Malcolm LeMay – Oregon State University College of Business
After upgrading HVAC systems to protect against COVID-19, Malcolm LeMay had to shut them down.
The director of operations had been “bringing in as much air as possible” at Oregon State University College of Business from March to September of 2020 to limit the spread of the virus. Then, just before students returned for the fall term, wildfires broke out statewide.
The fires, which lasted for a week, filled the air on campus with ash and smoke. To protect building occupants and HVAC equipment, the university closed the campus and LeMay’s operations staff worked with the university maintenance department to shut down the HVAC systems.
Now in July, almost a year later and with vaccination rates high in Oregon, the focus has returned to technology-focused renovations.
“All of our upgrades are based on improving the student experience,” LeMay says. “We expect to keep growing and are ready to make the necessary changes when we do. We hope that future students and faculty see that dedication in our work now.”
The College of Business is one of 12 colleges within Oregon State University. It offers programs online and at the Portland and Bend campuses, with the college’s home base being Austin Hall on the Corvallis campus.
Constructing Austin Hall from 2013-14 was one of the largest projects LeMay has worked on at the college. The 100,000-square-foot building contains 12 classrooms, an auditorium, a cafe, computer lab and academic and career counseling offices. The College of Business had been operating out of an 80-year-old building.
In addition to being director of operations, LeMay is also the college’s IT director. When Austin Hall was designed, he and his IT staff had the foresight to add video conferencing technology into classrooms and conference rooms, which made the transition to remote learning smoother during the pandemic.
Students learned remotely from the start of the pandemic in March 2020 through the end of the spring term. While many students came back in fall 2020, classes were still hybrid, and according to LeMay, “the existing technology proved essential.”
In addition, LeMay and the IT group worked over the summer with the Oregon State academic technology department to “add Zoom readiness” to over 270 university classrooms. He says the IT group helped faculty with the transition while also moving 130 computers in the computer lab to “full online mode.”
Operations in unusual times
While preparing the technology within Austin Hall and the college’s other buildings, LeMay also had to prepare the facilities themselves.
The HVAC systems of all 160-plus buildings at Oregon State were set to maximize air circulation. LeMay and the facilities team removed and rearranged furniture to encourage physical distancing and installed signage encouraging mask wearing.
When the wildfires broke out in September, the university maintenance department quickly shut down the HVAC systems. While it made the buildings hot and stuffy, it kept the ash and smoke from getting into the buildings, which would have required cleanup and the replacement of HVAC filters. By the time students returned a week later, LeMay says the HVAC systems were operating normally.
In July, LeMay said the university was easing COVID-19 restrictions as the state reached vaccination levels of 70 percent. He added that the college operations group would be rearranging furniture to increase classroom capacity for the start of the school year.
“We’re looking forward to getting back to normal and determining what our new normal will be,” he says.
LeMay is now focused on renovating Austin Hall for the first time since it was built, with work expected to be completed by September. With enrollment having increased in the college from 3,400 in 2014 to 4,000 now, two more advising offices are being added and the reception area is being updated.
“We’re creating a one-stop shop for students to get academic and career advice,” LeMay says. “I like that our work supports students in this way. We’re very proud of Austin Hall, so seeing them use and enjoy it is really fulfilling.”
Within the college, he credited Tracy Speelhoffer, the manager of facilities, with taking the lead in working with campus and vendor partners to ensure Austin Hall adhered to COVID-19 safety guidelines.
“None of this work would have been possible without Tracy’s leadership and her building management group working so hard to make our buildings safe for students and faculty,” LeMay says.
LeMay, who’s worked at the college for 18 years, says one of his favorite parts of the job is working with his staff in supporting students and faculty.
“I enjoy mentoring them and seeing them grow and develop in their careers,” he says.
Prior to working at Oregon State, LeMay served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 20 years where he was a lieutenant colonel and flight officer, and also worked on anti-terrorism and force protection programs. He says the military gave him leadership and project management skills.
“In the Marines and here at the college, the principles of taking care of people and working towards a larger mission are the same,” LeMay says. “What I really enjoy about the university setting is that most of the staff are long-term. Having a strong, cohesive team is important to me.”
View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. VIII 2021 Edition here.
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