Thursday, May 24, 2012

Space, work, and energy

Throughout the years our university has worked to rebuild from the massive impact of Hurricane Katrina. I began my time at our university in 2007 when we inhabited FEMA trailers with library study carrels as "desks" -- half of the FEMA trailer building was shared by two departments and over 20 faculty members with one common phone line. It was cramped, loud, and always busy.

29-B...the half nearer the phone pole, was the former home for 23 faculty in Arts and Humanities and my first "office" location

During the next three and a half years, faculty were slowly moved out of the cramped spaces to a variety of available locations across campus. Our department was split across three buildings and struggled with connecting. These locations were not always ideal, but they were often followed by the thought, "It's better than those trailers!" Eventually, all of our department was relocated to actual buildings with semi-shared office spaces. My next space housed six faculty members with semi-private walls (did not reach the ceiling), but which seemed so wonderful!

Semi-private offices on the second floor of a rehabilitated building on campus - slightly cramped, but better than before!

Today, we see the exciting removal of those original temporary FEMA buildings. We also experience a remarkably regular pattern of moving on this campus. We are constantly shifting as one building gets torn down, a floor gets remodeled, or space is reallocated.

This past semester, I was marked for another relocation (my third in five years). After several successful grants, a new minor to run, and additional years to accumulate STUFF, this move was not met with the same excitement as my last move (out of the FEMA building). My last move (described in "Communicating through and with our work environment"--see link below) was a year and a half ago. It was exciting since we could feel the positive growth and recovery all around us. I stated then, "My excitement over the move has startled me. I didn't realize how much my work space impacted the feelings I had when I went to work or as I tried to tackle certain elements of work." However, with this latest move (and my 10 boxes of grant equipment/materials), I couldn't muster up any excitement. I was, after all, told we would probably only be in the new locations for about six months before moving again as another construction problem would push us out of that space.

So, I fought off my ennui with caffeine. Pulled my hair into a pony tail, donned my old blue jeans, and came into campus during "break" to unpack my office. Six hours of moving and unpacking later, I can gladly say that there IS still a fun energy that comes from a new space. Even when that space is temporary, even when that space will be shared with at least one other faculty member, even when covered in dust and wondering if the air conditioner will work at all this summer.

The latest location. Nice windows and more space, though it will be shared with at least one other faculty member (no walls or dividers).
More grant equipment and materials means the space is GREATLY appreciated. This newest location is on the second floor of a different rehabilitated building on campus. We will be here until at least December 2012 before we move again.
We are making it. We are recovering. We are building back a university that was brought to its knees a few short years ago. In short, we are willing to face the temporary discomforts and the occasional stress to have the honor to work with our amazing students and to help, even in a small way, with our institutional mission. 

Ponder your work space. Consider a small move. Reposition your desk, bring in new artwork, shift around your shelves, or bring in lamps instead of always using the overhead lights. Try to absorb all of the positive energy from your space that you can--even if it is only YOUR space for a short while.

Consider also:
"Communicating through and with our work environment" - November 2010
"Hurricane preparedness through technology" - June 2011

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