Friday, January 23, 2015

Keeping things moving

The first time I drove onto the UCSC campus (before I ever considered becoming a slug) I encountered an interesting sight. There were teams of students at various intersections directing traffic. At the time I thought it was such a neat idea to engage students in that way. It seemed like a win-win, with traffic flowing easier and students being able to play a critical role. I had no idea at the time, that nearly three years later I would be wearing a yellow vest and reflective gloves as I worked traffic control at the same spot. Below are some of the lessons learned from the "In My Shoes" day I spent with the Transportation and Parking Services (TAPS) department.

Welcome to UCSC!: When you drive, bike or walk into the main campus entrance, you pass by a small red kiosk. This is where our TAPS team members are stationed to greet those who are picking up guest passes, sell passes for the day and provide a variety of other services. This kiosk also serves as a place where those who are coming to our campus for the first time approach to seek guidance. Even when the topic is not TAPS related, our team members in this kiosk serve as critical ambassadors. They might be the very first UCSC community member a guest engages with, they might be the first UCSC community member a prospective student speaks to, or they might be the first UCSC community member an alum who is returning to campus for the first time in 50 years encounters. Even when we are approached by individuals who are seeking services or have questions that are outside of our purview, it is vital that we greet them with a smile and direct them to where they need to go. Many people ask me why I always wear my UCSC name tag. The answer is simple. I want to ensure I am viewed as a resource for ambassador of UCSC. I have had students, visitors and alumni stop me on campus to ask a question or seek directions because they see my name tag. EVERY SINGLE MEMBER of the BAS team is an ambassador of UCSC.

The student workers who serve in the kiosk serve
as critical ambassadors

Understanding that others have a different perspective: Part of my day with TAPS involved riding along with the Disability Van Service. This van serves students, faculty, staff and visitors who have permanent or temporary mobility impairments. Driving in the van gives you a new perspective on what life is like for those who require van services. We often take for granted our ability to get where we need to go with ease. That is not true for many in our community. We all need to find ways to understand the perspectives of others. Building mutual empathy across our community can be one of our most powerful tools for supporting the campus mission and advancing the Principles of Community.

The Disability Services Van is a welcomed site for those
who need some extra support getting around campus

Partnering to meet student needs: As student needs and technologies advance, we must find new ways to partner with colleagues across the campus. One of the great initiatives taking place in TAPS is a program being developed that enables students to track buses and anticipate arrival times. TAPS team members are working with colleagues in the Baskin School of Engineering to develop the program. It is a great example of using the subject matter expertise of our own community members to solve problems and enhance our ability to meet student needs. Every BAS unit should be actively seeking out partners to help us achieve our division mission.

Tracking the arrival times of the next available bus will
assist in supporting student needs

Advancing our campus values: One of the things that drew me to UCSC was the articulated campus value system. Stewardship of the environment was one such value that aligned with my personal ethos. TAPS works to support several operational initiatives that advance environmental stewardship and personal well-being. The campus recently received a wonderful accolade when it was named a silver-level bicycle-friendly university by the League of American Bicyclists. BAS works daily to advance several campus values, and we should derive great pride from making a difference in our community.

Being a bike-friendly campus advances environmental
stewardship and personal well-being

Directing the work: Several years ago, a student-led traffic direction program was launched. Students direct traffic at critical intersections during class changes. This has resulted in a tangible decline in the drive time across campus and has increased pedestrian safety. I had the opportunity to work with this team during my day with TAPS. Directing traffic is quite an orchestrated event. There are team members stationed at each crosswalk and a lead team member stationed in the center of the intersection. The lead team member is equipped with a whistle and that person controls the activities of all others directing traffic. The center lead must juggle several things simultaneously and monitor how many cars are waiting, if there are buses in the flow that need to drop-off/pick-up, and a variety of other factors. It is a great metaphor for our BAS work. There are requests, needs, problems and issues coming at us every day. Some we can control and many we can't. We are constantly monitoring and evaluating what the priority is at any one point in time. We must equip all BAS team members with the tools needed to make such decisions and the culture needed to support them in making those tough calls. In the end, it leads to a safer and more effective work flow.

Students directing traffic keep our campus safer and
things flowing smoothly

I really enjoyed my day with TAPS. I am grateful for the many ways they support the UCSC mission and ensure that we keep things moving on campus.

A slug I am,

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