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Employees on site keep university open during break

Nancy Smith, an administrative staff assistant in the Gatton Student Center, has worked at UK for 15 years. In March, when COVID-19 forced many of the university’s students, staff and faculty to work and study remotely, Nancy remained on campus. 

While students and other employees adjusted to studying and working remotely, work continued at UK keeping the buildings and grounds maintained, greeting visitors and potential students, and preparing for the challenges of the fall semester.  

Because the Student Center was one of the buildings open on campus, Nancy received calls pertaining not only to the Student Center, but also the whole university. She spoke with parents and students and answered questions. Not surprisingly, she said, the campus was very quiet, but her co-workers kept the mood upbeat. 

“My co-workers are family,” Nancy said. “I felt extremely blessed to continue to come to work at the Student Center and have the camaraderie I have with them. We were here for the students, the university and each other through these trying times. I love UK!” 

UK’s buildings and grounds continued to stay in shape - and clean - thanks to the dedicated teams in Facilities Management. Mary Vosevich, Vice President and Chief Facilities Officer, said she was not surprised at the work they put into maintaining the campus.  

“They do it every day, whether there is a virus or not,” she said. “I always say that our No. 1 job is to graduate students, and I believe they all feel that way.” 

While the over 750 Facilities Management employees are always busy, this summer was especially challenging. Their part in creating a plan for the fall included placing more than 35,000 signs inside and outside, moving thousands of chairs and pieces of furniture to create new classroom spaces, and placing cleaning kits in offices throughout campus. They even created a protocol for contractors who work on campus to ensure they are following health and safety procedures.  

Mary, who has worked at UK for six years and in academia for more than 35 years, said she’s never experienced anything like this. She helped to keep morale up with a daily newsletter reminding Facilities Management employees how essential they are to the mission of the university. They also held ice cream days and received new T-shirts with reminders to “mask up.” 

Facilities Management continues to adapt as more is discovered about COVID-19, even adjusting the HVAC systems. And Mary is proud of the work that all the teams have done. 

“I always say, they love working at UK, they are loyal to the university and they are passionate about what they do,” she said. 

Risk management director Todd Adkins also stayed on site, working with the Emergency Operations Center team to prepare for the fall. Todd, who has been at UK for 21 years, said the change hit him about two weeks after shifting to remote learning as he was driving to work.  

“It was eerie,” he said, “not having that vibrant feeling of spring and seeing young students walking around.” 

Now that our fall semester has begun with a signature residential experience for our students, campus feels more vibrant. 

“The students are what give the campus energy,” he said.