Tag Archive for Physical Plant

2 Staff, 1 Student Receives Peter Morgenstern-Clarren ’03 Social Justice Awards

Mario Torres

Mario Torres

The Peter Morgenstern-Clarren ’03 Social Justice Awards recognize students and staff members who promote social justice and activism on campus and beyond. This year, the staff recipients are Mario Torres, who works for Physical Plant, and Astrid Vidal, a Service Management Group employee who works in residence halls. The student recipient is Kevonte Payton ’22.

The award was created in memory of Morgenstern-Clarren, who dedicated his time on campus to social justice.

His activism included securing benefits for Wesleyan custodial staff, participating in the United Student and Labor Action Committee, and contributing his leadership to the campus chapter of Amnesty International,” the award description reads. “We are grateful to Dr. Hadley Morgenstern-Clarren and The Honorable Pat Morgenstern-Clarren for their generosity in sponsoring this award honoring their son’s activism for the public good.”

Each recipient will receive a $1,500 prize.

Mario Torres serves as a materials handler for Physical Plant and is actively involved in student life on campus, notably through Forklift Danceworks, which uses performance and storytelling to shine light on essential workers.

“Mario has been instrumental in helping with location selection, working with students directly, attending meetings, giving up personal time, and being a mentor to myriad students over the years via this program [Fork Lift],” Director of Physical Plant Operations Michael Conte wrote to the award committee. “The program continues this semester as it has for the past 5 years or so. Mario has been along for the ride since its inception and has provided invaluable service to this program.”

Astrid Vidal works diligently to keep residence halls on campus clean and shares her positive energy with the students she sees on a daily basis. Especially during the pandemic, her work has been essential to keeping campus open.

“I have worked with her and actually seen the work she does – clean every bathroom, every study room, wipe every window, take out all the heavy trash bags even as an older woman,” Tamara Riviera ’21 wrote to the award committee. “While doing all this strenuous work, she still manages to smile and stay positive. I could not imagine doing it all myself. We appreciate our professors on campus for providing us with education, but Astrid deserves this award for providing students with back-breaking work in order to keep the campus running.”

Kevonte Payton ’22

Kevonte Payton ’22

Kevonte Payton ’22 is a double major in government and history. He is involved with three hip-hop dance groups, Fusion, Xtasy, and Troupe, was a research assistant for Professor Wendy Rayack, and served as Wesleyan’s Questbridge Chapter President for the 2020-2021 academic year.

“Academically, Kevonte has chosen to take classes and pursue research projects that explore social justice issues, such as race, education, employment, and incarceration in the black community,” Senior Assistant Dean of Admission Jane Tran wrote. “Recently, Kevonte shared with me he was selected by the Meigs History Society to perform research for the local Middletown museum pertaining to black-owned barbershops. These businesses were overlooked, deemed unimportant by history as their records, stories do not exist. Through this studentship opportunity, he plans to bring them back to life.”

Additionally, when the pandemic hit, Payton started a tutoring and teaching service in his community.

“This small program that I started cost families nothing because I wanted to give back to my community and take down this barrier because of the lack of financial resources,” Payton wrote in his personal statement for the award.

He emphasized that he tried to help the kids he worked with in as many capacities as he could.

“I did everything from ACT prep for high school students to math and writing workshops, helped with FAFSA, and even made personalized plans for some students who needed extra help,” Payton wrote. “I tried my best to fill every role that I could, from teacher to college counselor, so that students in my community would not fall as behind as we already were compared to other communities. I met with students as often as their parents would let me.”

Staff Work Behind the Scenes to Create a Successful COVID-19 Testing Operation

covid testing tent

Wesleyan’s COVID-19 testing facility opened Aug. 17, 2020, on Andrus Field. Testing operations continue today inside Beckham Hall.

Ninety-nine thousand and counting.

That’s how many times Wesleyan students, faculty, and staff have stuck, swiped, and swirled cotton swabs in their nasal cavities over the past seven months at the Wesleyan COVID-19 testing facility, with hopes for that negative result indicating no presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA.

