As you arrive on the St. Cloud State campus, it’s easy to not notice the small details.
Paths are clear as you approach well-maintained buildings. As you walk into your office or classroom, the lights flick on. The space is already at a comfortable temperature, warm or cool depending on the season.
But dozens of individuals work behind the scenes to make that happen. Facilities Management, comprised of building service, physical plant and grounds workers, constantly maintains SCSU’s campus footprint.
“We have a hand in everything that happens on this campus,” said Mark Hedlund, interim assistant vice president of Facilities Management. “Because of that, so much of it is just taken for granted. You don’t always appreciate the work getting done, but that’s our job. That’s what we do.”
From parking lots and hallways to event setup and more, the department plays a crucial role in nearly everything you see on campus.
Facilities Management is home to multiple workers who have kept SCSU running for over 30 years. What makes them commit so many years of their life to the University?
“It’s been an opportunity to grow,” Hedlund said, who has worked his way all the way up from general maintenance worker to interim AVP since starting in 1992. “Providing that clean, safe environment for students, visitors, employees, faculty/staff is what the job has been. When you’ve been at a place a long time, you get to know the people. I think that’s been a big part of it.”
Big events like Commencement bring a special joy, where Hedlund and his staff play a role in the final day of a student’s SCSU journey.
They also have recently begun playing a bigger part in a student’s first day on campus. Last year was their first time playing a big role in New Huskies Convocation.
“It really came together as a last-minute plan and decision,” Hedlund said. “It turned out good or better than we could’ve hoped for. It was a very satisfying event as it all came together.”
Even after 30 years, new challenges are thrown at SCSU’s diligent Facilities staff.
PUTTING THE PIECES TOGETHER
Patty Skroch has been at SCSU for 32 years in a variety of roles. Currently serving as the building services foreman, she has worked in the dorms, Halenbeck Hall and Atwood Memorial Center.
Holding previous titles like general maintenance worker, building lead and building supervisor has given her a unique perspective on her new role. In the past places like Atwood or the dorms were her entire focus, but she now gets to look at a broader picture of campus.
“I enjoy putting the pieces of the puzzle together,” Skroch said about her role in helping campus events run smoothly. “Bringing my knowledge and meeting with people on campus, I like that a lot … connecting the people to make it happen.”
The Holdingford native loves the variety of the job, where she gets to interact with all types of people.
“I enjoy working with the students and being around the students,” she said. “I enjoy getting to know the students; in the dorms you worked where they live, and in Atwood you work where they played. We don’t understand how much we’ve impacted their lives … it’s pretty special.”
While she has over three decades of experience on campus, she has only about two years in her current position.
“I’ve got a lot to learn,” she said with a laugh. “I learned a lot through all my positions here on campus, and I learned more about the management and event-type things in Atwood. But there’s more to learn. I’m excited about it, I like the challenge of it.”
Bob Schueller started on campus only weeks after Skroch and has also achieved over 30 years of service at SCSU.
He grew up about 15 miles away in Foley, going to technical college to become an electrician. After about a decade of working for various electrical contractors, he began searching for something that would keep him close to home. A steady and secure position.
SCSU was the answer. Schueller started as a standard electrician, eventually moving up to lead electrician. He’s held that title for the past 12 years and carries the electrical license for the campus.
Some of the biggest roles the electricians play in Facilities involve any fire alarm or elevator issues on campus. In-house renovation projects also are part of a job that keeps the 100-acre campus operating.
“(There’s) a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff that people don’t see,” Schueller said. “You show up in the morning and fans are running, buildings are warm, you turn the light switch on and lights work, it’s constant maintenance with lamps and light fixtures.”
Memories that stick out through the years don’t only include what happened on the job. Schueller remembers gatherings of 20-plus people fishing on Mille Lacs Lake or joining up to ice fish. While recent retirements have slightly changed that dynamic, Schueller still enjoys his coworkers.
“It’s a tight-knit group down in Facilities, people work well together and help each other,” he said.
That quality of the staff is what made Mark Hedlund want to take on the challenge of interim assistant vice president in the first place.
“I knew I had a great staff to work with that knew their job and would do their job; they just needed someone to help guide them,” Hedlund said. “I’d put my staff up against anyone right now because they’re good at what they do. We’ve got good people.
“You can’t spend 30-plus years at a job and not have a connection to it. Am I proud of St. Cloud State? Absolutely … do we have work ahead of us? Absolutely. We’re gonna work our way through it and figure it out. I’ve got to believe that.”