Kevin Hudson – University of North Alabama
For Alabama native Kevin Hudson, instilling value in every encounter with his team has become a hallmark of his career in construction—a way of giving southern hospitality a new meaning.
After graduating from Auburn University in 2008, Hudson got his start working with a small contractor out of Nashville, Tennessee, before pursuing opportunities back in his home state.
In 2014, he took a position with the University of North Alabama as a project manager. By 2018, his work ethic—combined with a unique knack for teambuilding—earned him a promotion to director of facilities for the university.
“I try to provide value for people,” says Hudson. “I meet people varying in responsibilities, from plumbers to grounds staff. If I can give them some positivity or knowledge, I’ve done my job. Sometimes, it’s as simple as a smile.”
A historic district
Best known for its in-house live lion mascot, Leo III, UNA was named as one of the top 40 regional universities by U.S. News for 2021.
Founded in 1830 as LaGrange College, UNA was Alabama’s first state-chartered college. Located in the heart of Florence, Alabama’s historic district, the school has a rich history. And while Hudson says the school has often been overshadowed by its larger Division I brethren (the University of Alabama and Auburn University), UNA’s recent growth has brought opportunities—and plenty of challenges for Hudson and his team.
Under his leadership, the university is looking to further expand its facilities, accommodating the recent influx of students (the school currently serves more than 8,000) while being mindful of the school’s unique location.
“We don’t have a lot of room to expand on the main campus,” he says. “That’s why we’ve purchased three more properties in the downtown Florence area. We do as much as we can within our limits.
Indeed, Hudson’s work is as much about preserving the history of UNA as it is preparing it for the future.
In January 2020, he led efforts to replace the university’s 20-year-old Harrison Plaza Fountain. A portion of the landmark collapsed the previous month, after which Hudson commissioned a new one from Italy. Made of marble, the fountain had to be shipped in three separate containers—at a time when the country was dealing with the first surge of coronavirus.
As of this interview, he and his team had installed the fountain (complete with donor-inscribed pavers) just in time for the school’s annual Light the Fountain ceremony.
“You must know that going into construction requires flexibility,” Hudson notes. “As I gained experience, I realized that accidents and mistakes happen. What’s important is how you make the project move forward.”
New residence halls
Hudson has also helped renovate some of the university’s older residence halls—including LaGrange Hall, a former all-men’s dormitory built in 1959. The upgrade was put on hold due to environmental concerns, but it is now at the top of his to-do list.
Slated to begin this summer, the project will include a complete renovation of the building: new mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, updated finishes and exteriors, and so on. In addition, a pedestrian “pass-thru” will be installed inside the building to provide easier access to the other side of campus.
What’s more, Hudson says the project will add 200 new beds, as well as collaborative study areas for students.
“This renovation will be a significant upgrade in the heart of campus to provide a better student living experience,” he says. “More specifically, it aligns with our campus master plan, which was completed in 2019.”
Hudson is also leading the construction of a $20 million computer science and mathematics complex. Slated to be completed in 2023, the facility is part of a broader effort to provide more space for the computer science and information systems departments—as well as a new home for the school’s mathematics department.
“This new facility will continue to improve the campus aesthetics and pedestrian navigation while providing much-needed space and facility needs for the departments,” he adds.
Like other universities under quarantine and stay-at-home orders, UNA’s existing facilities required a bevy of health and safety protocols. At the beginning of the pandemic, flexible schedules were arranged for the maintenance, environmental services and grounds departments, to ensure the units could keep critical building systems in operation.
Hudson also implemented employee trainings that reiterated CDC guidelines, teaching staff how to properly disinfect facilities and install sanitation stations wherever necessary.
He is quick to praise the university’s COVID-19 Recovery Task Force, which holds weekly meetings with university stakeholders, administrators, faculty and staff. Its focus: to develop a plan that follows all CDC guidelines while getting students and faculty back on campus.
“We’ve had great leadership and input from members of the CRTF committee to formulate recommendations for the campus recovery guidance plan,” Hudson says. “The president and executive council have instilled great confidence in the process with direct endorsements from this committee through the pandemic.”
Building a sustainable future
Preparing UNA for life after COVID isn’t the only thing on Hudson’s long-term radar. The university partnered with Schneider Electric to drive the school’s sustainability efforts, with the goal of reducing its energy consumption by 20 percent by the end of 2020.
The project will require UNA to modernize over 70 facilities: installing LED lights, improving heating and cooling systems, and implementing water reduction and smart automation technologies. Begun in early 2018 and about 90 percent complete, Hudson says the project is expected to save the university an estimated $27 million dollars over the next two decades.
“I’m proud to be a part of a university with such a rich history,” he says. “It’s not every day that you get the chance to work in your home state doing what you love.”
Showcase your feature on your website with a custom “As Featured in Blueprint” badge that links directly to your article!
Copy and paste this script into your page coding (ideally right before the closing