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August 18, 2000
Volume 38, No. 1


This Old Facility: College adds on, spruces up, and moves in
Staff Council president outlines the year's challenges and changes
Ombudsperson's report notes a rise in incivility
IWP: A three-month literary summit

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UI external support totals $252.6 million for 1999-2000
Opportunities increase as cancer center tapped by NCI
Arts and Humanities Initiative awardees named
Carver Scientific Research Initiative awardees named for 2000-2001


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This Old Facility: College adds on, spruces up, and moves in

The blending of old and new is evident in the southeast corner of the Seamans Center for Engineering Arts and Sciences. Photo by Helen Spielbauer.

When Confucius said "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step," he could have been foreshadowing the work life of Sue Heeren.

Each day she takes a step, and then another and another. At the end of the journey there will be both new and remodeled state-of-the-art buildings, the Seamans Center for Engineering Arts and Sciences. They’ll include 50 percent more lab space than the college had in the past, a two-story space with team-study modules for students, and 500 linear feet of isoduct—double-channeled flat conduit—creating a series of data ports in classrooms and lounges.

Sue Heeren, building coordinator for the Seamans Center for Engineering Arts and Sciences project. Photo by Rex Bavousett.


But in between there are thousands, possibly millions of steps to be taken, and in large measure one has to occur before the next can.

"It’s the domino effect," says Heeren, the College of Engineering’s building coordinator. She’s referring to the way that building materials must be available before workers can finish construction, so that custodians can clean, so that furniture can be delivered, so that an office can be occupied. If one step is delayed, it can jeopardize the entire chain of events, and things get backed up all over the building.

To keep things moving, Heeren, who often sports a hard hat, moves through the construction site at lightening speed, up stairs, down corridors, inside and out. And just as she sits down, and gets to not move for a minute or two, someone comes through the door asking for the key for a new office, or someone else calls and tells her that a piece of laboratory equipment being transported from the Chemistry Building won’t fit through the door of the new building. She jumps up and goes to the office, the moving van, the new lab. On the way she piles moving boxes onto a dolly and carts them outside, through a maze of extension cords and plastic sheeting, for recycling.

  Construction crews put finishing touches on the two-story volume space in the new portion of the Seamans Center. A skylight above provides natural light for all levels and the exposed metal tubes enclose the air-handling system. Photo by Rex Bavousett.

"My job is to interface the functions of scheduling and moving with the building’s users, architects, Design and Construction Services, and the contractors," Heeren says. Offices and labs began moving in June and continued throughout the summer.

As she moves from place to place, she never stops chatting—Heeren banters with the workers in the elevators ("You guys are way too happy for a Wednesday"), the professor lodged temporarily in a conference room, the movers who are carting equipment into the building. She seems to know everyone’s names, where their office was, where it will be, and where they might be housed in between. And while she’s self-effacing when complimented on her organizational skills, she says she knows one thing that helps get it all done.

"The trick is to get people to willingly do things," she says. "I learned my leaderships skills from the military."

Heeren spent 13 months doing similar work for the Army. In that time she oversaw the construction of two buildings and the remodeling of 23.

"But this is the most complex and biggest job I’ll ever work on," she says.

Heeren came on board in 1996, just before the project went out for bids, and she’ll be on the job until it’s completed in the summer of 2001.

It’s work that’s far from stress-free. In mid-July, when this interview was conducted, the fact that students would be attending classes in the Seamans Center in a month’s time was daunting.

Walking tours of the building, led by undergraduate engineering students, are available Monday through Friday, from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Tours begin at the Student Development Center, 3501 Seamans Center. The tours are designed for students interested in attending the College of Engineering and their parents, as well as faculty, staff, students, and visitors. Reservations are not required, but an advance call to (33)5-5763 is appreciated for large groups.


But she says there is pleasure in the small steps, as well as seeing the project completed.

"Engineering alumni are a tightly knit group with a real affection for the college and its people and professors. We took them on a tour during the spring reunion and it was great to see how proud they are," she says. "We have one ’91 grad who comes back every six months to check on progress."

And what about the college’s faculty and staff, many of whom will have moved multiple times before construction is complete?

"It doesn’t take people long to adapt to their new spaces, and then they’ll say things like, ‘My office is so much quieter now than with a window air conditioner,’ " Heeren says. "When people appreciate the little things like that, it makes you feel good."

Article by Linzee Kull McCray

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