While any employee working in a public-facing position will tell you there’s no “typical day,” the coronavirus pandemic has taken atypical to a new level. Being on Notre Dame’s campus may be a little nerve-wracking for some, despite “the bubble.” However, the Guest Services staff at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center are trying to ease concerns and make the facility, classrooms, and amenities as safe as possible.
Senior House Manager Megan Mancini, house managers Dan Burgun and Don Demeter, and their supervisor Ashley Bennett are all familiar faces at public performances and academic or private events. While Bennett completes a temporary assignment elsewhere at the University, Mancini and the team focus on classroom management.
“It’s been a huge step from what we normally would have done,” she said. “Now, our main focus is ensuring that students and professors alike have an ideal experience in our building. That we can essentially check off all the boxes for them so that they can continue to educate or take courses in the full sense of the words even in this difficult time that we’re experiencing.”
The early days consisted of welcoming the first year and returning students who’d never been to DPAC before or handing out disposable masks to replace ones forgotten or broken on the way over among the many safety protocols. Mancini said it was a lot. “Everyone’s working together to make sure that we stay up and running as a classroom space.”
Someone from Guest Services arrives at 7 a.m. to open the “front of house” or venues and lobby for the 8 a.m. class day. That often means one of the first people students see as they enter DPAC’s doors. Although people can’t see the big smiles on their faces anymore because of the masks they’re wearing, Megan, Dan, or Don is still more than happy to lend a helping hand. The Technical Services team preps “backstage” for faculty.
Of building safety, Mancini said, “Housekeeping is in throughout the evening prior and into the earlier morning hours. We may not encounter them directly first thing in the morning, but they have been in the building sanitizing and getting everything ready for the day to begin.”
While some days may stretch well into the evening, typically, a Guest Services team member is on-site until after 5:30 p.m. to close down venues and hang around for the inevitable — lost and found.
“We’ve done a nice job at juggling the ever-changing world that we’re all in, including in our personal lives,” said Mancini. “Some people had children already in school when the semester started, some people were still doing e-learning, and with each week, something new is happening or changing. The team has been very flexible, which has been a huge help.” Early shifts rotate, allowing those with kids to see them off to school other days.
With fall semester ending and anticipating spring, Mancini and her team remain the steadfast friend at the door but are also going to stand guard and protect everyone who comes into DPAC.
‘It’s nice to feel like you have a purpose, and you’re able to offer some sort of assistance in these times. The nicest thing that I’ve noticed is you start to develop, if you call it, a relationship with some of the students as they breeze by because now they stop and chat, or they remember the last conversation you had on their way to class. You’re building a small relationship. You’re always a constant friendly face that they see going in and out of classes. I think I know if I had a child in college right now, it would be reassuring to know that they had at least one or two people that they could look to brighten their day in a way.”