Staff Hightlights

Staff Hightlights

Good and it Snows
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Norm Scherza leads a crew of "essential" workers at the Providence Campus. "When everybody else has the day off, these guys are coming in at 3 am," the grounds supervisor said on yet another snowy morning.

His team of 12 takes care of winter plowing, summer planting, landscaping, lawn care and waste management for the Downcity and Harborside campuses, the whole of Weybosset street from Dorrance up, all residence halls on and off campus, Abbott Park Place, the Radisson and Johnson & Wales Inn, and the Equine Center in Rehoboth when needed.

"Fifteen years ago there wasn't even a snowblower. Everything was done by hand," Scherza laughs. "Johnson & Wales has turned into a university where before it was a little commuter school. There was no grounds department." Marc Gracie, executive director of facilities for the last five years, "basically brought us into this century," he says in high praise.

Days for Scherza's crew begin around 5:30 am. For three hours, they pick up around campus, empty waste cans and clean up anything that's damaged or vandalized. "It's not a fun thing."

Scherza found a way to make work more of a pleasure, once the dirty work is done. Each member takes ownership of an area of skill and interest. Everyone has a niche. One is in charge of ordering and planting bulbs, another trees, another small machinery. "My expertise is the lawns — mowing," he says. "I measure off everything by the grass areas."

Being responsible for the total appearance of Johnson & Wales is "high stress," Scherza admits. "Everything you do is on display or anything you don't do is on display. It's all visible. There's no way to hide."

He has no need to worry. Under Scherza's watch, the campus and it's many far-flung sites have never looked more beautiful. Providence Campus President Irving Schneider, PhD, calls him "an unsung hero." Scherza calls himself "grounds supervisor, psychologist and leader of the band."

"They're a good crew. These guys have enormous jobs," he adds with pride. "I just try to make it a little more joyful for them to come to work." When it comes to first and last impressions of JWU, they're essential.

On The Safe Side of Security

StaffHighlightsDENSafeSideofSecurity93x93Michael Eaton '08, Denver Campus director of Campus Safety & Security, believes a successful security program is only as good as the folks that are a part of it. Among his biggest challenges is to teach students that safety is everyone's responsibility.

"You have students 18 or 19 years old coming to the campus; they're experimenting for their first time away from home with a little freedom ... Sometimes it's a culture shock. The last thing they're thinking about is being a victim of a crime,' he says.

Safety, service and enforcement are his prime focus. He also oversees crisis management and transportation. The campus community comes first, property second. "We do everything with student service in mind," Eaton says. It's all about building relationships.

Five campus security officers wear polo shirts, khakis and duty belts for a more approachable image. All are on a first name basis with students. Eaton and his team conduct crime prevention programs inside and outside the classrooms. Regular workshops in residence halls reinforce the basics: lock your doors; report suspicious behavior; take possession of your assets: don't leave your laptop or your password lying around.

Text messaging, Facebook and social media add the threat of cyber bullying and harrassment. They also provide ready vehicles for emergency communications and crime awareness and prevention. Eaton chairs a crisis management team building a Web-based system for emergency notification.

Eaton worked on campus with a contract security company for five years before he was hired by the university to head his department. He'd just passed a police academy test to be an officer. With coaxing from dean of students, Jeff Ederer, Eaton entered the criminal justice program at JWU, earned his bachelor's degree and went on to pursue a master's in public administration. A request that he teach an intro to criminal justice class last fall as an adjunct was a game changer. "I was going to be a cop. With good guidance from Jeff and support from wife, my life took a 180-degree turn," he says, loving the work.

"I'm able to share that experience with my students uncertain where they want to go in life — maybe criminal justice is for them," he adds. If keeping them safe is his biggest accomplishment, his biggest pleasure is in helping guide their futures.