Spring break provides opportunities on campus, too

Maintenance mechanic Cecil Bowen repaints a crosswalk along Memorial Drive. Photo: Mike Montero/University of Miami
By Ashley A. Williams

Maintenance mechanic Cecil Bowen repaints a crosswalk along Memorial Drive. Photo: Mike Montero/University of Miami

Spring break provides opportunities on campus, too

By Ashley A. Williams
With a majority of students and faculty away during spring break, Facilities Operations and Planning uses the time to work on numerous projects around campus.

A campus turned quiet may be the expected norm this week, as spring break is in full swing at the University of Miami. But behind the scenes, dozens of Facilities Operations and Planning staff members are hard at work.

“For us, it’s one of the busiest times,” said Norman Pasquier, manager of auxiliaries. “There’s a lot to do but we get it done.”

Most notably, the team is wrapping up a project aimed at ensuring the safety of all pedestrians, including students, faculty, staff, and visitors. It began nearly five months ago, when Pasquier worked with the campus planning group to assess crosswalks throughout the Coral Gables campus. The plan was to increase their visibility and certify that they are code compliant.

“It’s about the size of the markings, the color of them, the method of the way the thermal plastic paint is laid down, and the time it takes to dry and cure,” said Pasquier, who’s been in his role for close to three years. “Which is why we do it during this time because we have to block off some roads.”

The department operates around the clock, and its control center is the hub that is always available to receive calls, create work orders, dispatch work crews, and check contractors in and out.

Since joining UM in 2018, Vice President of Facilities Operations and Planning Jessica Brumley, who is responsible for the department’s seven divisions, has spearheaded the crosswalk safety enhancement project, which is in its final phase. She said spring break marks the perfect time to complete such projects.

“I think the goal of facilities is to be as inconspicuous as possible,” said Brumley, who oversees Real Estate, Campus Planning and Development, Facilities Design and Construction, Facilities Management, Parking and Transportation, the Office of Emergency Management, and Space Management and Analysis. “It’s important in relation to the student body because it impacts their experience on campus—when they’re out and about, or when they’re in their classrooms, or in the wellness center exercising, or going about their day-to-day lives.”

Alex MacNamara, associate vice president, said the No. 1 consideration is the safety of students, but convenience is a high priority, too.

“We need to plan and schedule our work accordingly to avoid any interruptions to their experience while they’re focused on their primary mission—graduating,” he said.  

Aside from the 60-member weekday staff, MacNamara also oversees third-party contractors. On weekends and evenings, a small staff performs preventive maintenance on student housing and other buildings. Facilities crews are an essential part of campus life. They are constantly prioritizing projects to minimize interruptions, and they urge people to use caution when navigating spaces that may be getting a facelift.   

While MacNamara extends his thanks to students, faculty, and staff “for always having patience and understanding” for ongoing projects, Brumley said she expects her team to become more visible as the new Student Housing Village and other projects come on line.

“As the University of Miami continues to grow its physical footprint, Facilities and Operations will grow its team members to support those operations appropriately,” Brumley said.