College Services - Summer 2017 - 15

Each of you have had the unique experience of working in student
housing management, for both a university and for COCM, a third-party
management company. How has this "dual" experience changed the way
you approach a housing management partnership?
Savolskis: One thing that I will say is after being on both sides of the
table, I'm a lot more sensitive to, being on both sides of the table. I think
when I worked for higher education before I came to COCM, I looked at
vendors a little differently than when I became a vendor or a partner
from the other side. And I saw that when a university wasn't partnering
well, the problems that occurred. So, I'm a lot more appreciative of having good relationships, because I realize the benefits for both sides when
there is cooperation.
So, Patrick are you saying you're now more focused on how the university can be a good partner?
Savolskis: Yes, there must be some skin in the game on both sides. And
it works better when both sides are willing to put their best foot forward
and not try to play the blame game. It's tempting at times, for a university
to want to lay all their problems on the vendor. But in most cases, I think
it's better when there's a shared thought of, "we're in this together," and
we can solve the problem together, if we partner up and don't play the
blame game.
Marsh: One of the great things about working at COCM, is we are all
"Student Housing Professionals." Most of us have been on both sides of the
fence in our careers in student housing. For example, I once worked on a
campus where the third-party vendor was just a property manager for the
campus housing. So, there was no focus on what to do for the students.
I think if we continue work on partnerships and educate people in higher
education on how we can be a great partner versus a hindrance, I think
we will continue to kill the stigma a third-party management company is
the dark side.
Mecca, your experience with higher education didn't begin with a
university job, it began by your actually growing up in on-campus housing. Can you describe that experience for us?
Marsh: Yes, on-campus housing is truly a family business. My mom
worked in Student Affairs and my father was a faculty member, so I can
honestly say I have lived in a residence hall for two-thirds of my life. Being in
campus housing and student unions, and having my five-year-old birthday
party in a residence hall or, having what I considered eighteen big sisters
in the residence hall we lived in, has been an integral part of my life. So,
the student housing piece is something very dear to me.
Bekurs: My experience of working for both a university and an on-campus housing management company has reinforced the difference between
a partnership relationship and that of simply a vendor. A partnership is
where both companies have a vested interest in the same outcome. When
that exists, there's a lot more communication, a lot more dialogue. I go
back to what I said earlier about the trust, the respect, the compromise.
Not that you don't have that with your vendors, but a vendor to me, is
more a company that comes to cut the grass. They don't have a vested
interest in the educational mission of the university, but a partner does. I
don't think I would have grasped this if had not worked in both scenarios.
Biddy: I had the unique experience of going back to UAB to fill in as the
Interim Housing Director at University of Alabama Birmingham, while I was
a COCM employee. However, in reality, I was functioning as a UAB employee.
It made me appreciate that prior to the partnership, long before we start
any aspect of management operations, decisions get made in a vacuum.

And the people being asked to implement those decisions aren't being
included in making those decisions. So, for me it's an appreciation of having
the people involved in the partnership having a full understanding of what
we are trying to achieve, how we are trying to get there, and not taking for
granted that everybody knows the right direction to be pulling, and why
the project is there and its purpose. Many times, as a management company, we take for granted that everybody at the university knows what's
happening. And at the university, we assume the management company
must know what we want, because otherwise they wouldn't be here. What
this experience helped me realize is the importance in a partnership of
each side trying to understand what the other is trying to gain.
What stories do you have about strong housing management partnerships you've been involved with?
Savolskis: One of my favorite stories is when I was working with COCM
and we were asked to partner with Bowie State to manage an on-campus
community. We came in after another company's operations had not gone
well, and the facility was in bad shape. The great part about the situation
was that we started off with a heart-to-heart meeting with the university
administrators and said, "Give us some time, trust us, and we can get this
back on track for you." It took a lot of hard work and there were challenges
along the way, but soon that facility and the management partnership was
much better than what they had before. The building was fully occupied,
which greatly improved the financials of the project.
Biddy: Yes, Bowie is a great example of how, even when there are challenges, we started off with a strong partnership. Together we were able
to turn things around. It's a great success story.
Marsh: At Norfolk State, COCM has been working hard to make this
a strong, successful partnership. One the things we've done together is
to make this a place where students don't want to leave. As a student
housing professional at COCM, that gives me a great sense of satisfaction.
Bekurs: When I think about stories, I like to think about the transformational partnerships I was fortunate to be involved with. When a new
community opened, and was managed well, and because of that, enabled
the students to have a great experience and focus on their academics,
and be successful. Just look at what the University of Kentucky has done
and how that campus has been transformed over the last few years with
their new housing through a management partnership.
Let's say one of your colleagues from another campus calls and tells
you their university is about to enter into a third-party management
partnership for their campus housing. What advice would you give them
about how to make the partnership successful?
Savolskis: I would recommend the university be very clear and direct
about what they are looking for in the partnership. Put your cards on the
table so the management provider knows what you're looking for and
can deliver on that.
Biddy: Read the documents: you need to know what you are getting
into - from the ground lease to the management agreement, and so on.
You need to know what the 3rd party management company can do for
you on your campus and what makes sense for that company to do for
you (and what does not make sense). From my perspective with COCM,
I've always tried to be as transparent as possible about what our motives
are as a management provider. Going back and reading the documents
helps everybody know what the end game is. As a third-party manager,
we have no financial motivation to not spend the money budgeted to take
care of the facility, because the only compensation we receive is our fee.

