Posted on May 26, 2010 by Tia Lalani

Christopher Thrall explores activity at Augustana during the summer. In Part 2, he finds out what’s happening in and around the buildings on campus.

By Christopher Thrall –

From September to April, Augustana Campus throngs with nearly 1000 students who need to learn, study, eat and sleep. Faculty and staff are devoted to people who are realizing their dreams of a university education. When the students leave for the summer, the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus receives some much-needed TLC.

Four short summer months are barely enough time to get everything ready for the students’ return. This summer in particular will be a real challenge: besides the regular maintenance and upgrading activities, there are a lot of changes happening to the face of Augustana.

This summer’s agenda includes the first phase of a landscaping project, and updated lighting both within the buildings and across campus. “We will be one of the first campuses in Canada to install exterior LED site lighting, while retrofitting our buildings with higher-efficiency bulbs,” says Chris Blades, manager of Facilities and Operations at Augustana. “The lower energy use will result in not only a more sustainable campus, but also cost far less over the long run.”

As for other major projects, Blades begins listing them off on his fingers. The Convocation Centre will receive solar panels on its roof and a resurfaced gym floor. The Faith & Life Centre’s basement will be gutted to make room for music practice rooms, while the former bookstore and Students’ Association offices will be turned into faculty offices. The Library will welcome faculty and staff into its second-floor offices, while the displaced Coffee House, bookstore and Students’ Association will move into the new Student Forum. The Classroom building now houses student advisors as well as the Learning and Beyond team, and is being prepared for both the new rehabilitation medicine program and a new tiered classroom on the first floor. Stately Founders’ Hall will be renovated to accommodate more faculty. Finally, the six Ravine Residences will get their sidewalks repaved and the last of their washrooms renovated.

“We normally have 22 full-time staff,” says Chris Blades, manager of facilities and operations at Augustana. “During the summer, we hire 10 to 12 students.” From September through April, his team provides maintenance, custodial and groundskeeping services while maintaining the fleet of campus vehicles. The summer students pick up groundskeeping duties or are trained to become interior painters as they freshen up dorm rooms, classrooms, offices and hallways. With those tasks assigned, facilities staff can focus on scheduled maintenance and the growing list of new projects.

Josh Ryder, manager of Technology and Learning Services (TLS) at Augustana, had a list of his own. Besides some significant behind-the-scenes work, migrating information from older servers to new ones, his technology crew is responsible for introducing a brand new wireless Internet service in all of the residences this summer.

“We are also working on updating all the computing labs, and refreshing the technology in a few of the classrooms,” says Ryder. “Our team is helping the nursing and rehab med faculties bring their programs to Augustana, and we are responsible for deploying all computing and network technology in the new Student Forum.”

Three summer students have been hired to supplement the full time staff within TLS. “Working with TLS over the summer provides students a great opportunity to learn exciting new technologies such as Voice over IP telephones, network setup and testing, and other real world IT tasks. Our summer students are well positioned to move quickly up the ranks in their fields when they enter the workforce, in part due to the skills and experience gained while working with TLS.”

Summer students are a big help on many tasks, and most of the major projects are contracted out to local companies. However, all projects must be supervised by Augustana staff, and all of them have to be finished by September.

Even the buildings that aren’t being repaired or renovated will be open for community use. Rob Ford, supervisor of Residence and Conference Services, noted just a few of the events coming to Augustana over the summer. Among them are weddings, choir performances, various sports tournaments, summer camps and conferences. “Including the month-long Reading University, the Vikings Summer Camps and a couple of Camp RockStars, there is something happening at Augustana nearly every week and weekend all summer,” says Ford. While the students are away, the campus is very popular with groups from Camrose and the surrounding area.

“We figured that Augustana just wasn’t busy enough,” adds Greg Ryan, director of Athletics and Campus Recreation, “so we decided to expand our sport camps this year!” Kids from all over Alberta will visit Augustana for the new outdoor adventure camps, including canoeing and backpacking, as well as volleyball, basketball, biathlon and multi-sport camps that run all summer long. “Vikings Summer Camps even include a residence option this year, so campers can stay overnight in our dorms and visit our cafeteria for their meals.”

Blades laughs when he talks about people asking him about his summer down time. “As soon as I’ve told them about just a few of the projects we have going on,” he says, “they stop asking.”

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