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February 12, 2014 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2014-02-12

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46B ensaFbur 12 204 The Sttmn

Wednesday,February12,2014//The t SB

eople call them
Michigan Men.
From a
tract of wilderness,
they molded one of
the nation's premier
institutions of higher
education. Even today,
their names grace the
University's academic
stone and brick edifices,
a permanent testament
to their enduring
achievements and legacy.
These luminaries and
legends are the professors,
students, researchers and
coaches who first number
among the victors.
But across a history as
storied as the University's,
the imagined narrative of
the Michigan Men is far from
On campus, many of the
University's 28,500 employees
are hard to find. Most don't have
offices or professional webpages.
They don't have published
work on reserve at the Shapiro
Undergraduate Library. Their daily
triumphs won't likely find their way
into the bound volumes of University
University President Mary Sue
Coleman may spin the Cube to start
the day, but in many ways, it's the
University's regular employees who
truly make the University move.
Each morning, bus drivers rev up their
engines to shuttle students to class. Staff
warm loaves of French toast as custodians
push their cleaning carts quietly past
the doors of sleeping students. Others
ready projectors for lecture, calm students
overwhelmed by a deadline or treat patients
at the University Health System.
These are the staff of the University of
Jack Tyler: More than ajob
Two-thirds of the way through the
dinner shift, East Quad has run out
of Broccoli Bake. At the entryway, a
small electronic card reader shows
the night's tally of diners creeping
closer and closer to 1,000.
It's Monday, which
means Jack Tyler is
manning. the greeter's
stand. Tyler swipes quickly,
his arm rocking back and
forth; sliding the yellow
cards in a rhythm
refined over a couple of
decades. It's easy to
get caught up in the
speed and pattern
- swipe, return,
swipe, punch.

But for Tyler, the five seconds it takes for
a student to fumble with her wet mittens or
dig for his wallet is just enough time to utter
a greeting.
"Hey man, how are you doing?" Tyler calls
out from behind his stand.
He's beaming. It's not always because he
knows the student - though oftentimes he
does - but at Jack Tyler's East Quad card
station, greetings are delivered like he's been
waiting for you all day.
Most times, students reciprocate. When
Tyler smiles widely, his thin moustache
stretching above his upper lip, it's hard not to
smile back. Many know him by name.
"I think it's how I treat the student body,"
Tyler said. "This is part of me - it's not
something I make up. I started saying I'm
going to treat them like young adults, not like
my kids and that's the way I treat them."
With 1,000 students funneling past his
stand every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday,
Tyler said he tries hard to learn names, but he
can easily recognize the faces of his regular
customers. And he knows who's on the sports
teams; Jack loves athletics.
Mich., Tyler has lived in Ann Arbor most of his
life. His aunt has a picture of him in the Big
House at age nine, back when the stadium was
furnished with wooden benches. For the past
30 years, he's spent football Saturdays as an
usher at Michigan Stadium.
"When I put on that equipment, I go there
like I'm supporting the football team," he said.
"We're a team. But my position on the team
is to make sure that the fans who come there
leave and say 'I had a nice time at Michigan
For Tyler, the University is more than
a job. It may have started that way though,
back when his kids were little and he needed
the additional income. Tyler has kept his day
job - still gearing up with a lab coat each
day as a technician at a nearby research lab.
But Michigan is Tyler's community - it's the
place where he unwinds after a stressful day
at the lab, and the place where he takes his
responsibility to students seriously.
"Maybe it's a day where they were down
and not doing too well," Tyler said. "Maybe
it's a day when they didn't do well on an exam.
When they leave that station I want them to
feel good."
Still, when the line gets busy and the scents
of pizza, stir-fry or dining hall sugar cookies
waft over, students often develop tunnel vision
for the food, rushing toward the sandwich line
without much pause for the guy who lets them
into the dining hall.
"It's up to them because I'm always ready,"
Tyler said.
Susan Rollins: The work mom
fourth floor, custodian Susan Rollins twirls
a silver-colored necklace as she talks. The
pendant spells out "Mom" in cursive. Rollins'
fingers rotate around the letters.
When she started working at the

University 16 years ago, her own kids were
young. But now that two of them are in college,
she views students from the perspective of a
parent, not just as the custodian who cleans
their halls.
"When you look at it as these are people's
children, sometimes that interaction that we as
staff can have with them can make the biggest
difference," she said.
Picking up hallway trash, vacuuming,
cleaningrestrooms -that's the job. Butmaking
students feel at home, asking them how they're
doing, providing a friendly face during exam
period - that's the calling.
Though she never went away to college,
Rollins understands move-in day and the
excitement and nerves of the first month of
freshman year. She gets why parents cry when
they say goodbye. When Rollins dropped off
her daughter last year for the first time, she
cried too.
By making the effort to interact with
students, Rollins hopes she can spread the
same kind of comfort she would want staff in
her own daughter's residence hall to provide.
"Some people feel comfortable right away
making that connection and others don't,"
she said. "Sometimes you say good morning
and you get no response. It is a challenge
But Rollins, who said she is not naturally
outgoing, has worked hard to step out of
her comfort zone. For the past few years,
she's participated in a program that allows
employees to try out a new assignment during
the summer, where she has worked as a
facilities supervisor.
It's during the summer where she said she's
formed some of the best relationships with
students, especially the student residence hall
One move-in day, an RA from the previous
summer was helping her younger sister move
into Markley. Upon arrival, she went to find
Rollins and brought her to meet her family.
"Mom, this is my work mom," the girl said.
For Rollins, it's those moments that make
the hardest days bearable.
"Then you know you've made a difference
even if it was just those three months," Rollins
said. "To me it's so much more than work. If I
can make that connection for anyone else, for
the one or two semesters they're here - it's
worth it."
Voices of the staff
Tyler and Rollins are just two of the nearly
30,000 non-faculty staff members who set the
University's gears in motion.
The University's staff is a diverse group of
people. According to the 2013 human resources
annual report, the average staff member has
served for 11 years and is 44 years old. Seventy-
one percent are women and 20 percent are
members of a minority group. They work
in units ranging from plant operations and
finance to transportation, the hospital and the
Office of Admissions. operations and finance to
transportation, the hospital and the office of
See STAFF, Page 8B

Kathleen King, the graduate services coordinater of the the History Department, in her office.

Mary Ceccanese, the research process coordinator at the Office of Tax Policy Research of Ross Sch<
ness, in her office.

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