Valet captain Roger Fairchild greets guests as they arrive at the Morris Inn. (Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame)
This spring is shaping up to be nearly as busy on campus as football season. Starting with the Garth Brooks concert this Saturday and ending with the Billy Joel concert on June 25, six major events will take place over seven weeks — not to mention the academic summer session is coming, it’s wedding season and spring is when visitors start flocking to Notre Dame.
Roger Fairchild, valet services captain at the Morris Inn, looks forward to what’s ahead.
“Notre Dame is such a bucket list place for so many people, like Augusta National Golf Course was for me. I knew Augusta was going to be amazing, but when I finally got there, it exceeded my expectations. That’s what I want to provide for our visitors. When they’re here, I want to take their expectations of the place and elevate that to another level,” he said.
It will take the contributions of employees working directly with guests and those behind the scenes to host the 2022 and 2020 Commencement Ceremonies, Alumni Reunion, Golden is Thy Fame and two concerts.
Each occasion is a life event for guests.
“The only way the University is able to do it is because of the inspiring work by numerous teams from across Notre Dame,” Mike Seamon, vice president for campus safety and University operations, said.
“There are countless individuals from departments such as Building Services, Parking Services, NDPD, NDFD, Recycling, General Services, Campus Dining, the Morris Inn … the list goes on. Because of all of them and their incredible work, the University is able to be at its very best as it welcomes our graduates’ families and guests as they celebrate everything that is special about Notre Dame,” he added.
University leadership appreciates the teamwork it takes to host consecutive large-scale events.
“It’s humbling to witness the hard work, care and commitment to excellence from so many across campus. Because of the team of talented colleagues, we can provide distinctly Notre Dame experiences for the Notre Dame family,” Micki Kidder, vice president for University Enterprises and Events, said.
The rapid cadence of events will not only take hard work, but also require extra hours and even additional work days for some employees.
The 2020 Commencement Celebration will take place over Memorial Day weekend, which means some employees will work over what is typically a three-day holiday. That’s the case for some employees with St. Michael’s Laundry, who will distribute graduation gowns and accessories to 2020 alumni on Friday evening and Saturday. Work related to the big events has already included pressing 1,500 graduation gowns, hundreds of stoles and hoods and an untold number of table linens.
“This is a busy of the year, maybe busier than normal, but everybody’s doing a great job, working as hard as they can and things are getting done,” Jeff Rogers, uniform sales and rental coordinator, said of his St. Michael’s colleagues.
Building Services has also been preparing for the activity on campus. Darla Hansen-Wilson supervises staff members who sanitize, disinfect and maintain the athletics buildings, including Notre Dame Stadium where the commencement ceremonies and concerts will take place. “A month or two prior to times like these, the team has conversations so we are both mentally and physically prepared. We take it one step at a time and one day at a time and know that together we will be successful,” Hansen-Wilson said.
Assistant Directors Jennifer Wilber and David Konkey and Associate Director Jeff Edgerly shared what they see as the biggest challenge facing Building Services: having enough staff to support all the functions.
Building Services is one of several University departments experiencing the effects of the tight labor market. Kidder and her team have employed creative approaches to meet the challenges.
“Feeding so many people over the course of seven weeks is not for the faint of heart,” Kidder said, as an example. “It’s extremely difficult this year because we’re down so many people. The hospitality and catering teams can’t do it alone.”
So they’ll get some help. Scott Rieth, executive director of hospitality and general manager of the Morris Inn, and Luigi Alberganti, senior director of campus dining, will work with each other’s teams and external partners like Navarre Hospitality Group.
“The teams will come together in a unified way to support the Notre Dame students, their families and guests over the Commencement weekends and the alumni on Reunion Weekend,” Kidder explained.
The University will also lean on community partnerships to manage traffic around the Douglas Road closure between Twyckenham and Ironwood. That stretch of Douglas is the main artery to campus from the north and east.
As activities pick up here, Kauble reflected that this tempo is a better than when campus was shut down due to the pandemic. “We’ve seen a significant increase in events that require our support, and we have been excited to get busy again. It’s been nice to see our staff more frequently and catch up on their lives,” he said.
“The Douglas Road closure will most impact guests coming for the larger occasions, like this weekend’s concert,” said Tom Kauble, manager of traffic and parking with the Notre Dame Police Department. “We have developed a great plan in partnership with Indiana State Police, South Bend Police and St. Joseph County Police to ensure our traffic patterns for the concerts — and, later, football — experience minimal delays.”
Kauble also manages event parking. “Parking impacts every event and function on campus as well as every guest who comes to visit,” he said. Thanks to a roster of more than 100 as-needed workers — some of them new — Kauble believes his team is ready.
“We have been hiring staff since February for our summer concerts as well as the 2022 football season. By encouraging our new hires to start working in the spring and summer, by the time the football season starts they will already have some great experience,” Kauble said.
Fairchild echoed Kauble’s sentiments. “I am surrounded by great people who are happy to work at this great place,” he said. “We don’t do ‘average’ at Notre Dame. My deal is to make sure the person right in front of me feels welcomed and appreciated. We want visitors to experience pure Notre Dame excellence.