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(From left) Jonathan Doherty, Ian Antoniolli and Jessica Pilon, technical assistant Is, work on a design for the Morrill Hall commemorative site.

(From left) Jonathan Doherty, Ian Antoniolli and Jessica Pilon, technical assistant Is, work on a design for the Morrill Hall commemorative site.

MSU prepares student workforce

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June 29, 2012

Student of the year: Terry Pearson

Terry Pearson, former Physical Plant* student employee as part of the electrical services crew, won the 2011 Academic/Leadership Student of the Year Award from the Electrical Technology program in the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering.

Joe Ellsworth, electrician II, who oversaw Pearson during his time at the Physical Plant said, “The Electrical Technology Academic/Leadership Award is given to one student each year by the students and faculty of the Electrical Technology program in recognition of high scholastic achievement, leadership and enthusiastic interest in the field of electrical technology.”

Pearson, who worked as an electrical apprentice at the Physical Plant for just under two years, credits his Physical Plant work with helping him win the award.

“The work at the Physical Plant coincided with what I was learning in school. My work was definitely important in helping me understand what I was learning,” said Pearson.

The requirements for winning the award are a 3.0 GPA and a completed internship. Pearson met both requirements, completing his internship with the Physical Plant.

Once a student has met both requirements, he or she must be voted on by peers in his or her field of study. In order to be considered, a participant must show some sort of leadership amongst the other students.

Ellsworth said Pearson was the “go-to guy” during labs with his fellow students mostly due to his work with the Physical Plant. “He was exposed to a wide variety of jobs along with his classroom learning that gave him a lot of real-world knowledge and experience,” said Ellsworth.

While his work for the Physical Plant may have helped him with experience, that’s not the only reason Pearson is so successful. “Terry is a quick learner, eager to face new experiences and learn from them. He is resourceful and hardworking, able to find solutions to complete his projects in a timely and workmanlike manor,” said Ellsworth.

Pearson now works for Systems Control in Iron Mountain, Mich., as an electrical testing engineer. He believes that his work at the Physical Plant helped him land the job. His Phys Plant co-workers supported him with enthusiasm, and the hands-on work that he was able to do at the Physical Plant cannot be learned from a textbook.

Big League landscaping

Christian Zummer, former seasonal gardener’s aide at Landscape Services, credits his work as an undergraduate with helping him obtain the job of his dreams: landscaping for a Major League Baseball team. Zummer, who graduated from MSU in December 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in Horticulture and a Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems specialization, is currently employed at Miller Stadium, home of the Milwaukee Brewers.

 “To qualify for the job, a horticulture degree was required, so in that regard, I was no different from the other candidate. What really made the difference was the experience that I had,” said Zummer.  Zummer started working for Landscape Services in May 2010 and left in February 2012.

Zummer worked with gardeners who had been in the business for many years, an opportunity that allowed him to expand his skill set. “I really lucked out, because every gardener I worked for had at least 25 years of experience on campus, which was really great for me,” said Zummer.

Fred Kester, Landscape Services coordinator and Zummer’s supervisor, said, “I believe his position helped him. We have a campus that is known for its beauty, for its plant variety, for a lot of open green spaces.” With his experience of maintaining such a large span of land at MSU, Zummer feels very prepared to work at Miller Stadium.

“Working at the stadium, up to 35,000 people can be at a game. Working around that many people can be a shock, and if you've never done that before, it can take a while to get used to. It’s all about experience, and Landscape Services gave me that experience,” said Zummer.

Zummer’s story is one example of MSU’s goal as a land-grant institution: using the research and skills taught to benefit the larger community. He said, “The most valuable thing I learned during my time at Landscape Services was how to take what I learned in the classroom and apply it to the actual landscape.”

Students help design commemorative site

Aside from on-campus jobs and internships, there are many other real-world experience opportunities available. Students in MSU’s Landscape Architecture program took an active role in designing a commemorative space for one of the oldest and most historic buildings on MSU’s campus.

Every other year, the Landscape Architecture program hosts a charette, which is an intense design session. The Morrill Hall commemorative site was selected as the subject of the charette for its relevance. Third-, fourth- and fifth-year students were allowed to participate in teams to come up with a winning design.

Three of the participants are student employees at the Physical Plant: technical assistant is Jessica Pilon, Ian Antoniolli and Jonathan Doherty. The students are all in in the Landscape Architecture program and work in the Engineering and Architectural Services department.

The students were prepared for the charette not only because of the classes they have taken at MSU, but also because of their experiences working at the Physical Plant.

Deb Kinney, landscape architect III, graduated from MSU and now mentors students as they take an active role in the development of site construction documents.

“Our office is like a small landscape architecture firm that has one big client: the campus. And we do real projects, real construction projects. [The students] carry out construction drawings, field-work and record keeping for these projects,” said Kinney.

 “This is a great job; we get a lot of real-world experience working with vendors, contractors and consultants. We learn a lot that is not covered in the classes,” said Antoniolli. This experience helped Antoniolli, as his charette design placed third and went on to be refined by a landscape architecture class.

“It is a really great opportunity for us as evolving designers to learn and grow,” said Pilon regarding her work for the Physical Plant.

The work done by the students will be very useful in their future endeavors in trying to get jobs.

“The students get fantastic jobs as a result of the professional work they do for the campus at Physical Plant. Local design firms call and inquire about our graduating students,” said Kinney.

May/June 2012

*Prior to the creation of Infrastructure Planning and Facilities in January 2013, several IPF departments were a part of the now-dissolved MSU Physical Plant. Some historical articles on this website reference that former unit.