The start of the new school year has brought about changes both in the organization of campus services groups in structure and personnel. Buildings and Grounds, Dining Services and Conference Services are now unified under a single leader, Steven Mischissin, the new Director of Facilities and Auxiliary Services.
This reorganization was spurred by the retirements of Win Wassenaar, former director of Buildings and Grounds and Jim Hodgkins, former director of Dining Services.
With both these two important positions vacant, Helen Oulette, Vice President and Treasurer, decided to change the organization of these units, both of which report to her office.
“I felt that I wasn’t able to give them as much time and attention as they really needed,” she said.
“That’s when I decided to take advantage of the fact that Jim Hodgkins left at the same time as Win Wassener and actually kind of package something and then go out and look for someone who had a real track record as a manager, someone who could go out and run the whole organization.”
Although Dining Services, Buildings and Grounds, and Conference Services may at first appear to be distinctly different groups, as service organizations, all three share similar characteristics.
“Those units are full of people who really know how to do their job,” said Oulette. “It occurred to me that particularly Dining Services and Buildings & Grounds have the same sort of employee base. So, it [the retirements] was a chance to really rationalize the whole thing and bring it all under the same leadership so that there is a single management style and a single management philosophy overseeing the whole thing.”
Additionally, during the summer, the Conference Office is a very large customer for Buildings and Grounds and Dining Services. Combined, these three units employ several hundred employees.
In January, Mischissin was hired from his previous position as Associate Director of Facilities at Stanford University to become the director of operations at Buildings and Grounds here at Williams.
Though Williamstown is quite a change from California, Mischissin is no stranger to New England. Prior to his four and a half years at Stanford, he served as the Assistant Facilities Director at Dartmouth for eight years and he’s happy to be back in this part of the country.
“It’s a very close community and a nice small town to live in,” said Mischissin. “I really feel fortunate to be here and Williams is a great institution, but the size is really appealing to me because you can have that personal relationship [with people].”
During the hiring process, the search committee was impressed by Mischissin’s resume.
“Steve has really come up through the ranks,” said Oulette. “What we heard from people he had worked for and from people who had worked for him, from both Dartmouth and Stanfordâ€”they were just really impressive kind of comments,” said Oulette. “So, it just became clear that he was the right person for the job and it was almost just a coincidence that he already worked here.”
Despite the reconfiguration of Dining Services, Buildings and Grounds and Conference Services, neither Oulette nor Mischissin expect that there will be any immediate large changes to the operations of these units.
“I think the transition will be seamless to the students,” said Mischissin. “The goal is to continue to be customer service-oriented; knowing what students want and what faculty and staff want not only in dining but in the facilities we build, renovate and maintain.”
In the coming months, Mischissin expects to greatly improve the interaction between his units and student groups, especially through changes in the billing process. “They [the three facilities units] are all here to provide a service to those groups,” he said.
In addition, Mischissin is interested in helping to improve the community. “Steve also has done some things last semester working with student groups on various environmental issues,” said Oulette. “He has a really strong sense of environmental responsibility, and that is crucial if you are doing facilities work.”
Mischissin has a hands-on management style and enjoys working with his employees.
“I firmly believe that managers should be out seeing what their people do,” he said. “And if you can experience what people [do], you’re in a better position to know what they are getting done and sometimes how difficult their job is.”
“We have got a great staff here,” Mischissin added. “They are hardworking and they take a lot of pride in what they do.”
Along with Mischissin, Eric Beattie has been promoted in this restructuring phase to the Director of Facilities Planning and Construction, which is a new position in Buildings and Grounds.
Trained as a civil engineer, Beattie was the Assistant Director of Construction for the past 8 years at the College. Prior to coming to Williams, Beattie served in the same capacity at the University of Vermont.
“I gravitated to working on college campuses and discovered that I really love the work,” said Beattie. “It is really satisfying to be part of an organization that has some kind of a bigger purpose. It’s really nice work.”
In his new position, Beattie combines his previous job, for which he was responsible for all campus construction projects, with the campus physical planning duties previously performed by Win Wassener, the recently retired Director of Buildings and Grounds.
“Mainly, it’s all physical planning and construction for the campus – anything related to the physical campus and its facilities,” said Beattie.
“The planning is actually a major part of it [his job],” said Oulette. “The campus architect reports to him and people who do planning and construction management will be working for him.”
Along with construction projects, there is a lot of long-range planning that takes place on campus to anticipate and plan the campus construction projects.
“What we have begun now is a planning exercise with Venturi Scott Brown, the campus planning firm from Philadelphia and a planning committee comprised of lots of people from campus,” said Beattie. “I expect this framework to remain intact for many years to come.”
As part of the construction planning, Beattie tries to include students in the process.
“Each time there is a large building project, we have a building committee and we always try to include students,” said Beattie. “It’s a real plus for the discussions and planning.”
Like Mischissin, Beattie believes that one of his greatest assets is his team of employees.
“I am backed up by a very good staff,” said Beattie. “Those people all work under me, but essentially those are the people doing the real work and I just make sure everyone is going in the same direction.”
“I am excited about Eric and his new job, too,” said Oulette. “In both cases, they [Mischissin and Beattie] have both really bitten off a lot and there is just so much to do. The amount of construction we’re going to be doing within the next 5-10 years is huge.”
While many changes have already taken effect, the reorganization is still not complete.
“At this point, we don’t have a director of operations and we don’t have a dining director,” said Oulette. “But, my guess is that for both of those positions, searches will start fairly soon.”