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Aug. 26, 2019

RHS workers ready MSU for 16,000 students

While many on-campus faculty and staff may experience a lull during the summer months when most students are away, employees with Residential and Hospitality Services are busy serving sports and kids camps, overseeing events and housing summer school students — while also preparing to welcome the 16,000 students who will be living in university housing once fall semester begins.

MSU is home to 27 residence halls in five neighborhoods and three apartment communities, making it among the largest single-campus housing systems in the country. All of which is maintained by nearly 1,400 full- and part-time RHS employees who belong to one of five departments.

Residence Education and Housing Services, or REHS, focuses on a variety of areas that impact students’ overall on-campus living experience.

In East Neighborhood, Jennifer Kay, REHS community director for Hubbard Hall, is moving in 1,200 students, including 24 resident assistants, this week.

To ensure RAs are prepared to take on the responsibility of supporting their residents all year long, they must complete a two-week, after-hours training program, focused on safety, conflict mediation, diversity and inclusion and community building facilitated by Kay and her team.

“It’s our job to support students in crisis,” Kay said. “Whether it's mediating a conflict, solving a facilities issue or managing a safety or health concern, we work with many different campus groups to ensure residents know where to find support.”

Kay also is working to get the new living-learning community program for students living in Akers and Hubbard halls, Spartan Compass, ready for fall. The program is an environment for first-year students that encourages inclusive community building and helps foster a successful transition into the Spartan community.

“For students who live on campus, their hall or dorm room is where they spend most of their time when they’re not in the classroom. I see that as a great opportunity to make an impact and touch a lot of lives,” she said. “For me helping students learn and grow is the best part.”

In Brody Neighborhood, Mike Gardner, REHS facilities manager, oversees all cleaning and maintenance in Brody's main building while also supporting tasks across the whole neighborhood.

“We don’t want students to have to think about room repairs or other issues while they’re here,” Gardner said. “It’s our job to support them by maintaining the spaces where they live and work.”

Behind the scenes, Gardner’s team also handles room set-up and tear-down for various events and conferences, including the installation of 400 air conditioners for summer and their removal before the beginning of fall semester.

“Brody is a unique neighborhood,” Gardner said. “Our facility hosts events year-round, so we run a 24/7 operation to ensure our spaces stay clean, safe and are properly set up to accommodate our guests.”

Bailey Hall, one of Brody’s six residence halls, houses students who remain on campus for summer sessions. This requires a huge effort from Brody’s facilities and maintenance staff, who coordinate move-in at the beginning of the semester and a move-out at the end, plus the switch-over of 224 residence rooms in a 24-hour window.

“We want our summer residents to have a smooth transition from one hall to the next,” he added. “All the rooms must be cleaned, repairs made and furniture set up for incoming students in a tight turnaround, but we make it work.”

As facilities manager, Gardner is responsible for making the right connections on campus for different projects, which often includes Infrastructure Planning and Facilities, Culinary Services and the city of East Lansing on occasion.

Heavy spring rainfall set back Michigan Avenue road construction in front of Brody’s Rather and Butterfield halls, temporarily closing a parking lot entrance.

“The city is a really great partner for us,” Gardner said. “They understand how much we need that entrance and have agreed to open it up for fall move-in to accommodate heavy traffic flow.”

The MSU Alumni Office has partnered with REHS for the past eight years to coordinate Spartan Move-In. Hundreds of MSU alumni, staff and faculty volunteers worked alongside REHS employees across campus to move in new students on Aug. 24 and 25.

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