The Beauties of Working on a University Campus

Washington State University’s Pullman campus is beautiful. If you’ve never been on it, particularly in the thick of spring time, you’re truly missing out. Although I complain as much as many government employees do, I’m incredibly thankful that I have a job that allows me to work on such a beautiful working campus, something many people can’t say in their jobs, whether that be a university campus or another workplace.

Like most people, I get down sometimes about where I am in life, in terms of my current profession or job. My dream and ultimate goal is to make a living writing, creating, as well as studying the things I find interesting, important, and relevant to the world I live in, and bringing those values to my work. That dream includes the idea of having more freedom than a nine-to-five job would ever allow (not that being a novelist/writer would be any less time intensive than my current job, likely the opposite).

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I’ve had this goal for some time, and while many interests fade after a while, or failure and discouragement dissuades a person from pursuing a goal, that hasn’t happened for me as it pertains to writing. My desire to realize my goal is just as strong as ever, and I have been continuously chipping away, not giving up, and working at honing my craft. This blog is evidence of that.

Nonetheless, I do get discouraged and a little impatient at times. While I may not exactly fit the mold of the stereotypical millennial, I’m a millennial nonetheless, and the desire for instant gratification that many in my age group have plagues me at times as well. I’m constantly looking forward, trying to figure out my next move to get to that next rung on the ladder.

Sometimes, that can make it awfully difficult to stop and smell the flowers.

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I was walking down Grimes Way the other day, a street on the WSU campus, admiring the cherry blossoms on some trees to the right of the sidewalk. I stopped and smelled their blooms, and I experienced a moment of immense appreciation for where I was, and how lucky I was to work on the WSU campus, as well as working in a job that allows me to get outside for a while pretty much every day.

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This isn’t just about WSU, even though I am quite partial to it. This is about working in a place not only where aesthetic beauty that reflects the environment in which the university is situated is valued, but also working somewhere where education, innovation, appreciation of history, and progressive change is valued.

A while back Amber and I were on the edge of the University of Idaho’s gorgeous campus, just across the state border in Moscow, and I noticed something in one of their parking lots. On the tops of each light pole in a parking lot were small solar panels, something you don’t see every day. This is a very small example of innovation and a commitment to instituting progressive facilities changes on campus to reduce the university’s energy consumption.

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Obviously, this is a drop in the bucket compared with some of the major research initiatives being studied and developed continuously at public and private universities all over the world. Not just research initiatives in the science community, either. That includes social, recreational, economic, educational, and a multitude of other research areas that professionals dedicate their careers to in an effort to collectively make the world a better place to live.

I currently work in the transportation industry for WSU, particularly Transportation Demand Management. My job is more or less to try and reduce the number of people driving alone in their cars and encouraging people to carpool, vanpool, take public transit, bike, walk, or any other form of alternative transportation you can think of, through marketing initiatives, program development, facilities upgrades, and more. All in an effort to reduce traffic congestion, reduce the university’s carbon footprint, and ultimately, help people save money on their commute to campus each day.

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I feel lucky to work for a university that values these ideals, and wants to make a difference in our sphere, no matter how small the WSU-Pullman campus is in the larger scheme of things. We’re no Seattle or Portland with a major population and major traffic problems, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about making our community better for those who live in it, and WSU is open to innovative ideas that may not be considered elsewhere.

While in Missoula, Montana last weekend I grew envious of the bike lane system the city had, and admired a protected intersection we drove by while on the University of Montana campus. UM is another beautiful campus with a gorgeous university district lined with old Norway maple trees that canopy the road, all back-dropped by Mount Sentinel, and an example of the positives that come with working at a world-class institution of higher education.

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I feel fortunate to work for a university that values education, and will allow me to take a class per semester tuition free if I feel that I have the time to further my education while working full time. I haven’t taken a class the past two semesters, but I have taken two classes since starting working at WSU almost two years ago, and I have become a better writer in the process of learning from world-class educators, as well as having the opportunity to network with people in the publishing industry, which could be very beneficial for me in the future.

And of course, I attended WSU as a full-time student as well, earning a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree, degrees that have no doubt played a massive role in landing and being successful in the jobs I’ve worked since graduating, including my current job.

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Another plus is getting the opportunity to watch world class athletes at the Division-I level compete for relatively low costs as a fan. Cougar football takes over the small town of Pullman in the fall, and on football weekends WSU is one big non-stop party. Nowhere other than a university campus does a sporting event take the special form that football weekends do. And let’s not forget the multitude of other sports one can get the opportunity to watch such as baseball, softball, basketball, tennis, swimming, track and field and many more.

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The recreation choices as an employee or student are also unrivaled in comparison with the vast majority of jobs in both the public and private sector outside of higher education. The Recreation Center at WSU is a world-class behemoth, and the vast majority of students that attend WSU will never again exercise in a gym as nice and comprehensive as WSU’s recreation center after they graduate and move away.  University of Idaho sports a quite impressive recreation center as well, with a massive rock-climbing wall, one of the biggest indoor rock-climbing walls in the northwest.

All of these are great benefits to working at a university, but the beauty that WSU has to offer no doubt is one of the aspects of my job I value the highest. Walking out and looking at buildings that are a century old, appreciating the architecture of these old buildings, as well as that of the new ones, is a special perk of working for a university that’s been around since 1890.

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As you head out toward the east portion of campus near Animal Sciences Road you get an example of the sprawling green hills that make up the Palouse, back-dropped by Moscow Mountain off in the distance. The WSU arboretum, also situated on the east outliers of campus, allows people to walk out amongst the Palouse prairie, discover seasonal flowers blooming, and enjoy panoramic views of the Palouse. UI has a gorgeous arboretum as well I hear, however I still haven’t gotten a chance to explore their’s.

It’s very likely that I won’t work on WSU’s campus forever, or a university campus at all someday, and that’s for the best if I’m to reach my career goals I outlined in the beginning, but for now, I’m thankful that I do. While no university is perfect and every institution has its problems, here’s to working for a higher education institution and the good things that go along with it.

And above all else, GO COUGS!

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