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Student Success: Food, Grounds, & Janitorial Services Workers

Imagine a scenario where there is a vice president, academic senate president, faculty from a variety of disciplines, union president, grounds and janitorial staff, food services workers, counselors, deans, IT personnel, classified student services workers, accounting & finance technicians, and students collaborating to see how to improve practices at the college to better serve students. I had the privilege to plan and facilitate such a session. The conversations were rich and the findings, especially from food, grounds maintenance, and janitorial personnel, were so touching and meaningful, I highly recommend that every institution of higher education create this opportunity.

I prompted these truly cross-functional teams to think about how to improve practices along the student journey. Three cross-functional teams worked on different parts of the student journey: one for connection and entry, the other for progress and completion, and last but not least, for transition. I'll focus on the connection and entry team's conversation to highlight two key personnel: grounds & janitorial staff and food services staff.

Grounds & Janitorial Staff

- Grounds and janitorial personnel are on the student-facing frontlines! They literally help students to navigate the college. They know the physical plant like the back of their hands, but not all these important personnel are aware of all services available to students.
- Imagine training these key college team members to help students know where all services are located! Directing students to buildings may not be an official part of their job description, but they have no choice to help when students see them with their uniform and ask them for assistance. They don't turn students away so why not help them be even better navigators for students?
(By the way, when I visit campuses for the first-time, grounds and janitorial staff tend to be my go-to people to help me navigate the college and they never disappoint!)

Food Services Staff

- Food services workers are also on the student-facing frontlines! These workers often know when students are stressed, having a bad day, and a host of other challenges.
- Imagine if food services workers were trained to give students key reminders and words of encouragement. For example, foods services cashiers telling each student with a smile, "Spring registration starts November 1st! Don't forget to register to continue with your goals! You can do it!"

Final words...

A common theme among grounds, janitorial, and food services staff that warmed my heart is to witness their faces light up when asked how they could help students. How often are they asked to contribute to this critical question? At some campuses, never. At most, not enough. I have no doubt that they felt valued that their voices were heard--and given the positive reaction from faculty and administration--that their voices also MATTERED.

I encourage more campuses to provide such opportunities for true collaborative cross-functionality. These sessions can take place during convocations, Flex/PD days, retreats, summits, special training days, etc. The key lesson is that everyone on the campus has a role to play in student success. These opportunities are also key to increasing morale among services personnel and contributing to an overall healthy campus culture.


Contact me about customized trainings or ongoing coaching support to help your campus plan and implement grants, projects, or comprehensive efforts such as guided pathways and equity work.  Use the contact form on the right (bottom of the page for mobile users).


(A. Solano)

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