Jeff Zumwalt was recently appointed permanent director of the Physical Plant Department (PPD) allowing him the opportunity to continue the momentum on several initiatives he has spearheaded. The appointment was effective June 1, 2015.

One of his first initiatives was introducing the staff to the PPD Way, a set of eight norms that should guide the way we interact with one another.  If these norms are applied in the correct way, it will foster growth, collaboration and innovation within the department. 

“The most effective and efficient teams have foundations built on trust and respect," Zumwalt said. "Of course, that doesn’t mean we won’t ever have disagreements. It means that we communicate our disagreements in an open and collaborative manner – and PPD employees do that every day. We’re like a big family, and I’m proud to be part of such a great team.”

Another initiative spearheaded by Zumwalt is comparing the facilities management operations of PPD with other peer institutions. PPD has participated in APPA’s benchmarking program in previous years, and the data collected from that program indicated that PPD is outperforming their peers by 20-30 percent in most categories. 

Zumwalt intends to validate those results by participating in a more formal benchmarking effort. This project was initiated earlier this year, and the hope is to have the results by the end of this calendar year. The data collected will assist PPD in focusing attention on opportunities for improvement in its facilities management operations.

PPD is also creating a new Facilities Condition Assessment (FCA) program based on a successful system at Montana State University.  Engaging in these types of assessments explain how much deferred maintenance UNM carries in our facilities, and in particular, provide data on which building systems are most vulnerable to failure. This allows for improved strategic planning with regard to maintenance on the UNM campus. 

The department will conduct its first FCA this summer to gather data and refine the program based on UNM’s unique needs. Once this stage is complete, the intention is to assess approximately 20 percent of UNM’s facilities every year. 

Another exciting initiative stemmed from Zumwalt’s interactions with PPD staff last year. “I heard a consistent message from employees in entry-level positions at PPD. Many of them wanted to learn a trade and move into higher graded positions, but these positions required experience that they couldn’t obtain while working full time,” said Zumwalt. 

The PPD Trades Training Program was created and implemented to address the staff’s concerns about advancement opportunities. Shirley Mitchell, associate director of Finance and Administration, and Daniel Perea, manager of PPD Work Control, created this program for PPD employees. 

They collaborated with the PPD associate directors and Zumwalt to develop a program that provides an avenue for Grade 6 and lower employees to gain the knowledge and experience necessary to apply for technician positions. The program requires a lot of personal initiative and there are only a few openings in the program each year, but the hope is that it will result in more qualified internal candidates for trades positions within the department.

Zumwalt is also committed to supporting UNM’s core value for sustainable initiatives designed to reduce the University’s carbon footprint, reduce energy consumption, and costs. Working in the utility industry for over 20 years, Zumwalt is dedicated to the notion of providing the campus with what it needs, but doing it strategically, always with sustainability in the back of his mind.

Zumwalt's appointment was effective June 1, 2015.