Keeping our campus safe

June 21, 2013

Last week I had an opportunity to make a long-overdue visit to one area of campus I've wanted to learn more about since becoming Executive Vice Chancellor in February.

On Wednesday, June 12, Steffani Webb, our Vice Chancellor for Administration, and I spent a couple of hours meeting with some of the people who keep our 41-acre campus safe, accessible and attractive. These folks are among the thousands of employees on all of our campuses who might not teach classes, conduct research or treat patients - but make it possible for us to educate future health care leaders and deliver state-of-the-art health care.

I got a tutorial from Police Chief Rick Johnson and his entire team in public safety, which consists of parking services, landscape services, emergency management and the KU Medical Center police department. As you know, our police department operates 24 hours a day, supporting the safety of our students, faculty and staff as well as the patients, visitors and staff at The University of Kansas Hospital. What you may not know is that last year, our police department earned national accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. Ours is one of only four Kansas law enforcement agencies - and the state's first university police department - to earn the status, considered "the gold standard in public safety."

I'm also impressed with the work being done by emergency management coordinator Kelly Morken. This role did not exist until Kelly arrived in December 2011, and she has been devoted to coordinating a campus-wide emergency management plan that includes a unified effort between the university side and the hospital side. Kelly is also working with police and fire departments and other emergency management personnel throughout the region (Kelly's website contains a wealth of valuable information that can help everyone be better prepared). And I admit it: I felt like a little boy again when they showed me the hi-tech mobile command center. Kept in an undisclosed location, it is equipped to be deployed as a police operations center in case our buildings become unusable - it can also support hospital and clinical operations including electronic medical records! Chief Johnson and his crew spend their days planning for things that the rest of us would rather not think about, and for that I am truly grateful. As we said in the Navy, Chief Johnson runs a tight ship.

The same goes for Kevin Rowald, assistant director of parking and transportation, who is responsible for meeting the parking needs of 8,505 students and employees (hospital and university) and the 720,000 patients and visitors who park in our garages each year. I was also impressed with the enthusiasm displayed by Christine Howard, our manager of landscape services. Kevin and Christine have only been with us for a year or so, and they've brought new ideas that complement the wisdom and commitment of the police department's longtime senior coordinator, Miriam Dozier. All of these folks and their teams are finding new ways to improve day-to-day life on campus while staying within our limited budget, whether it's investing in new license-plate recognition technology that will improve parking operations or beautifying campus with new plantings and flowers so that our outside appearance reflects the life-affirming work we do inside.

As I close in on the end of my fifth month as Executive Vice Chancellor of this enormous, complicated enterprise, I have to say that these types of learning experiences are among my favorite parts of the job. I have more visits to unfamiliar areas scheduled in the months ahead, and I look forward to being impressed over and over again.

Last modified: Jun 21, 2013