Troy McQuillen – Kirkwood Community College
Modern students have many options for picking where to attend college, and one can expect to receive a quality education wherever they choose. That means colleges and universities must do more to attract students and increase enrollment.
For a school like Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the opportunity to meet the community’s needs is something that it uses as a differentiator in a competitive market. So says Troy McQuillen, the college’s facilities and public safety vice president.
“Kirkwood is an institution that prides itself with a commitment to not only our facilities but also the curriculum, faculty and student support services to ensure our programs are sustainable,” he says.
The facilities team of 90 has had direct involvement from the start with every project, including the recent completion of a new Animal Health building and the opening of the hangar for the aviation maintenance technology program at Eastern Iowa Airport. Changes are constant across the college’s seven locations —including nearly 2 million square feet of space over 650 acres —but McQuillen says that makes his job enjoyable.
“I am fortunate to be part of a team that is strategic and intentional about investment into capital projects we undertake,” he adds.
A modern campus experience
Under McQuillen, the college has implemented and maintained several innovative programs and facilities. These include a luxury teaching hotel, an aviation maintenance technology program, and a state-of-the-art healthcare simulation center, the first of its kind in Iowa. With 140 majors available, Kirkwood Community College offers a diverse range of educational opportunities to its students.
Supporting students is the name of the game for McQuillen and his team, and the college’s new Iowa Hall Student Center, which was completed in 2022, highlights the school’s commitment to its community.
“The design work was the most comprehensive process we have ever invested in as an institution,” he says. “It was a campus-wide effort that included multiple surveys, visioning workshops and schematic design drafts. Anyone from across the institution that wanted to participate was invited. This also included many students.”
Student feedback highlighted the importance of providing a place where students could feel a sense of belonging and ownership while also honoring the innovative history of Kirkwood and its potential to positively impact the lives of its students in the future.
The new student center spans all three Iowa Hall and Mansfield Center floors, with additional facilities added to the north and south of the building. The center is designed to bring together diversity, inclusion, community and Kirkwood Community College itself. The first floor features a cafe and merchandise area, while the second is dedicated to cultural activities. The top floor houses offices and financial services.
“A larger, state-of-the-art meeting space allows for gatherings and events, and the Global Learning and English Language Acquisition is also located in the new facility,” McQuillen notes. “The student center was designed for disruption and student interaction, in addition to providing “Sticky Space” the focal areas of interest and connection.”
Many of the projects on tap for 2024 don’t include larger construction or renovation, but there is still important work to be done. McQuillen says he’s working on the college’s first climate action plan, reviewing several spaces, refreshing cosmetics and infrastructure, and continuing to focus on campus wayfinding, space utilization, and deferred maintenance equipment replacements. A fresh facilities master plan is in the distant future the last two master plans were completed in 2005 and 2017.
Public safety and emergency management
With a sprawling campus including over 650 acres spread across seven locations, the safety and security of students, faculty, staff and visitors are paramount. The extra challenge is that Kirkwood is an open-access institution—this is a core value for the college. Entrances remain unlocked during business hours and night classes. The college welcomes several hundred employees, students and guests every day.
The college’s robust campus safety program includes several initiatives and improvements designed to prioritize the needs of each campus and ensure that the campus experience is safe for all.
The first part of the safety plan includes access controls, cameras, audible notifications and panic buttons on campus. The other half includes dedicated Kirkwood Public Safety officers on a 24/7 schedule and the addition of campus dispatchers.
“We’re participating in active threat drills with local police and have cameras on our campuses,” McQuillen says. “Doors are hard locked and require badges for access, and we conduct storm shelter exercises, too.”
Public safety is consistent with the facilities team’s main goal of total customer service that addresses the diverse needs of the college’s student population. This includes assisting with minor issues like flat tires or urgent safety and threat concerns. The public safety team aims to foster a sense of care and protection among students by providing exceptional customer service.
Industry interest and success
Throughout his career, McQuillen has faced significant challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the aftermath of the 2020 Derecho storm that knocked out power at the college for two weeks and caused millions in damage. However, these experiences have provided valuable opportunities for growth and learning.
McQuillen’s interest in the facilities industry was sparked by his grounds and turf maintenance background. The college has a culture of succession planning, and he was fortunate to be identified as someone who wanted to pursue a position in leadership.
After starting as a student at Kirkwood in 2002 McQuillen earned a degree in applied plant science from Upper Iowa University and a master’s degree in education from Iowa State University. He returned to KCC to teach turfgrass management for the horticulture department.
“I loved my teaching job but had limited experience in the administrator role. During the summers, I worked on special projects with the facilities team and learned about the department and that work,” McQuillen remembers. “I interviewed and received this position eight years ago. I am excited to be part of an unbelievable leadership team and lead one of the most skilled and dedicated facilities and public safety teams.”
View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. II 2024 Edition here.
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