Holly Balentine | Student Editor
In times of question or crisis (or even if you don’t know who to contact), the University operators/dispatchers at the Physical Plant Telecommunication Systems department are the people to call.
The University operators/dispatchers are on duty 24/7 with a broad level of knowledge about the University services and the ability to direct people to buildings and events. They play two major roles for the University: answering or directing University calls and dispatching for the Physical Plant Division.
Students, parents and visitors call the operators with a variety of concerns. The team answers questions or directs callers to the correct contact. Requests have included advice for international students stranded at airports, questions from family members of MSU students, procedures for the death of a farm animal and the score of an ongoing football game.
More urgent concerns come through the lines as well. Nancy Sehlke, University operator, told an anecdote that stuck out in her mind. “There was a lost 4-year-old boy on campus for Small Animals Day one year. I radioed all bus drivers and service personnel that were working on campus to be on the lookout for him.We found him and returned him to his very grateful mother.”
12 staff members
Staff longevity from six to 43 years, with 286 combined years of service
Dual role as University operator and Physical Plant dispatch
36,267 dispatch calls last fiscal year
152,975 University Operator last fiscal year
20,340 troubles opened for Physical Plant via dispatch
The other role the team plays is maintenance dispatch for the Physical Plant. Operators/dispatchers receive trouble calls and implement the procedures used to deal with those calls: identifying the specific issue, starting the billing process and calling the correct crew for action. In addition, the operators call customers back after maintenance projects to ensure all needs were met.
Since operators tend the phones 24/7, they initiate Physical Plant emergency procedures and coordinate crucial communications. In cases of severe weather like tornadoes, they monitor conditions and warn Phsyical Plant crews of threats to provide for their safety.
In addition to daily operations, the employees provide a critical role in communicating with the Physical Plant teams during campus happenings such as sporting events and concerts.
According to Customer Service Manager Angela Knauf, the position of University operator/dispatcher is a very specialized job. Employees must have a lot of knowledge about MSU and about Physical Plant departments to dispatch calls to the right crew. Operators/dispatchers must be able to multi-task well, cross-reference many sources of information and use multiple technologies at once to do their jobs.
In light of their reliability and efficiency, Knauf thinks that the operators have an excellent work ethic. “They want to do what’s right for MSU, so they have a strong service commitment.”
As part of their jobs, University operators/dispatchers respond to situations that can be urgent, heartwarming, or anything in-between. Here are the some anecdotes from Nancy Sehlke, University operator:
“We get a lot of calls from around the world after sporting events from devoted alumni and people who follow our teams for the scores.”
“There are many students and new faculty from different parts of the world here that don’t know what date and time it is until they get used to being here. These are just some of the things that people rely on us for and appreciate having someone to answer for them 24/7.”
“We had a sweet little grandmother call once and ask if we could tell her grandson to call her. She even went as far as to describe him and also said that he was wearing a red jacket.”
“I have answered a lot of personal questions. There are students that just want to talk to someone sometimes when they get upset, depressed, or homesick. They are glad that we are here no matter what time it is.”