New director of facilities management starts at WKU

George Dowling is WKU’s new Facilities Management Director. Dowling comes from Vanderbilt University where he worked as the Director of Building Services & Renovation. 

Emma Collins

WKU has hired a new director of Facilities Management, who will oversee Facilities Management staff and the maintenance of buildings on campus.

George Dowling, the new director, comes to WKU from Vanderbilt University where he spent eight years as the Director of Building Services and Renovation, a position he said is similar to the one he now holds at WKU. Dowling said his job is to oversee a staff of around 338 employees who help the university function.

“At my level, it’s more so about managing people, managing your resources, being able to keep everybody focused towards the goals,” Dowling said.

Dowling said employees in the Department of Facilities Management take care of the buildings on campus. He said they work with both the interior and exterior of the buildings, and their jobs can range from managing the heating and air conditioning equipment to fixing exterior brickwork.

“It might be doing general maintenance on doors and locks to replacing ceiling tiles,” Dowling said.

The Department of Facilities Management, according to their webpage, provides services in the following areas: electrical, plumbing, carpentry, roofing, painting, custodial, heating and cooling, sustainability and recycling, among others.

Chief Facilities Officer Bryan Russell said the Department of Facilities Management works closely with the other three units under the Chief Facilities Officer Division. These departments are Planning, Design and Construction, the Office of Sustainability and Environmental Health and Safety.

“All of our staff work collaboratively together to deliver an environment designed to optimize student safety, learning and personal growth,” Russell said in an email.

Dowling said the employees in the Department of Facilities Management are employees of Sodexo, a vendor who hires and pays the department’s employees. Dowling, who started at WKU on Oct. 24, said he is also an employee of Sodexo.

“It’s really being out and about, doing walkthroughs, walking through mechanical rooms, walking through this building looking at the cleaning, looking at if things are being done properly, are there things we need to fix that maybe somebody missed,” Dowling said.

Before working at Vanderbilt, Dowling worked for UPS for nearly 21 years. He said he spent around 18 years of his time at UPS in a management position overseeing truck drivers.

Dowling said he left UPS after 20 years to become a loan officer at Bank of America. He said the recession in 2008 prompted him to return to a management position.

“I said well, I’m going to get back into management,” he said. “That’s what I’ve done, that’s what I know, and so I came across the job at Vanderbilt.”

Dowling, who is from Tampa, Florida, said when he was in college he did not see himself working in a management position at a university. Dowling said he attended the University of South Florida where he received a bachelor’s degree in public health education. Dowling also has a Master of Business Administration from Colorado State University. He said he considered studying physical therapy but decided to work at UPS when he saw an advertisement for a part-time job at UPS.

Dowling said he did see himself working at a university later in life but in a faculty position, not a management position. He said he thought he would enjoy teaching, but the job opportunity at Vanderbilt presented itself sooner than he had expected.

“The opportunity came to go to Vanderbilt, to move to Nashville, and so I just thought it was a good time,” Dowling said.

Dowling said he and his wife still live in Nashville, but they are planning on moving closer to Bowling Green. He said he and his wife have enjoyed living in Nashville and experiencing the four seasons.

“People have been very warm and friendly,” Dowling said. “So, it’s been a great experience.”

Dowling said he has several goals as the new director of Facilities Management that focus on “safety, service and performance.” Dowling said he wants to make sure the employees have safe working conditions. He said he also wants to ensure that the department is providing service WKU needs while being as efficient as possible.

Dowling said he and his staff tend to operate behind the scenes, but they are still equally as dedicated to WKU.

“You have a lot of people who enjoy what they do, who are really good at what they do, whether it’s a housekeeper or a painter,” Dowling said.

Dowling said he, in particular, has enjoyed his time working at a university.

“Working at a university is pretty unique and fulfilling because you’re helping young adults with their education in a kind of behind-the-scenes way,” Dowling said.

Reporter Emma Collins can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected].