OSU Receives Facilities Management Industry Award

Oklahoma State University finds innovative learning potential in facilities management, receives industry award.

Oklahoma State University (OSU) was recently selected for the 2020 APPA Effective and Innovative Practices Award for its submission, “Culture of Collaboration for Student Success.” OSU’s Facilities Management stepped outside its traditional support function to build a program that functions as a partner in student success and academics.

“We help students succeed by providing practical applications that add to the standard classroom lecture to enrich the learning process,” said Ron Tarbutton, chief facilities officer for OSU. “For facilities management to be more relevant to academics, it is important to directly support the university missions of teaching and research.”

Oklahoma State University
Steve Ledbetter, Facilities Management zone manager with OSU, conducts a behind-the-scenes tour of the mechanical operations in Human Sciences with the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) Student Chapter. (Photo: OSU)

In the OSU program, the campus, facilities, and grounds become their own classrooms, providing hands-on opportunities that enrich the student experience. The projects are diverse and mutually beneficial. Students in architecture, for example, get behind-the-scenes tours of chillers, emergency generators, and air-handling units. A partnership with the Ferguson College of Agriculture has led to incorporating student landscape design elements into university building projects. Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering has partnered with facilities management for aerial inspection of the Lake Carl Blackwell dam, thermal imaging of buildings, and aerial nighttime lighting surveys. Fire Protection and Safety Engineering developed a semester-long project where students served as loss prevention consultants to facilities management.

“The list goes on. There is no limit to the partnership opportunities between FM and academics,” Tarbutton said. “The entire campus, facilities and grounds can be a cost effective ‘learning lab.’”

Submissions were assessed on criteria measuring institutional benefit; innovativeness, creativity, and originality; portability and sustainability; management commitment and employee involvement; and documentation, analysis, customer input, and benchmarking. Projects displaying a high level of innovation and adaptability for implementation at other schools had the best chance of being favorably ranked.

Other 2020 recipients of APPA’s Effective and Innovative Practices Award are University of Nebraska at Kearney, University of Massachusetts Lowell, University of Virginia, and Purdue University.

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