“Implementing an effective testing program was essential to returning for in-person learning,” said Associate Vice President/Dean of Students Rick Culliton, who spearheads Wesleyan’s Curricular Contingency Planning Task Force (CCPTF). “Our number one priority is keeping the campus community safe. Having accurate, timely test results has been critical to identifying and containing any cases of COVID-19 on campus.”

And this is why Wesleyan’s ad hoc testing site, currently set up in Beckham Hall, is so crucial for the University during the pandemic. Students are still required to test twice per week, and employees once per week.

But establishing such a facility wasn’t in anyone’s job description or workplace experience. It required a dedicated team of Wesleyan staff to step outside their traditional roles and develop what is now among the most important operations on campus.

Assembling an Effective Site

On July 14, 2020, members of the newly-formed CCPTF began murmuring about the need for mass testing on campus if Wesleyan was to open with in-person learning in the fall. Andy Tanaka, senior vice president, chief administrative officer and treasurer, appointed three staff members to plan the operations and assist with staffing: Joyce Walter, director of the University Health Center; Lisa Brommer, associate vice president for Human Resources; and Joyce Topshe, associate vice president for Facilities.

Wesleyan Partners with Organization to Recycle Surplus Furniture


On June 17, Wesleyan employees moved outdated furniture from the High Rise apartments into a truck. The contents will be donated to IRN, an organization that recycles and finds new homes for the furniture.

Every summer, when campus is relatively quiet, the Facilities Team is hard at work maintaining, renovating, and upgrading all of Wesleyan’s buildings and grounds. Part of this work involves the large-scale replacement of furniture in residential facilities—a process that has recently been made more environmentally friendly thanks to a partnership with IRN, an organization dubbed “The Reuse Network.”

According to Jeff Sweet, Wesleyan’s associate director of facilities management, the University has partnered with IRN for the past three years to recycle old residential furniture that is being replaced. IRN “matches the needs of charities and nonprofits throughout the world with surplus furnishings and equipment from schools, universities, corporations, and other large organizations,” according to its website. IRN estimates it has saved 80 million pounds of surplus from ending up in landfills.

Students Partner with Physical Plant Employees to Learn Inner Workings of Campus

Pictured in the back row, from left: Sammy Osmond, Lilley Gallagher, David Malone, Tom Macri, Gaelin Kingston, Joseph Dorrer, Pictured in the middle row, from left: Dean Canalia, Camille Britton, Tamara Rivera, and Mia McKinney. Pictured in the front row, from left: Gretchen LaMotte '18 and Allison Orr.

Pictured in the back row, from left: Sammy Osmond ’22; Lilley Gallagher ’22; David Malone, HVAC/utility mechanic; Tom Macri, HVAC shop foreperson; Gaelin Kingston ’22; Joseph Dorrer, energy manager. Pictured in the middle row, from left: Dean Canalia, plumbing shop foreperson; Camille Britton ’20; Tamara Rivera ’21; and Mia McKinney ’22. Pictured in the front row, from left: Gretchen LaMotte ’18 and Allison Orr, Distinguished Fellow in the College of the Environment. Missing from photo are material handlers Mario Torres and Kristopher Patterson.

Six students in the Introduction to Environmental Studies course traded their notebooks, backpacks, and pens for wrenches, electronic temperature control meters, and even plungers as part of a special project involving staff from Wesleyan’s Physical Plant.

Throughout the fall semester, the students partnered up with an electrician, a plumber, material handlers, temperature control mechanics, and others to learn about trades and to form friendships with the staff who keep Wesleyan running behind the scenes. On Nov. 29 the students presented their experiences—through talks, performances, music, and graphics—to fellow classmates and Physical Plant staff.

Physical Plant Begins Tackling 120 Maintenance, Renovation Projects on Campus

On July 9, crews installed new 8-foot-wide asphalt sidewalks on College Row.

On May 29, Wesleyan’s Physical Plant–Facilities personnel began their 2019 fiscal year major maintenance and capital projects. The University is investing in projects at 120 locations on campus, which are described in this interactive map.

