Home Sweet Home… Finally!

Dozens of faculty and staff moved into the spiffy new NW01 building in October. Although their journey didn’t span 40 years of wilderness wandering, it must have felt like it. 

Rachel Alvarado (Financial Aid) recalls when the odyssey began in December 2020. “We left for the pandemic, so that was our first move. We moved home,” she said. “Then, when we came back in ’21, we moved into the gym. Afterward, we moved to WSTU, and finally, we moved to NW05, and this is our final move.” 

The repeated moves took a toll, she admitted, but she and her colleagues found a silver lining. “Honestly, what we got out of it is that we were adaptable to anything,” she said. 

Alvarado and others who settled into NW01 are rarities, among the fortunate finally in their permanent home. While a significant migration occurred to NW05 last spring, it mainly involved individuals passing through, utilizing “swing spaces” until their next move. 

These interim moves were challenging, said President Zarina Blankenbaker, “because in swing spaces, you don’t have the appropriate technology, and you’re not sure how much of your prior materials you need to be prepared for the ultimate workspace environment.” 

Blankenbaker had been proactive, spending a considerable amount of time digitizing and purging paper. Consequently, she had only one box to move and advised everyone to keep office supply purchases to a minimum. 

Dr. Blankenbaker in new open concept workspace.

However, it was no leisurely stroll, especially during mid-semester moves. District meetings, document submissions, and approvals were ongoing while the rest of the College enjoyed the comfort of their permanent quarters, oblivious to Northwest’s experiences. “It’s been stressful for everybody,” she said. 

As president, Blankenbaker had to manage not only the concerns of faculty and staff but also those of students. “They have to figure out ‘So, now where do I go for advising and counseling? Now, tell me again where financial aid is,'” she said. “And it takes our employees physically walking people from building to building.” 

But for those like Lynn Heisey (Business Services), the long and winding road has reached its end. “Yeah,” she said. “We’re finally in the promised land.” 

And she appreciates what she sees. “The good thing is that everything’s new,” she said. “I like the collaborative neighborhoods. We have windows that we didn’t have before. Nice aesthetics, plenty of space for the students to congregate.” 

Alvarado concurs. “This is the best thing ever,” she said. “I mean, actually I like the building. I like the space. I like it that we get to make it our own all over again, but this is permanent.” 

But the journey continues for many Northwesters. Blankenbaker compares it to a cross-country road trip: “Getting in a car and constantly keeping people posted on where it is you are stopping, and how long until the next point and are there and detours or roadblocks or construction that might delay your journey.” 

So, are we there yet? 

“Oh,” she says, knowing that NW02 and NW03 are just now taking shape, “we’re not there yet, but after this particular move w will be much more stable than we’ve been in the last couple of years.”