August 16, 2016

move-in preparations

Photo by Don Rogers

Finishing up a west campus beautification project along University Avenue are landscape services workers Brandon Workman (from left), group leader Duncan Anderson and Bruce Ruble. They planted flowering shrubs, trees and colorful perennials this summer.

Summer on a college campus is different.

It seems at once bigger (there are a lot fewer students and faculty) and smaller (it’s more personal). Everything’s more relaxed.

But for many Ball State employees, summer is a fast-paced period of planning new menus, updating landscaping, deep-cleaning residence halls and evaluating safety goals — all before the big mid-August influx of students. Here’s a brief look at the summer activity that will keep the campus humming during the school year.

Dining focuses on healthy items

Five Fast Facts

Graphic by Beth Brooks

Enlarge image.

Feeding thousands of hungry college students for a school year takes months of preparation and much thought.

But the hard work to keep the dining experience fresh makes the effort worthwhile.

“Every year is completely different,” said Allen White, a 19-year employee at Noyer Centre, who is one of the campus’ first two chefs. “We change, whether it’s a food concept, menu or service we provide for the students.”

Soon after May commencement, the chefs, managers and supervisors in each location gather to create the menus and decide on any price changes for the upcoming academic year.

This year, they increased the number of healthy options, said Suzanne Clem, marketing coordinator. And Ball State Dining responded to students’ comments about those choices being pricey by dropping the cost of fresh fruits and holding the line on other items.

For the first time, Noyer will let students create a food bowl of healthy ingredients such as noodles, fire-roasted grains and lentils. Also, McKinley Grille in the Atrium will offer grilled salmon paired with long grain rice and broccoli.

Energy drinks, waters beat soda

Nutrition-related signs will make healthier foods easy to find, but the demand for some fried foods, such as chicken tenders, is expected to stay high.


Photo by Domenic Centofanti

Fresh fruit is a campus favorite, and dining’s assortment includes common fruits — such as limes (from left), Red D’Anjou pears and mangoes (with a rogue grapefruit lurking) — plus lesser-known types such as blood oranges and dragon, passion, star and ugli fruits.

That item is one of the most popular ones on campus. Other Ball State favorites are energy drinks and flavored waters. That matches a national trend, as does fewer students choosing sodas.

A large project this summer has been the renovation of Elliott Dining. The contemporary updates include soft seating and fireplaces to make it more attractive.

Every summer brings many new employees. To accelerate the hiring of some of the roughly 600 total students, dining for the first time had a student ambassador who recruited incoming freshmen during Orientation. Those hired early can get trained and are ready to work earlier than before.

To serve those arriving on campus early, many locations will be open a few days earlier than in previous years.

Facilities keeps campus beautiful

For Ball State’s landscaping crew, it’s called the 90-Day Sprint.

“As soon as Spring Commencement’s over, that Monday, we kind of take a collective sigh of relief and then start running as fast as we can to get projects done,” said Mike Planton, associate director for landscape and environmental management.

His summer project board includes short- and long-term tasks. He said each of the four campus zones usually gets one major project, lasting weeks to months, and multiple small projects for “the season,” when work’s easier to accomplish because campus is less crowded. The goal is to finish before students return.

“As soon as Spring Commencement’s over, that Monday, we kind of take a collective sigh of relief and then start running as fast as we can to get projects done.”

— Mike Planton
associate director for landscape and environmental management

This summer’s projects have included:

  • Bethel Avenue commuter parking lots near Worthen Arena: Renovating the mounds that provide screening by removing trees and shrubs that don’t provide needed covering and appearance.
  • Lucina Hall north entrance plaza: Replacing pavers and plantings.
  • Miller College of Business: Renovating landscaping, replacing pavers.
  • Near Scheumann Stadium: Building a retaining wall and new landscaping at the southwest entrance.
  • Studebaker West: Renovating all southside landscaping (some brick work still to do).
  • University Avenue, along the west campus recreation fields and Burris soccer: Planting colorful perennials, flowering shrubs and trees to increase the appeal of the southwest campus entrance.
  • Ron and Joan Venderly Football Center: Landscaping for the addition to the training facility.

That’s all in addition to regular maintenance, which includes mowing 125 acres, planting and watering 1 acre of annual flowerbeds, pulling weeds and mulching landscape beds.

A love of the outdoors

The work’s a good match for those who feel confined when they’re inside.

“A lot of the employees that work in landscape services have been here a long time,” said 18-year veteran Carlos Garcia, a landscape services supervisor. “They enjoy what they’re doing or they would’ve moved on to something else. If you like the outdoors and this type of work, this is good place.”

Given all the work, what’s most satisfying?

“Being part of actually, hands-on, beautifying the campus gives the most satisfaction to most of the people who work here,” Garcia said. “If you plant a tree, years down the road, you get to see the trees mature, and you can say, ‘Hey, I planted that.’”

Polished and primed: Housing welcomes students home

When students arrive in August to immaculate rooms, hallways and lobbies, it’s a fresh start. But for the dedicated housing crew, it’s the last leg of a marathon.