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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of College Services - Summer 2017

Opening Remarks: Presidential Perspective
Future-proofing your organization’s leadership
Perspectives on strong campus housing partnerships from both sides of the table
Achieving institutional excellence through collaborative sustainability efforts
New partners for new ventures
Corporate Partnerships: Focus on university partnership
Partnerships and possibilities: Working together to bring a food truck to campus
What vendors wish we knew
Partnerships key to addressing food insecurity at WSU
Student Author Contest winners
Partnership at its core: Arizona State University's Sun Devil Fitness Complex and the Downtown YMCA
In Closing Executive Summary
Professional Development Calendar
Advertisers Index/Advertisers.com
College Services - Summer 2017 - intro
College Services - Summer 2017 - belly1
College Services - Summer 2017 - belly2
College Services - Summer 2017 - cover1
College Services - Summer 2017 - cover2
College Services - Summer 2017 - 3
College Services - Summer 2017 - 4
College Services - Summer 2017 - 5
College Services - Summer 2017 - Opening Remarks: Presidential Perspective
College Services - Summer 2017 - 7
College Services - Summer 2017 - 8
College Services - Summer 2017 - 9
College Services - Summer 2017 - Future-proofing your organization’s leadership
College Services - Summer 2017 - 11
College Services - Summer 2017 - Perspectives on strong campus housing partnerships from both sides of the table
College Services - Summer 2017 - 13
College Services - Summer 2017 - 14
College Services - Summer 2017 - 15
College Services - Summer 2017 - 16
College Services - Summer 2017 - 17
College Services - Summer 2017 - 18
College Services - Summer 2017 - Achieving institutional excellence through collaborative sustainability efforts
College Services - Summer 2017 - 20
College Services - Summer 2017 - 21
College Services - Summer 2017 - 22
College Services - Summer 2017 - New partners for new ventures
College Services - Summer 2017 - 24
College Services - Summer 2017 - 25
College Services - Summer 2017 - 26
College Services - Summer 2017 - 27
College Services - Summer 2017 - Corporate Partnerships: Focus on university partnership
College Services - Summer 2017 - 29
College Services - Summer 2017 - Partnerships and possibilities: Working together to bring a food truck to campus
College Services - Summer 2017 - 31
College Services - Summer 2017 - What vendors wish we knew
College Services - Summer 2017 - 33
College Services - Summer 2017 - 34
College Services - Summer 2017 - Partnerships key to addressing food insecurity at WSU
College Services - Summer 2017 - 36
College Services - Summer 2017 - 37
College Services - Summer 2017 - Student Author Contest winners
College Services - Summer 2017 - 39
College Services - Summer 2017 - 40
College Services - Summer 2017 - 41
College Services - Summer 2017 - 42
College Services - Summer 2017 - 43
College Services - Summer 2017 - 44
College Services - Summer 2017 - Partnership at its core: Arizona State University's Sun Devil Fitness Complex and the Downtown YMCA
College Services - Summer 2017 - 46
College Services - Summer 2017 - In Closing Executive Summary
College Services - Summer 2017 - 48
College Services - Summer 2017 - Professional Development Calendar
College Services - Summer 2017 - Advertisers Index/Advertisers.com
College Services - Summer 2017 - cover3
College Services - Summer 2017 - cover4
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