On the Job with David H. Pennock

What is one project or innovation you’re proud to have helped implement?

In 2016, the entrance doors to the Schine Student Center were replaced. The existing doors were glass with only frames on the top and bottom and original to the 1985 building. They did not meet flush together in the middle or at the bottom. For the cold, windy, and snowy climate we have in Syracuse, these doors were just terrible! The project started at the beginning of the Fall 2016 semester and finished during Thanksgiving break. It involved replacing the glass doors at six different entrances, including exterior as well as interior doors, closing one entrance at a time to limit the disruption to our daily building traffic. At the same time, card access points were installed, as well as the university’s electronic remote locking system. What makes me most proud of this project is how it changed the appearance of the building, as well as improved the building’s security.David-Pennock

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned working in the profession?

You have to be able to adapt to the ever-changing environment in higher education. Just in the last few years, the students that have come to our campuses are vastly different than their predecessors, so the strategies we use in working with our students have to be flexible. A few years ago, communicating with our students via email was the most effective way to share information. Now emails are rare, and texting and social media have taken over. How student affairs professionals handle change defines how successful we are and how helpful we can be to our students.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing facilities management and are they new or traditional?

Keeping up with the pace of changes to technology is a more recent challenge. Students and staff expect that the most current technology is in place everywhere they go, especially in the student center. A technology replacement plan that is flexible is critical. In the summer of 2017, we replaced our analog audio-visual projection system in our main conference rooms with an HD system. The analog system was only seven years old. However due to the acceleration of HD technology, we were forced to adjust our replacement plans to make the HD upgrade a priority. Another challenge I think is replacement of outdated infrastructure, which is a more traditional challenge. 

Describe a memorable day on the job. 

We have had two visits from former Vice President and Syracuse Alum Joe Biden while he was in the White House. The first was a kickoff for the education plan during his first term. The second jump started the “It’s On Us” campaign to end sexual assault. The first event we were told that Biden was coming on the Friday of Labor Day weekend, and the event was the following Wednesday! We had several site visits from Biden’s staff throughout the weekend, temporary offices needed to be created, Verizon had to add additional phone lines, and the staff had to develop new ways to think about how to use our spaces. What I also remember is that the Secret Service was great to work with. They didn’t have to be nice because we had to satisfy every request they made; however, they were gracious, which made the requests more tolerable. Overall, it was a great event and a memorable experience in my career!

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