.

“With students, we really listen to them,” she said. “There’s a lot of stuff going on that we don’t know. A lot of things you wouldn’t imagine.”

There are also intentional interactions with faculty or staff members who work day-to-day in each building and can speak to concerns and praise of the custodians from people in the building.

“We really value that information,” Depinet said.

The classes are just one part of an overhaul in the system; Depinet is installing several changes in the way the custodial staff operates.

“Sometimes we would see a need,” she said. “We evaluated what we’re doing; we may compare it to other universities.”

The members of the custodial staff work together around the clock to make sure the University is clean and safe for the “customer,” or students, faculty, staff and visitors.

“If our job isn’t done, it shows,” said Heinze, who works from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., a shift where the staff is largely “unseen.”

She wants to “make it a welcoming environment to learn in,” she said.

“If I walked in a dirty classroom, I don’t think I’d want to stay,” Heinze said.

From the workers on first shift, to the ones who work from late in the night to early in the morning, they work together to keep a 1,338 acre campus with about 18,000 occupants clean, according to the University website.

Residence halls are cleaned during the day and academic buildings at night. The shifts are built to accommodate people on campus, Heinze said.

“Our goal is to keep it safe and sanitized … that way their mind is open and free for learning,” said Gloria Carty, a housekeeping manager and supervisor.

The work custodians do is one of the first things people see when they come to campus and one of the last things they see when they leave, Depinet said.

“The things people touch on a day in, day out basis are the things we want to positively affect,” she said. “We’re looking to efficiencies and providing the best value to our customers.”

But it’s also important that the students who live on campus for nine months each year are considered.

And they are.

“We want it to feel like home,” Carty said.

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