“Each year the work is prioritized, then scheduled to minimize the impact on the academic calendar,” said Joyce Topshe, associate vice president for facilities. “Consequently, much of the work is done during the summer. Projects include modernizing our infrastructure, energy conservation, structural repairs, replacing roofs and windows, and renovating dozens of buildings.”

Projects this summer include:

  • Demolition and renovation of the second-floor bathroom at 146 Cross Street.
  • Replace flooring, acoustic ceilings, and lighting in basement corridor at 200 Church Street.
  • Install new flooring in 44 rooms in Foss Hill Unit 8.
  • Laminate existing walls with gypsum wallboard, install new flooring, and paint the fourth floor of Judd Hall.
  • Replace floors in clinical exam rooms in the Davison Health Center.
  • Begin window restoration and interior perimeter window finishes at Olin Library.
  • Replace both passenger elevator controls and interior finishes in Exley Science Center.
  • Replace roof on Butterfield A.

Wesleyan Celebrates Arbor Day with 45 New Tree Plantings

This spring, crews are planting new trees at multiple locations on campus. 

This spring, crews are planting new trees at multiple locations on campus.

In honor of Arbor Day on April 28, Wesleyan is celebrating the planting (or proposed planting) of more than 45 new trees on campus in 2017.

Pale-pink blossoming cherry trees, a hardy pin oak, an endangered dawn redwood and a Chinese lobed-leaf Ginkgo biloba are among the new perennial plantings peppered across the Wesleyan landscape.

Since trees become a permanent fixture, Grounds Manager Rob Borman takes many factors into consideration before tilling up any soil and planting roots.

He notes the history of campus; the existing tree canopy; what trees will thrive in Connecticut’s climate; proximity to buildings, sidewalks and roads; surrounding landscape; how it would affect snow plowing, mowing and other grounds maintenance; and benefits to the environment.

“We also consider the Wesleyan tour route and high visibility areas, and we always value feedback from the Wesleyan community,” Borman said. “All of this is considered both for time of planting, as well as the tree’s full maturity.”


Click to enlarge the 2017 campus tree map.

The trees and their planned locations include:
One birch cluster in front of the Freeman Athletic Center;
Two Norway spruce on Warren Street near the Freeman Athletic Center;
23 Yoshino cherry trees along Vine Street;
Eight Kwanzan cherry trees near West College;
Two red maples, two red oaks and one pin oak near the Foss residences;
One Ginkgo in front of the Public Affairs Center;
Two paper bark maples, a birch cluster and dawn redwood between the Davison Art Center and Davison Health Center;
Two paper bark maples near the Center for African Studies;
One red maple across from Alpha Delta Phi;
One hybrid elm in front of Judd Hall;
And one red oak in the center of College Row.

Since 2014, Borman has led the effort to plant more than 230 trees and shrubs on campus.

Wesleyan’s efforts have contributed to the City of Middletown receiving an Arbor Day Foundation Tree City USA designation for 27 years.

While many trees grow up, others come down.

“We try to avoid cutting down existing trees at all costs,” Borman explained. “If we remove a tree, it’s because the tree has died, it was injured due to a storm, it is too close to structures or construction projects, or it is a safety hazard to the community. We always try to plant one tree for every felled tree.”

Wesleyan grounds will continue to plant more species in the fall.

Eight Kwanzan flowering cherry trees are planted near the West College Courtyard. They will be in full bloom in early May.

Eight Kwanzan flowering cherry trees are planted near the West College Courtyard. They will be in full bloom in early May.

Update from Physical Plant-Facilities: Summer Projects

A tennis court renovation, a cooling tower replacement, and an informal outdoor classroom construction are among Physical Plant-Facilities projects this summer.

