UCA?s new physical plant director manages the university?s lifeline

While UCA?s faculty are considered the heart of the institution, its lifeline is the nearly 140 employees who make up physical plant. These dedicated laborers are the ones who make sure the lights come on in the morning and the buildings stay warm throughout the day.

On Feb. 1, UCA?s lifeline got a new doctor to manage its care of the university. The new doctor on call is Larry Lawrence.

UCA President Lu Hardin called Lawrence a hard worker and skilled leader. ?Larry Lawrence has experience at every level and brings an extensive amount of knowledge, as well as an ability to manage and be responsive to people?s problems and concerns.?

Lawrence has worked for the physical plant for 15 years. He joined the university in 1989 as a painter. While he admits that he didn?t mind being a painter, he realized early on that he had a hunger to learn about other jobs.

?I worked for some good people ? Jerrel Fielder when he was here and Joe Phillips in the past ? they were some folks who would allow you to ask questions and learn and go to continuing education. And I?m interested in doing that too. I want to continue that based on the things that I?ve been able to do. I want others to have those same opportunities,? Lawrence said.

His desire to continue learning led him to cross-train in several positions. ?As time went by, I became more interested in the overall operation of the physical plant and I wanted to learn more,? he said.

As he became familiar with each of the shop areas of the physical plant, such as carpentry, electrical and heating and air conditioning, he also began offering to fill in for supervisors on their days off.

?I always asked them to show me what their job involved because my goal was to one day move into such a position,? he said.

In addition to on-the-job training, Lawrence took the initiative to better himself through continuing education too. He graduated from the APPA Institute for Facilities Management in 2000. He also took several management courses through the UCA College of Business Administration and UCA?s Academic Outreach and Extended Programs.

Lawrence?s continued education and his drive to reach the next step in his career allowed him to quickly move up the ranks at the physical plant. In 1992, he was named a skilled trades supervisor, in 1995, he took on additional responsibilities as a plant maintenance coordinator and in 1999 he was named assistant director of the physical plant.

As director of the physical plant, Lawrence is once again taking on more responsibilities. And while he has a lot of administrative duties, don?t look for Lawrence to be in his office all day.

?I think in order for me to be successful, I?ve got to get out. I need to be in the buildings, I need to talk to the people, I need to be taking tours of this campus ? in fact, I took one yesterday. I try to do a mix of office work and getting out on campus,? he said.

Lawrence credits his successful career to the teamwork atmosphere in the physical plant. It?s a tradition he plans to continue.

?I intend for us to be a very energetic and enthusiastic department,? he said. ?We want to be an excellent support staff for the university. I do want to stress that we have excellent people and I will value their input. They?re out there actually doing the work, so I?m going to try to stay in tune with them and be a very good listener. I just want to give my team credit for all that they do.?

-Jennifer Boyett