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Michigan State University

Essentially MSU

Spartan helmet on stadium pokes through tree buds

Essentially MSU

Over the past 18 months, campus was quieter than usual. No strings of students walking along the Red Cedar. No crowds of tailgaters filling campus with the smells of barbecue. Fewer graduation ceremonies and gatherings. 

Campus was not empty, however. MSU’s Infrastructure Planning and Facilities (IPF) custodians adjusted their routines to fit Centers for Disease Control and Prevention standards and MSU Health Care stayed open to serve the community. Pharmacists quickly adapted for curbside pickup. Sign makers worked with carpenters, electricians and metal workers to create campus signage to encourage social distancing. The facilities maintenance team installed hundreds of air purification devices in buildings and elevators to maintain clean air in preparation for a return to campus. 

MSU’s front-line workers kept campus running safely. 

“Campus doesn’t stop running just because we’re in the middle of a pandemic,” Lou Slater, service garage supervisor, said to IPF communications. He explained his teams were on campus “the whole time, doing demanding work, the kind of work that’s critical to MSU’s health as a university.” 

While many of MSU’s faculty and staff worked remotely, IPF had about 700 staff working in-person and on campus throughout the pandemic. On a campus that is 24.7 million square feet with nearly 600 structures, maintenance and landscaping work never stops. 

Those 700 staff members performed myriad tasks, from sustaining grounds and MSU’s arboretum to keeping the MSU Surplus Store & Recycling Center functional. Konar Nokken made sure to continue SSRC’s mission to manage waste as a resource. Throughout the pandemic, he drove around campus picking up recyclables from building loading docks and transported them to the material recovery facility. 

Nokken began working at the SSRC as a high school student in 2011, graduated high school in 2012 and continued on staff until 2016. After a few years away, he came back in 2019. “I have 10 years of history here,” he said. “It’s my second home, basically.” 

When the many students, faculty and staff who, like Nokken, view MSU as a second home, return to campus, they will find it remains the lively, beautiful place it always has been. Thanks to the essential workers who maintained MSU, campus will once again have students sitting along the Red Cedar, tailgaters cheering on Spartans and graduates celebrating and posing for photos as bells ring from Beaumont Tower. 

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On every corner of campus, Spartans have been hard at work throughout the pandemic. MSU Health Care organized COVID vaccination clinics at Breslin and throughout the community. And at nearly 700 workers strong, the IPF team made sure all 24.7 million square feet of campus stayed serviceable. To the countless people who have made the commitment to keep the MSU community safe and healthy, we thank you.

Author: Liam Boylan-Pett

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