Friday, June 7, 2013

Climbing to new heights

The first time I drove onto the UCSC campus was during a California vacation in spring of 2012.  I was struck by the beautiful surroundings. Is seemed to me that the campus layout and architecture was intended to compliment the gorgeous natural setting as opposed to compete with it.  At the time, I oversaw the physical plant operations of a southern university known for its beautiful campus and lush landscaping.  I knew that it takes a lot of work to look good naturally, so I understood that there must be a talented team of men and women supporting the grounds operations of UCSC.  During the day I spent with the UCSC Grounds team in May as part of the In My Shoes program, it became evident that my first instinct was correct and that we do in fact have a hard working team in that unit. Here are some of the key observations from my day with Grounds.

All of us are educators

Our Grounds team has modeled stewardship through their various restoration projects.  As we look across campus, several rogue walking paths are evident. As more pedestrians utilize these informal paths, the natural habitat is disrupted, native plant species are destroyed, and runoff causes issues on other paths and roadways. Focused restoration projects have aimed to reverse these ill effects.  Our team members have engaged with students who volunteer and intern for these initiatives and, in the process, gain invaluable knowledge.  In addition, the team has developed an informational bookmark that is handed out to incoming UCSC students and highlights the effects of walking on non-designated paths. The bookmark also contains a seed patch that can be planted. This is a wonderful educational opportunity, and it shows that we all are in the business of education.

This restoration project reversed the ill effects of pedestrians walking
on non-designated pathways.

Climbing to new heights while juggling at the same time

One of the last segments of my day with Grounds was a session with the tree crew. While I personally was able to climb about 3 feet (no that is not a typo), I watched my colleagues ascend upwards of 30 feet. On a usual day, this climb is done while maneuvering chainsaws and various pieces of equipment. This serves as an analogy that is applicable to our BAS operations. Sometimes we must juggle multiple things at once, while at the same time being expected to climb to new heights. But as was true when the tree crew gave me a hand/push as I attempted my climb....we must be there to help give our team mates a hand up.

Jessica, who happens to be a champion tree climber, ascends to great heights
each day while also balancing a wide array of equipment.

Adjusting when things do not go as planned

As I rode in the refuse truck, Mario emphasized the need to be flexible and adjust as we go along the route. Driving a refuse truck on a college campus entails several unexpected moments.  Whether it is a slow moving and unaware pedestrian with earbuds in or a truck parked in front of one of the dumpsters we are scheduled to pick up....adjustments are continually necessary.  Universities are living, organic organizations and our division must continually find ways to be flexible and adapt in the face of the unexpected.

Mario models the need to adapt as he goes about his route.

Like Lucy in the chocolate factory

Like many fans of the show "I Love Lucy", one of my favorite episodes involves Lucy and Ethel working in a chocolate factory. As the conveyor belt speeds up and the chocolate comes out at an unmanageable pace, the ladies panic and start eating the candy and shoving it in their clothes.  As I stood with my team mates at the recycling sort line and the conveyor belt started, I thought of that "I Love Lucy" episode.  Of course, eating the recycled goods or shoving them in our clothes was not an option....I am happy to say.  The key to success on the line was having a team around you to help and step in when you missed an item.  The BAS division manages a high workload, and teamwork is a critical component to manage the items coming at us...especially when the pace of their arrival seems to speed up!

The key to a successful sort line is team work.

Entrepreneurialism in action

It became clear during my time with the Grounds team that entrepreneurialism is a passion of many staffers. Identifying and developing technological tools and incorporating data analysis were constant themes. These efforts helped enhance stewardship and save time. The ability to develop a solution or tool when one does not exist adds great value to our team.

The Evolution system helps monitor the irrigation systems on campus
and it communicates to our team members when water levels are out of normal range.

My engagement with the Grounds team involved dozens of colleagues, so there is not space to name them all.  I am most grateful for the time they took to show me what a day in their shoes is like.

A slug I am,

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