As The University of New Mexico gears up for a hybrid fall semester, one like we’ve never seen before, behind the scenes takes innovation, creativity and a lot of moving parts to make sure buildings, classrooms and office spaces are ready for Lobos to make their way onto campus.
Last week a group of volunteers, led by interim Academic Facility Operations Manager, Mark Orgeron, focused their efforts on Dane Smith Hall (DSH); it’s one of the University’s most frequented buildings and home to most undergraduates.
“As we move forward and continue to support our students, faculty and staff, thinking about how we conduct business is going to be crucial for the University." - Mark Orgeron, event organizer
The group rearranged and reconfigured 30 classrooms within DSH to adhere to safe and recommended social distancing guidelines.
“Our Facilities Management team has a massive undertaking as we move forward and work through new ideas like social distancing and traffic flow,” Orgeron said. “They’ve done a phenomenal job, but I feel this is something everyone can take part in.”
Separated into groups of three or four, students, faculty and staff from all across campus came together to reimagine what higher education looks like amid a world pandemic.
“This is going to be challenging but this is a perfect opportunity to think through, ‘How are people going to flow through spaces come fall?’” Orgeron said. “Watching our volunteers navigate the area gave us great insight to what worked well and what we need to improve before students get on campus.”
Volunteers put out new University signage that will help direct Lobos around DSH, while reminding them to wear masks. According to Orgeron, nearly 1,500 pieces of furniture within the building were rearranged or moved into storage.
“It was really a proud moment when we finished,” Orgeron said. “We talk about ‘Each of us defines all of us,’ this event was a direct representation of that. It brought so many diverse groups together to accomplish a specific task for the greater UNM community.”
Biology Chair Will Pockman, who attended the event, understands firsthand how challenging the months ahead will be.
“The event at DSH was eye-opening and caused me to return to Biology to look at how our rooms will be affected,” he said. “It was very sobering to see just how much the capacity of classrooms is reduced when we are required to maintain physical distancing.”
Orgeron said the event put the Facilities Managements team ahead of schedule, for now.
“As we move forward and continue to support our students, faculty and staff, thinking about how we conduct business is going to be crucial for the University and if we don’t come together as a Pack and work in unity, we’re not going to get through this.”