Grassroots greatness: Washburn’s groundskeeping team


Lay of the Land: Eric Moss looks at a map of the campus. 

Yash Chitrakar

Sweltering heat, cascading rain or bone-chilling snowfall, the campus groundskeeping team does everything to ensure a clean and aesthetically pleasing campus ground.

“Having a beautiful campus is very important, as it attracts prospective students,” said Eric Moss, assistant director of the Facility Services department. “It shows that a campus cares about how it’s run.”

The employees maintain the campus year-round, mowing, fertilizing, planting, raking or removing snow– whatever it takes to keep the campus grounds lush and beautiful. This winter, the groundskeeping team will be the first ones up on campus each morning as they shovel snow from the sidewalks and spread salt across the ice, braving the cold to make the campus grounds safer to walk across and drive through.

Atit Adhikari, student worker, knows how hard it can be to work in 90 degree summer heat, too.

“The humidity blankets you,” Adhikari said. “I was sweating constantly and had to go too often for water breaks. It was pretty tiring.”

There are seven full-time employees, seven student workers and three veteran workers that are a part of the groundskeeping team, all of whom are responsible for maintaining Washburn’s 187 acres. Landscaping covers a significant part of their jobs. They mow the grass, trim the hedges and plant flowers to compliment the seasons (bright yellow and pink mums for fall because they can endure the cold, and geraniums and day lilies during warmer weathers). For special events, they do specific set-ups. For example, they plant new flowers graduation around Petro each year to brighten the grounds for graduation.

Each day, the employees report to Mike Jauken, groundskeeping chief, at the heating plant near Yager Stadium to receive instructions for the day. Student employees usually work 20 hours per week while full-time and veteran workers have 40 hours on their hands.

“The face of the campus, the 17th street side, is given the highest priority,” Moss said.

Another priority of the grounds-keeping team is maintaining the irrigation system that runs throughout the campus, especially during the winter. The team is also in charge of moving furniture between buildings on campus at certain times of the year.

“People who like to be outside and don’t mind the rain, the heat or the cold are perfect for the job,” Moss said. “They will work with the enthusiasm needed. People like that will look at their work, whether it was marking the field for games, planting trees or cutting grass, and feel a sense of accomplishment. They’ll say, ‘I made a difference’.”