Physical Plant-Facility’s capital projects will include:

  • Comprehensive Energy Phase 10 – LED lighting upgrades to Exley Science Center and other efficiency measures.
  • Tennis Court Renovation – replacing half the courts and repairing the other half as a partnership with the City of Middletown.
  • The RJJulia Wesleyan Bookstore at 413 Main Street.
  • 116 Mt. Vernon – Renovate and convert to Shapiro Writing Center.
  • Renovations to selected science offices and facilities
  • Informal Learning and Outdoor Classrooms – improvements campuswide to refresh underutilized spaces and enable collaboration and study as well as provide additional outdoor classrooms

Highlights of major maintenance projects to be completed this summer are:

  • Olin Library’s “envelope” renovation — parts of the building that physically separate the exterior environment from the interior environment.
  • HighRise – new fire alarm system.
  • Center for the Arts Studio North and CFA Theater – electrical transformer replacements.
  • Steamline replacement along South College
  • 200 High Street – replace all roofing.
  • Hall-Atwater – replace perimeter roof over third floor.
  • South / North College Connector – replace second floor windows and first floor fixed glass panels and doors.
  • Central Power Plant cooling tower replacement – expanding chilled water capacity for campus by 30 percent.

Accessibility projects addresses this summer include the replacement of the accessible ramp on the north elevation, the south entrance to Exley Science Center and the Office of Admission’s patio.

Wesleyan Celebrates Installation of Its New Solar Photovoltaic System

City of Middletown Mayor Daniel Drew, Wesleyan President Michael Roth, and former Vice President for Finance and Administration John Meerts participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony Nov. 1 for Wesleyan's new photo

City of Middletown Mayor Daniel Drew, Wesleyan President Michael Roth, and former Vice President for Finance and Administration John Meerts participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony Nov. 1 for Wesleyan’s new ground-mounted solar photovoltaic system. Following the ceremony, President Roth and Meerts flipped on the switch that activated the 25-panel system.

On Nov. 1, Wesleyan celebrated the installation of a 750 kW-AC ground-mounted solar photovoltaic system, or solar farm, located near Physical Plant, at the corner of Long Lane and Wadsworth Street.

New Patios to Provide Seating Areas along College Row

As part of the College Row sidewalk renovation in August, crews installed three stone patios and gardens. Once completed, seating areas and tables will offer community members and visitors areas to rest and enjoy the scenery.

Patio installation near 41 Wyllys.

Contractors work on a patio installation near 41 Wyllys on Aug. 18.

College Row Receives Safer Sidewalk Replacement

The new asphalt path on College Row is 13-feet wide.

The new asphalt path on College Row is 13-feet wide.

On July 16, Physical Plant began spearheading a College Row sidewalk replacement project. After removing the existing concrete sidewalk, that spans from Church Street to Wyllys Avenue, contractors installed a 13-foot-wide asphalt path that will accommodate large groups of people, such as campus tours. The existing path was 8-feet-wide.

“This sidewalk has a large amount of foot traffic all year round,” said Wesleyan grounds manager Rob Borman. “The concrete sidewalks around campus also have shown considerable decay, primarily due to salt use in winter.”

The wider sidewalk also will allow grounds maintenance staff to remove snow faster and easier by using a larger machine.

Asphalt, which is 100 percent recyclable, also can be milled and resurfaced easily. The black color will help melt snow and ice faster.

“The new surface will be much safer during the winter season,” Borman added.

Phase two of the project will include the installation of seating areas adjacent to the sidewalk near North College.

(Photos by Laurie Kenney)




Exley Offers New Study Space for Students

Exley Science Center's lobby boasts more than 50 new study spots.

Exley Science Center’s lobby boasts more than 50 new study spots.

The Exley Science Center’s first level, which underwent renovations earlier this year, has been outfitted with all new furniture, offering a variety of seating options.

cam_exley_2015-0303133512According to Brandi Hood, senior project coordinator with Construction Services, the lobby boasts 34 new lounge seats with end tables (each with USB and power outlets); four tables with 15 low-top study seats; six tables with 24 high-top café seats; and nine standing countertop kiosks for those looking to charge a cell phone or take a quick break.

“This seating was chosen to provide a variety of comfortable, single and group seats,