It starts with the leadership team setting priorities for the upcoming year, said Matt Kovach, assistant director of Housing and Residence Life.

Photo by Domenic Centofanti

Lisa Hitchens gets the lobby shipshape in Johnson East, which reopened last fall, for the roughly 600 students who will live in Botsford/Swinford.

“By February and March, we are making a list of projects that we’re looking at for once the students leave. Sometimes they are very time-restrictive. There’s a sequence of things that you have to time out just so to make sure you have everything done by the time students start arriving back on campus.”

Even if there aren’t any big projects, such as a renovation, there’s a long checklist to get halls ready each year. Here’s a sampling of the tasks:

  • checking bike lockers, card access and security
  • cleaning air filters
  • deep-cleaning every room
  • ensuring showers and sinks work properly
  • inspecting elevators
  • scrubbing hallway carpets
  • vacuuming lobbies
  • washing windows
  • waxing floors

Higher demand for housing this fall

This year, every complex and hall will be a full house.

“One of the big things that we’re preparing for, that everyone is excited for, is the size of the freshman class. It’s significantly larger than we’ve had in previous years,” said Kovach. “It’s a great problem to have.”

“One of the big things that we’re preparing for, that everyone is excited for, is the size of the freshman class. It’s significantly larger than we’ve had in previous years. It’s a great problem to have.”

— Matt Kovach
assistant director of Housing and Residence Life

But, every student isn’t coming at once. Around 1,500 moved in early this year. Athletes, student dining employees, marching band members and those in bridge programs such as Accelerate and Early Start all will be settled in before Aug. 17.

In addition, resident assistants arrive about 10 days early to receive training from hall directors and assistant directors. Kovach said the directors spent July covering everything from business and crisis procedures to hiring, so they’re ready to manage the residence halls and each assistant director.

The trickle of returning students brings life back into the buildings.

“We look forward to the students coming back. The excitement builds, and it boosts morale,” said Tammy Rhoades, supervisor of custodial services of LaFollette Complex and Johnson East.

Rhoades has worked in housing for 16 years and at the university for 29. What keeps her going?

“I like working with people, and I like working with the students. I just want to make them happy when they come here, and their parents can leave them here feeling confident.”

Informal interactions for safety


Photo by Domenic Centofanti

Positive, personal interactions with students are key to community policing. University Police Officer Travis Stephens follows that priority by joining a summer Orientation tour and offering safety tips to incoming students and parents.

When campus clears out after spring commencement, the leaders of the University Police Department gather for a review session.

“I meet with my supervisors and my command staff to discuss how they think the academic year went and evaluate if we met the goals that we established,” said Chief James Duckham, who also is director of public safety.

Two ongoing priorities are training and community policing.

Drills and instruction occur all year long, said Lt. David Bell, who oversees training. That includes learning about:

  • autism
  • communications skills
  • CPR
  • cultural diversity
  • domestic violence
  • disabilities

This summer, Duckham said, training included active-shooter situations and caring for the injured “to be ready for, hopefully, the event that never happens.”

Police are part of campus community

For Duckham, community policing is all about engagement — interacting with students and the campus community in nontraditional ways.

That played out this summer during Orientation, when officers were encouraged to park their cruisers, walk around and talk to groups and parents. “What we found was the Orientation leaders would be grabbing our guys and saying, ‘Hey, don’t leave. This group wants to talk to you,’” Duckham said.

University Police services

Emergencies may be reported by:

  • cell phone (765-285-1111)
  • on-campus phone (5-1111)
  • blue-light campus emergency phones (911).

University Police offers other free services:

  • Emergency text alerts lets students, faculty and staff sign up for campus public safety notices to their phone.
  • Charlie’s Charter (co-sponsored with Student Government Association) gives students a ride at night, after shuttle buses stop running, between areas Ball State owns or operates.
  • Motorist Assist Program helps faculty, staff, students and visitors with bicycle and vehicle issues on campus.
  • Residence Security Survey helps improve safety and security of students’ off-campus housing.
  • Self-defense classes.
  • Silent Witness lets anyone anonymously report information about campus criminal activity.

The department also urges everyone to check out the Campus Safety Handbook.

During the school year, there’s Lunch with a Cop, in which up to three students can get to know an officer while eating for free in a residence hall, plus a burglary-prevention program that involves officers personally talking with hundreds of students in targeted neighborhoods near campus. And some students end up in classes with officers working on a degree.

Campus police also can refer students to the university’s disciplinary process instead of making an arrest or writing a ticket. That was an option Duckham didn’t have as a municipal officer working in New York.

It all plays into getting to know your community and vice versa, he said. “I boil it down to: It’s harder to say no to someone you like.”

He hopes students will say yes to one request: “Invite us to the fun stuff.”

While officers do traditional patrol and investigation work, he wants even more informal interactions that help students see police as people.

“If you’re having an event, invite us. We’ve gone to pumpkin painting and Latin dancing and meetings for different organizations and have been on panels. If you’re having something such as Waffle Wednesday or flag football, invite us.”

By Jonathan Neal, university magazine assistant editor
and Judy Wolf, editorial manager