Kendall Jones – Florida A&M University
Modern post-secondary school students have many options when deciding where to attend college. Sure, some universities with specific programs are rated higher than the average institution, but that many choices mean colleges and universities need to do more to attract new students and maintain or increase enrollment.
“Students today are totally different than when my career started many decades ago,” Jones says. “They want more than just a place to live. They want spaces that inspire creativity and social interaction.”
FAMU, a historically black university that first opened to students in Tallahassee in 1887—and the only public HBCU in Florida—recently received approval from the Florida Board of Governors to add to its on-campus housing. Jones says the new 700-bed residence hall will help attract new students when it opens in the fall of 2025.
A better time at school
The 700-bed residence hall will expand housing options for freshman and scholarship students and will be funded by a $102.9 million loan from the U.S. Department of Education’s HBCU Capital Financing Program.
According to Jones, the tower will feature 350 double occupancy bedrooms, each with its own bathroom shared by both residents. It will include several amenities that modern college students expect in on-campus housing: high-speed Wi-Fi throughout the building, collaborative spaces, and support spaces, such as laundry facilities, vending areas, common student lounges, study rooms, recreation/TV/computer rooms and administrative offices. Jones expects construction to begin no later than March 2024.
This facility will join several other residence halls the school has opened in the past 10 years. Jones says that FAMU’s capital plan calls for up to 2,000 additional beds on campus over the next few years. Jones adds that investing in its campus is a good way to show prospective students and their parents that the institution takes the campus experience seriously.
In the recent Florida legislative session, FAMU received a rare allocation of $26.9 million specifically for deferred maintenance and $27.7 million to address utility infrastructure, providing Jones and his team with a unique opportunity to address crucial issues on campus.
Approximately 70 percent of the approved projects focus on mechanical improvements and upgrades. FAMU has partnered with TRANE to upgrade old mechanical systems with more energy-efficient equipment in a deal worth $19 million. Most of that money will address mechanical needs—about $6 million is earmarked to tackle utility issues.
Also, a satellite chiller plant will be constructed with the utility allocation to extend the chilled water distribution services to the southern portion of the campus. Additionally, Jones helped oversee a $9 million energy performance contract with Honeywell that included projects like LED lighting retrofits and mechanical improvements in which a significant amount of deferred maintenance was addressed.
For 2024, Jones and his team are poised to complete various upgrades and enhancements to FAMU’s campus infrastructure. That includes retrofitting older buildings’ air distribution and control systems and making necessary improvements to electrical and chilled water distribution systems. This effort also included a few reroofing and waterproofing projects.
“These projects might not be sexy, but they are just as important as the more aesthetically pleasing work we do on campus,” he says.
Ensuring students’ safety & security
Another unsexy—but very necessary—project underway is the conversion of all campus buildings to card-access facilities. Working closely with the university’s police department and the school’s safety committee, Jones and his team have continued to prioritize safety and security on campus for students, faculty, staff, and visitors.
Protocols and things in place to ensure safety for all include license plate readers at key locations throughout the campus that are used to assist the university’s police department with identifying vehicles; security cameras blanket the campus to capture any nefarious activity that would be of interest to law enforcement; and moving to card access on exterior doors helps keep buildings secure and only accessible to those who need access after-hours.
“All residence halls are card accessible for exterior doors, but most of the actual rooms use hard keys,” Jones says. “We’re assessing what it would take to convert rooms to card access.”
Learning from dad
Jones was born in Pensacola, Fla., and moved to Jacksonville when he was a few years old. His father, King David Jones, was a general contractor, so Jones says from a young age, he listened to his dad’s stories and paid attention to what he did.
“But I didn’t become what I am just because my dad had a career in the construction industry,” Jones says. “I had a lot of mentors when I was in school who encouraged and guided me.”
One person in particular, Louis Murray, made an impression on Jones while he was a student at FAMU. At the time, he had a similar position to Jones’ current role and saw in Jones someone who could do certain projects and take on responsibilities not typical of a young college student.
“I learned a lot from him, and I think he saw something special in me,” Jones recalls.
After graduating from FAMU with a computer and information systems degree, Jones started his career at the university in January 1988 as a computer program analyst. He held that role for about four years before spending the next six-and-a-half years as a physical plant coordinator.
For nearly 25 years, Jones was the director of the physical plant and was promoted to his current position in October 2023. Overall, he has spent 36 years at FAMU.
“There are a lot of people that come in and out of your life, but you listen to them and pick up on things,” he says.
As an admitted maintenance guy by trade who likes to fix things, Jones has a job that requires more standing in front of groups and collaborating with senior administrative leaders to discuss capital projects and strategic planning than he expected this late in his career. No matter what his responsibilities are, his goals have remained the same.
“I am committed to helping create the best campus experience for everyone at FAMU,” Jones says.
View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. II 2024 Edition here.
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