Move & Events

Preparing for Commencement

Baldemar Flores, foreman for Move & Events, was recently interviewed on the work his team does to prepare the campus for graduation.

Move & Events

Haywood McNeill (Interviewer): How did commencement go for you guys this year?

Baldemar Flores: Graduation went well, once it got started. We had two days to get everything set up and such, and we got it done.

HM: I saw your group setting up chairs in one of the exercise studios of the Visitor Center & University Bookstore (VCB [Visitor Center & University Bookstore] ). What was that for?

BF: We set up the over-flow room. We have two multipurpose rooms and the Activity Center to set up. We set up for honors and ring ceremony and then there are the hooding ceremonies starting Monday right before graduation. So, the two days we start early is to get all that stuff completed.

HM: How many staffers do you have to work ahead of graduation?

BF: In my shop, I have a staff of five people. That’s what we’ve always had over the years.

HM: Between commencement exercises, how much time would you estimate the team has to freshen things up for the next ceremony?

BF: We have about an hour between ceremonies to turn around rooms and adjust everything for the next ceremony in the Activity Center.

Move & Events

HM: Is there a lot of planning and coordination involved in pulling everything off?

BF: We have pre-con meetings with Judy Barnes (director for University Events) and Rena Piper (assistant director for University Events) of the President’s Office starting three or four months ahead to plan things out. They’ll schedule when rooms will be opened and ready for us to set up. We usually take about four days to set up graduation but this year we did it in two days.

It was really tight but we had prepared for just about everything – Tricia Losavio (director for University Recreation) over in the Activity Center said we could get into this place at this set time. She’ll shut things down. And then once we have everything in place we get going, and we can get going, know what I mean?

Sometimes we do have to wait for somebody because there is a previous event, especially in the Activity Center where they have a lot of practices scheduled.

Same with convocation. That’s the morning of doctoral hooding ceremonies, they do that early, and both events take place before any graduation.

Now they kind of use the same stuff and our job is to just readjust everything for that next event. For convocation we had some tables out, but we are using the same furniture so that once it’s over we simply have to either add or subtract for the next event.

Thanks to the intense planning, things generally ran smoothly. Everything was put in its place.

HM: Do you have a contingency plan in the event of rain or adverse weather?

BF: The rain wasn’t an issue this year. Like for Memories on the Mall, we do all that stuff so it’s nice when they come out to the mall. Everything we had set up outside and we were ready – still we’ve always got another plan, a backup – to go indoors if needed. But the rain wasn’t an issue. We had the outdoor events outside, and everything went well.

Move & Events

HM: What are those work days like for you and your team?

BF: Usually we have to work overtime for graduation setups. We come in early to get that set up in the mall because you can’t leave out tents and stuff because of the wind, so we have to set it up the first day and tear it down that afternoon. It requires overtime. Next day, we have to come in early again and start it all up again. These are usually 12-hour work days for us.

It’s an improvement because before we used to have some 16- or 17-hour work days for graduation. We’ve come a long way in terms of time management.

We learned how to set up everything in preparation for the setting-up work we have to do. We communicate with all the schools and departments, saying, ‘My end needs this, this and this ready,’ and they get it ready. When everything is in order, it helps things run much smoother. It takes the guesswork out of it.

HM: Do you have a schedule to follow with times for this and that?

BF: Judy and Rena put together a schematic chart of times and places, recorded numbers, where everything goes on what day. That makes it so much simpler for us. We can just follow that list or prepare everything so that we can follow that list at those times. We don’t always hit those times – things don’t always line up perfectly, but we get pretty close so that saves a lot of time.

HM: How does Move & Events work differ during graduation from your daily tasks?

BF: The difference between setting up for graduation ceremonies and setting up for events on the daily is that it’s way more intense due to time constraints, and there is way more furniture that we’d set up than for regular events. I mean we set out 650 to 720 chairs on the floor depending on the commencement ceremony. And it takes a lot to set up the stage – putting devices in for the media people, setting up additional overflow rooms, which includes more furniture – 20 round tables in the multipurpose, probably 10 more in the two racquetball courts along with chairs. That’s a lot of tables and chairs and so it does get really intense.

Stanchions, putting them where they go, lining them up and laying down the carpet – red carpet-style – setting up chairs for musicians, hanging banners on the stage, covering up the scoreboard so the stage will look nice and neat.

Judy and Rena gave us high praise, and former Interim President Hobson Wildenthal, Ph.D., and others in the stage party, said they were pleased with the way everything looked.

HM: I saw an event in the VCB [Visitor Center & University Bookstore] atrium. Were your guys working that, too?

BF: After the hooding ceremony they had a reception in the VCB [Visitor Center & University Bookstore] atrium where food was served. We set up for their reception but then we turn around and take that down and some of that equipment goes back in the gym.

HM: Is there something you do that people may not realize you are doing behind the scenes?

BF: Like Memories on the Mall, we go pick up the cookies at Sam’s, like 100-something cases of cookies that we go to Sam’s to pick up and deliver to campus.

And all the diploma covers they use – boxes of them, close to 100 – two truckloads get picked up and brought over.

There’s always a lot to do but at the end of the day, it’s all worth it.

Move & Events assesses and assists with coordinating and implementing safe, efficient and economical moves and configuring, setting up and tearing down of chairs and tables for events.


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