Engaging staff support

Members of the Facilities team are among the hundreds of university staff members who volunteer hours outside their normal responsibilities to help make the debate a success. (Photo: Washington University)

Members of the facilities team are among the hundreds of university staff members who volunteer hours outside their normal responsibilities to help make the debate a success. (Photo: James Byard/Washington University)

Staff members helping to put on the debate are not seeking glamour or glitz. However, their hard work is what allows Washington University in St. Louis to shine in the national spotlight.

Jonathan Winstone, laboratory manager for the BRAINLab in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences in Arts & Sciences, applied to volunteer and was selected to work as a golf cart driver on Sunday.

“This is not likely to be a glamorous position, but I knew that going into the volunteer application process,” Winstone said. “Part of what has made us a successful host is the willingness of the university community to contribute.”

Twenty volunteers were chosen from 151 staff applicants in a process similar to selecting the student volunteers. With that said, hundreds of university community members are contributing as an extra part of their regular duties, including members of the Washington University Police Department, Public Affairs, Facilities, Athletics and Dining Services.

Tim Vetter is a senior planner in Facilities. He and dozens of other member of the Facilities team have worked many, many hours to transform the Athletics Complex into a debate site.

“I have been involved in pre-debate logistics, such as how much capacity we have in the space, the lines of sight for the monitors in the media center, accessibility, emergency access, everything,” Vetter said.

And others still are pitching in because they just want to get involved.

“I thought it was an interesting opportunity to be a part of something so special for the university,” said Josh Edwards, director of enterprise applications in WashU IT, as he was checking credentials at the door to the Athletics Complex.

“I wanted a debate experience,” said Ebba Segerberg, director of communications for Arts & Sciences, as she helped fold T-shirts and organize swag bags at the media welcome center in Knight Hall/Bauer Hall. “I’m super excited.”

“It’s very exciting. It’s history,” said Jill Edwards, senior project manager in the Office of the Provost. Edwards is heading up the team distributing credentials to those who need access to the debate site. “I love seeing the student involvement. To see the students so excited is just amazing. I think it’s great.”

Staff members are a necessary supplement to the student volunteers, said Steve Givens, associate vice chancellor and chair of the Presidential Debate Steering Committee.

“We couldn’t do this without staff volunteers,” he said. “We have hundreds of students who volunteer, but we also need staff. We just couldn’t pull this off without them.”