Keeping Campus Operational: CUFO Employees on the Front Lines

We are extremely proud of and grateful for the dedication of our employees who work on campus in service to the University during this challenging time. Facilities and Operations’ executive leadership offer words of thanks and appreciation.

April 09, 2020

Facilities and Operations

"These last few weeks have been extremely challenging to all of us both personally and professionally. Yet at every step, Facilities and Operations as an organization has adapted and is proactive, prepared, and professional in its service to the Columbia community. I want to thank all our front-line employees who come to campus every day to ensure that essential operations continue and whose stellar work and dedication is commendable beyond words." – David Greenberg, Executive Vice President, Facilities and Operations

Campus Services

"I recognize the surplus of challenges all of us are trying to handle, from home-schooling and sharing ‘office space’ with family members who are also working remotely, to the worries we all feel for those in our lives and our communities most at risk. For me, there is something distinctive and uniquely courageous about those who wake up every day and come on site to support our students and others. Once again I am overwhelmed with pride in our core of dedicated professionals in Health, Housing, Dining, Mail & Transportation, true heroes who continue to prioritize the needs of the Columbia Community above and beyond all other considerations." – Scott Wright, Vice President, Campus Services


"Columbia Dining was voted the number one college dining program in the country – during this crisis, the staff on our team have shown that they are the reason why. We always rise to the occasion in an emergency – but the performance of our staff over the past few weeks have been above and beyond expectations. Within days, the team worked to fold the operations of 11 dining locations into one, with John Jay dining hall seamlessly continuing food service and providing a sense of normalcy for our students remaining on campus. The culinary team has been flexible in adapting menus, preparation and service plans given the changing environment. Our staff have focused on putting student needs first, by always providing great service and warm hospitality. We are still here on campus, 7 days a week to make students their favorite omelet or smoothie, with a light-hearted joke or a reassuring smile. Our focus, as always, is to provide good food and a sense of community for our students – that’s never been more important than it is now." – Vicki Dunn, Assistant Vice President, Columbia Dining


"The resilience and adaptability these past few weeks of the Columbia Health team have been truly remarkable. We shifted literally overnight into a mostly virtual healthcare organization while still maintaining a physical presence on campus to support students who remain. My leadership team and I are proud of our staff, who have figured out how to maintain a professional context in their private space and ensure students see no interruption in their access to us. Every single one of us is playing a part in our nation and our world’s response to COVID-19 and are potentially doing some of the most impactful and meaningful work of our careers. I am inspired by Columbia Health's dedication to providing world class health care and support services to our students during this challenging time." – Melanie Bernitz, M.D., MPH, Associate Vice President and Medical Director, Columbia Health


"Columbia Housing faced the daunting task of vacating 5,600 students from 38 residence halls during an unprecedented time. I am so moved by our students who recognized the critical nature of the moment and cooperated with the call to leave campus, despite the complexity and emotion of what it meant for them to do so.  I will be forever proud of the Columbia Housing team who went straight to work to develop a plan and process to relocate each of our residents who remained on campus, understanding their unique needs, providing assistance to ensure their health and safety, and executing a logistical plan to move their belongings so that we could empty buildings and repurpose them for front-line healthcare workers. The leadership team in Housing and every staff member who continues to remain on site has shown a tremendous amount of resiliency and courage, while redefining their dedication to our students. As important, our partners across campus have stood by and supported Housing every step of the way and, for that, we are extremely grateful." – Honey Sue Fishman, Assistant Vice President, Housing Services and Student Center Operations

Mail, Print & Transportation

Our teams in Transportation, Mail, and Print responded swiftly and professionally to the many changes that took place on campus. In some cases, we were prepared to maintain business as usual. The Student Mail Center continues to serve students that remain on campus, and have extended mail forwarding and holding for those who've left. Administrative Mail is doing all we can to help staff and faculty members as they've taken their work off-campus with customized mail solutions. Print is still fulfilling orders online with the same high quality of service we've always produced. In Transportation, while we've reduced shuttle bus service to be in line with the current ridership, we are still providing rides to all Columbia affiliates commuting to their essential functions. I'd like to express my gratitude and pride for all the officers and support staff who are doing great work even in the most troubling circumstances.” – Mike Pagan, Executive Director of Administrative Services


“A crisis brings out the true nature of people, and the resilience, dedication, and responsiveness of the Facilities Operations team is amazing. Our staff has worked tirelessly to move out, relocate, and convert dorms for housing of medical staff, bravely completing this work for the greater cause. Preparations in support of hospital operations continued at Baker Athletics Complex where our team converted the enclosed soccer facility into a field hospital in ten days. Facilities staff have been coming to work throughout the crisis to ensure that research, housing, and other critical University functions can occur safely and to minimize the pandemic spread. Concurrently, our staff implemented remote operations including setting up a remote call center, providing equipment and resources, and developing operation and communication practices. Throughout, our Facilities Operations staff have operated with a “can do” attitude as they do their part in reducing the spread and disruption caused by the COVID-19 disease at Columbia University and the surrounding community. I am extremely thankful for the dedication, bravery, and cooperation of the entire Facilities Operations team.” – Gerry McGillian, Vice President, Operations

Public Safety

"I am so proud of our Operations team, uniformed officers and supervisors collectively – all committed to the safety and welfare of the members of the Columbia community while working round-the-clock shifts to respond and perform their duties on campus on a daily basis. While their job right now resembles something much different than when there is a bustling campus, the critical role they play is of heightened importance during these challenging times. In addition, our investigators and technical support staff are performing effectively in their critical functions, whether working remotely or present on campus. I appreciate their adaptability in fulfilling their responsibilities to keep the campus – both its people and places – safe and secure." – Jim McShane, Vice President, Public Safety

Real Estate

"I am extremely proud of our Real Estate team for its unfailing commitment to providing exceptional service to our community. Our team recognized the impact this crisis would have upon neighboring businesses and was quick to offer assistance to our retail tenants by developing a rent abatement program for dozens of qualifying small businesses, promoting their restaurant delivery services, and directing tenants to additional resources that may help them sustain operations. I also want to recognize the efforts of the retailers, whose perseverance at this challenging time is remarkable and lends the neighborhood continuing vitality during a profoundly difficult moment. In addition, Real Estate seamlessly supported CUIMC and New York Presbyterian Hospital in their preparedness planning efforts to secure additional locations for patient overflow and auxiliary medical services.  I am grateful for our team’s expertise and enthusiasm in addressing the needs of our community, and feel inspired by the resourcefulness of our Facilities and Operations colleagues.” – Shari Colburn, Executive Vice President, Real Estate

View a list of Columbia University retail tenants that are accepting take-out and delivery orders.


"From the beginning of the crisis as we finalized, implemented, and revised our plans of action, there has been a consistency of professionalism, calm, and commitment as I connect with the associates of Columbia Residential. This is directly attributed to their wealth of experience, especially from our building staff members, who have been dealing with emergencies throughout their careers and on a daily basis over the past six weeks. Our goal has been to continue to positively impact the lives of the residents we serve and keep their lives as close to normal as possible. All of the success is due to the tireless efforts and dedication of all of our staff who are on the front lines each day proactively taking steps to ensure the health and safety of our residents. Their actions speak to their dedication to residents, and I greatly appreciate and am inspired by their selfless work." – Diego Rivera, Assistant Vice President, Residential

For more words of thanks and appreciation, watch this video dedicated to essential workers