Facilities Management Leadership Academy honors first graduating class

Custodian II Lee Sesker used his admission essay for the Facilities Management Leadership Academy to make a case for why Colorado State University isn’t that different from a movie.  

“The professors and the students are the actors, and at the end of the movie, they have all these credits where you see lots of people who make the movie possible,” Sesker said. “Well, that’s us — that’s the leadership academy, where all the people working behind the scenes to make this a successful place go and get their education.”  

The leadership academy’s first class graduated on Dec. 16. A total of 36 employees applied for the inaugural program, and 24 were admitted.  

“The academy is open to all 600 of our employees, from entry-level custodians to the most senior people with more than 30 years of experience,” said Tom Satterly, the associate vice president for Facilities Management.  

This year’s class included everyone from project managers to custodians to people who work in the trades. From September to December, participants attended weekly four-hour classes where they learned the four pillars of the Facilities Management Department: finance and administration; planning, design and construction; utilities; and operations and maintenance.  

“The academy honed in on the wide scope of what Facilities Management does,” said Chuck Johnson, a plumbing shop supervisor and Army veteran who has worked at CSU for six years. “That includes the architectural side of newly-constructed projects, the trade side, and who you can talk to if you have questions or want to learn new skills.” 

Johnson said he hopes the leadership academy will help him develop his managerial skills and continue to grow his career at CSU.  

Sesker currently works the 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. shift, and covers football and basketball games on weekends. He said he sometimes walks up to six miles a night while doing duties that range from vacuuming to disinfecting classrooms, work that has helped him lose nearly 70 pounds.  

“The leadership academy gave me the ability to see what the upper echelon has to deal with,” Sesker said. “It just blows my mind what they have to do to acquire funds and keep the university running.”  

Juan Ramirez, an electronics specialist for Facilities Management, almost didn’t apply for the leadership academy and submitted his application on the last day. He hasn’t regretted the decision.  

“I just wanted to see what I could do to affect morale and make a positive change for Facilities,” he said. “I’m just trying to help people, that’s my big thing.”   

During the graduation ceremony, Satterly implored his department’s employees to continue finding their larger purpose, and said he hoped the leadership academy empowered them to do so.  

“People and purpose, that’s what gets us up in the morning,” Satterly said. “Otherwise, we would just be doing the same thing every day.”  

More than just a plaque

Leadership Academy plaque

The wooden plaques that members of the inaugural Facilities Management Leadership Academy received upon graduation offer a unique piece of CSU history dating back to its founding.   

In the 1800s, there was a grove of more than 100 black walnut trees near what’s now Ammons Hall. Those came to Colorado from Iowa, and were intended to help educate students about urban forestry.  

Over the years, the trees have been cut down due to growth on campus and thousand cankers disease.  

Six years ago, the last three trees were removed and that material was salvaged for multiple projects on campus.  

Some of that remaining wood was also used to make the leadership academy plaques, which noted they were made of trees from the CSU Oval.