Most of the students have left the New Mexico State University Las Cruces campus for the summer. Parking is easy to find. Lines in the food court are almost nonexistent. So, the campus must be sleeping during the summer, right? Wrong.
While the day-to-day business of maintaining buildings and grounds on campus continues as always, NMSU Housing balances accommodating conference attendees throughout the summer with preparing the more than 1,400 non-family residential units on campus in time for the fall semester move-in day, this year scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 18.
"Summer is the busiest time of year for us," said Erin Boyd, NMSU Housing residential office coordinator.
The spring semester ends in May with move-outs, and shortly thereafter, two weeks of summer school begin. Facilities maintenance must first tend to rooms to prepare for summer school, but during that process, they must also handle conferences and prepare for the second summer school session to begin.
"The Greek complex is empty right now, RGH (Rhodes Garrett Hamiel Hall) is empty right now, but Garcia Hall and Chamisa Village are being used right now for summer conferences," said Richard Legarreta, facilities coordinator for NMSU Housing.
Legarreta oversees residential halls, family housing and student apartments to make sure they are properly maintained, including keeping them cleaned, painted and operational for residents. He supervises a staff of more than 50 facilities employees including painters, custodians, grounds workers, maintenance specialists and general laborers. None of these employees seem to stay in one place for long, each completing their respective tasks efficiently and with care.
"Seeing students or parents walking into a room on move-in day and seeing that it's a clean environment is rewarding," Legarreta said.
Garcia Hall and Chamisa Village are housing 10 conferences and events throughout the summer including new student registration, the Upward Bound and Bridge programs, along with a large group of students and teachers from Ecuador at NMSU for the Go Teacher program, managed by the Office of International and Border Programs. Once these rooms are cleared, Legarreta's staff will complete a range of tasks, from ensuring the plumbing and appliances work correctly, to cleaning layers of New Mexico dust off of the blinds.
"We usually start off with painting the unit, painting the apartments, then the maintenance staff does a walk through of the apartment or residential hall, do any repairs - light fixtures, furniture repairs - and then we send a cleaning crew in there. They clean it up, wax it, clean carpets, lavatories and showers, and then on to the next one," Legarreta said.
Boyd's staff of 22 student employees spends its summer almost exclusively focused on keys.
"At the end of the spring semester, everyone turns their keys in to us. We work with the lock shop to make sure keys get replaced," Boyd said. "My staff is in charge of going through and testing every single (residential) key on campus. Between spare and resident keys, they're testing more than 3,000 keys over the summer, including mailbox keys."
While school is in session, Boyd's staff also operates the four different operations centers on campus, located in Garcia Hall, Chamisa Village, Greek housing and student family housing. These centers issue the keys to campus housing residents at the beginning of the year, and are also available to assist students when they become locked out of their room. They keep student emergency contact information on hand and assist residents in submitting work orders for repairs, when needed. In general, the operations centers are there to assist students, especially those new to campus.
"The rewarding part is that knowing that everything that we do in the summer benefits us for move-in because it helps the student know that, 'ok, good, I don't have any issues,'" Boyd said. "It puts the parents at ease. It helps knowing that we were a part of accomplishing that for the student."
"We also have athletes coming in over the summer that we have to get rooms ready for,"
Legarreta said. "Everybody thinks that in summer, housing employees get to rest because there's no one in the rooms, but that's our busiest time because we're getting ready for the fall semester."
With move-in day just around the corner, both Legarreta and Boyd are preparing their respective staffs for what Boyd described as a crazy, chaotic day.
"It's pretty crazy and it gets kind of chaotic, but we just try to remind the staff that a lot of these students are first-time students and they have never been away from home, they've never been away from their parents," she said. "We do our best to reach out and help them so they're not scared and their transition is just a lot easier. It also helps, too, because sometimes it feels like the parents are having a harder time than the student. It helps put the parents at ease, knowing that they're putting their student in a safe and good environment."