Student employees keep the FAC up and running every day
They are there at 6 a.m. to open the Fitness & Aquatic Center (FAC).
They plan programming and even teach fitness classes.
They are trained and ready to save lives.
And, surprisingly, they are not university administrators, but student employees who are charged with making sure everything operates efficiently at the FAC.
“We’re teaching them that we trust them with this $22 million asset of the University,” said Pamela Wetherbee-Metcalf, director of recreational sports. “We believe in them. Most employees want structure and guidance. They want responsibility. They want autonomy and leadership. We provide all of this in our employment and leadership roles, and we are committed to helping prepare our student employees for success with internships and in the workforce post-graduation.”
The 175 to 200 students working at the FAC each semester learn all of that. Whether they’re offering fitness expertise to members, checking the chemicals in the pools, or setting up bleachers for large competitions in the Mangione Aquatic Center, the student employees fill every role in keeping the FAC running every day.
With student jobs on college campuses, there can be a problem with calling out sick due to a big test or big project. This rarely happens at the FAC,” Wetherbee-Metcalf said. “Time management is one of the top learning outcomes from being employed with the department of recreational sports and at the FAC.”
When the building supervisors, all students, arrive to open the FAC at 6 a.m., students, faculty, employees, and alumni members are already waiting to enter. The FAC has a record of 1,140 days of opening on time—a stunning example of providing the highest level of customer service to FAC members, both student and non-student.
And the administrators who mentor the student employees say they see how the students learn responsibility, time management, and how to figure out an answer based on the resources and training they have been given.
“It’s not just giving them a set of rules. It’s explaining why we do things,” said Kyle Anderson, assistant director of recreational sports for fitness and marketing at the FAC. “We encourage and train them to think critically. They’re going to start asking questions, and we think of ourselves as teachers, challenging them outside the classroom.”
The students take their jobs seriously and even take on extra hours during winter and summer breaks to make sure the FAC is clean, organized, and open 12 months a year.
“I really wanted to work at a gym because I am crazy about working out,” said Gee Wiley, ’16, a resident of Damascus, Md. She is a welcome desk attendant, enforcing the FAC’s “no ID, no entry” policy. It’s a hard job, she says, but she loves her work and encourages her friends to apply for jobs there, too. “I cannot brag enough about the FAC.”
In recreation facilities nationally, safety is the highest priority, and the FAC is no exception. "Our student employees are trained to act," said Anderson. "There are risks of serious injury or even death in programs like ours. That is why we have at least one student trained in CPR/AED and first aid in our facility at any given time."
Risk of serious injury and even death is, unfortunately, more common than one might expect with active exercisers, Anderson explained. Nationally, statistics for exercisers of all ages suggest that the chances of sudden death are about one in every 15,000 to 18,000 exercisers. One such event occurred in 2009 at the FAC, and the student staff responded with the professional training as if they had done it time and time again. The man was revived before emergency personnel could arrive.
“The training paid off, giving the man the best chance of surviving that day,” Wetherbee-Metcalf said. “It was just downright impressive.” The University was later informed that the man passed away at the hospital.
The students struggled with whether they could have done more. “They felt so burdened by the whole thing even though he left the FAC alive,” Wetherbee-Metcalf said. She and other administrators came to the FAC immediately, but the students had all but the aftermath under control. Administrators worked to debrief the incident and make counseling available to students. Wetherbee-Metcalf had nothing but praise for the students work.
It was junior Anthony D’Amato’s first shift as building supervisor when he got a Code Blue alert—a medical emergency. A patron had a broken ankle.
A biochemistry major from Boston, D’Amato was ready, called for an ambulance, and did what he could before the medics arrived.
“At the end of training, you might not know how to do everything, but you know how to find everything,” he said. “It’s definitely a job where you learn through experience.”
Andrew Bevilacqua, a senior from Emerson, N.J., agreed. “It gives you a leadership role among your peers,” said Bevilacqua, a psychology major and forensic studies minor.
The students manage the facility on their own on weekends—and weeks can pass without administrators receiving a call at home after normal business hours about something the students are not trained to handle. “Everything is available at their fingertips and they are empowered to handle matters fully, from medical emergencies to customer service problems, to equipment failures,” said Wetherbee-Metcalf.
“Our student employees are the face and the body of this place,” Anderson said. “The administrators are the skeleton, but they are the body.”
“They take on the immense responsibility without hesitation and represent the department of recreational sports and the FAC extremely well,” Wetherbee-Metcalf added. “They make us proud."