Helping an expanding university operate like a big business

Florida school taps ABM facilities management to streamline operations and make the campus ‘shine’

Leaders at Nova Southeastern University in Davie, Florida, want their institution to be top-ranked.

To reach that simple yet all-encompassing strategic goal, the private university is transitioning from an operation run like a small business to one that performs like the thriving, research- and community-based institution it has become.

“Operating in a small-business environment allowed us to be more nimble in decision-making,” says Daniel J. Alfonso, vice president of Facilities Management and Public Safety. “But while it was nice to be able to talk to the owner of the company we worked with before, he didn’t have the resources to deliver what a large organization like NSU needs in terms of employee training, meeting Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements and providing workers’ compensation insurance at the proper levels.”

Attracting the best and brightest

ABM Industries, brought in about 18 months ago, has been able to do all of that and more, Alfonso says. The facilities management company has helped transform the growing university’s physical appearance, while streamlining procurement processes and janitorial and grounds operations, which are central to attracting the best and brightest students, he says.

“When you look at the top universities, they have clean and beautiful campuses,” Alfonso says. “We want students to visit NSU and say, ‘Wow! This is a well-maintained facility.’ A classroom with dirty floors, overflowing trash cans and poor lighting is not a good environment for learning. ABM helps us create good environments for learning, and in that way, it is helping us become a great university.”

It’s been quite a ride for the private school that was founded in 1964 with 17 students seeking graduate degrees in physical and social sciences. Today, more than 21,000 students take classes on eight regional campuses, including one in Puerto Rico.

Improving personnel management and professionalism

Architects are currently designing NSU Health, which will centralize clinical operations—in optometry, dentistry and other fields—on a 14-acre tract. ABM’s contributions are helping the effort, Alfonso says.

“ABM brought in significantly improved management of personnel, and it retained employees to aid in a smooth transition,” Alfonso says. “The company also trained staff to do good work, especially in the health professions divisions and clinical spaces. There’s an improved level of professionalism, and we’ve gotten positive feedback from deans, professors and teachers who operate in those spaces.”

Saving time and money

Part of the successful transition is a partnership built on respect, responsiveness and accountability, says Alfonso and Carlos Jose, the executive director of Facilities Management.

“ABM helps us save time and money and respond better to our customers,” Jose says. “We work together to make our campus shine as we try to make Nova Southeastern one of the best universities in the country.”

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