In terms of his career, Paul Pinkston, campus facilities planner, University of Wisconsin – Green Bay, has been involved in facilities management since Day One. Graduating from Green Bay in 1994, he worked for the campus’ Facilities Planning and Management department as a student. “I started at Minnesota in architecture, but then came here and finished at Green Bay. I was a student employee and worked with the planning fellow here. He retired, and I just absorbed some of his functions and started full-time after graduation,” he explains. With a degree in urban planning, Pinkston explains that his interest in architecture came partially from his undergraduate position at Green Bay. “Architecture: There’s just something about it – the way you can make people react with [a] design,” he describes.
Beginning his tenth year at Green Bay, Pinkston works with a small facilities team of three, managing 1.2 million square feet of space located across more than 600 acres. “We also have nine maintenance people, a few grounds people, and some custodial [staff], but we’re very small for the amount of square footage we maintain,” he says. With 5,400 students and over 500 full-time staff members on campus, project planning, programming, overseeing development construction, space management, budget planning, and maintenance endeavors make up a typical day for Pinkston. And in terms of current projects, Green Bay is keeping him busy: Classroom technology plans; acoustical upgrades for the music department; computer mainframe, HVAC, and electrical projects; a new residence life center; and a student services remodel are all under way. “We have to prioritize future projects for the next six years and develop those budgets and the project scope. It’s always something ... something always pops up,” he says.
Since the university is funded by the state, Green Bay renovations, modernizations, and new construction projects are competing with other Wisconsin institutions for financial support – but Pinkston and the rest of his team are ready to face annual budget planning. “Getting money for your programs and your projects is always a concern. With us, it’s taxpayers’ dollars. You don’t want to raise taxes, yet you still want high-quality education. So for us, the future is probably going to be finding alternative sources or multi-funding projects – you have a portion that’s gifted, a portion that’s State money, and a portion that could be grant money. It’s going to be a big challenge.”
Through all his various tasks, Pinkston has had the opportunity to work with individuals and groups ranging from students and faculty to the public. He notes that everyone has a different personality, but lists this aspect as one of the job’s highlights. “Getting along with all those personalities on a project or planning for a project is what’s most interesting. You’re not doing the same thing over and over again,” he says. And because the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay is part of a campus system comprised of 12 other sites, Pinkston gets to know and work with professionals in other Wisconsin locations. He emphasizes that people are the biggest resource in his field. “Knowing who to find, who to talk to about the particular area you’re dealing with; the more people you know and can talk to, the better, because not one person is going to have the right answer. Technology is important, too, but you still have to know where to start from.”
Pinkston has learned that the truism claiming “patience is a virtue” is right on when working in facilities management. His advice? “Tomorrow is always a new day. There may be problems or there may be something going wrong today, but there’s always going to be tomorrow, where you can make things better.”
Leah B. Garris (email@example.com) is associate editor at Buildings magazine.