Steve Klein: Making His Rounds at UNK’s West Center

Posted: January 24, 2023 12:00:00 AM CST

Much like the doctors of Nebraska’s State Hospital for Tuberculosis, who for sixty years made their rounds in what is now UNK’s West Center, Steve Klein spends each morning checking in on his colleagues. As a Facilities and Technology Specialist for the College of Business and Technology, his dedication to his work helps UNK run smoothly. Klein, who has worked at the University of Nebraska at Kearney for the past fourteen years, credits his “natural passion for handling facilities-type things” for making what he does every day not “feel like a job” to him. While he shares that he works on anything that plugs into a wall, his responsibilities move well beyond technology.

Klein starts each day traveling throughout the building where he gets to do what he enjoys the most, interacting with his colleagues. He eventually ends up at UNK’s student-run coffee shop Brewed Awakenings, the first major renovation project he worked on. In addition to making the area more user-friendly for customers, adding technology to this area has helped create a flexible environment for professors to use with their classes which is always at the forefront of the designs Klein comes up with for UNK.

Creating the perfect classroom environment for faculty and students is one of his goals. In fact, he connects with new staff via email before they arrive on campus to anticipate any needs they may have. He shares that he “always make(s) it a point that first day to go in and put a face with a name or a face with an email.” This type of personalized attention stems from the fact that he wants his new colleagues to “be confident that first day when they walk in that classroom.” He’s careful to visit them again within their first week on campus to make sure they know he’s always available to help with any technological needs they may have.

Helping faculty and staff with their tech issues is just one part of his job. He also listens to feedback from the students to help him plan classroom renovations that will meet the needs of everyone involved in the learning process. Around a year and a half ago, Klein was involved with the first classroom renovation in West Center. As a pilot for future classrooms, Room 238C represents UNK’s “new standard classroom design” except for the video wall since every room won’t need to utilize such advanced features. Since that first renovation, Klein has branched out to three other classrooms in the building: 228C, 221E, and 205N. All these West Center classrooms represent his plan to find “a space that will work for everyone.”

Klein pays attention to the most minute detail of each project. After renovating 238C, he “went around to the departments at their department meetings” as well as visited instructors one-on-one to understand the vision they had for their own classrooms. He did this to create the precise environment needed for those who use the classrooms daily.

Although he admits that the “first semester was a challenge” due to the advanced technology which was new to many of the instructors, he soon was able to observe this pilot classroom in use. In addition to evaluating the use of this classroom, Klein listened to student feedback to get new ideas. He wanted to know what they expected when they first walked into the building as well as what kind of experience they received. He then used this information to target other spaces in the building.

With his goal of renovating each classroom to “make it feel more like a true business environment,” Klein can see how the impact of each project has had more than an aesthetic effect. Everything included in these new classrooms, from the interactive display on a teaching wall to the new sound system, has been carefully designed and implemented with both instructor and student in mind.

Klein is innovative when it comes to these renovations. When faced with the need to create a tiered classroom and not lose space due to square footage issues, he implemented what is called a “faux tiering concept.” He managed to use furniture to get the effect of a tiered classroom. When graduate students requested a place to recharge the devices they use all day at their jobs, he added power to their tables. The challenge of recognizing a need and finding a workable solution is one of the reasons he enjoys his work so much.

Klein, who works wherever he’s needed on UNK’s campus, recently had the opportunity to participate in the first combined renovation project between the College of Business and Technology and the College of Arts and Sciences. As part of the Discovery Hall renovation, he helped with the renovation of West Center’s Room 123E. This room was transformed into an area that can be used as a “traditional lecture-style or pod-style” classroom to accommodate up to thirty-six students. This type of flexible seating arrangement adds a new dimension to teaching and learning at UNK.

He’s excited to be part of the Building Master Plan Project, an endeavor designed to make West Center “look like a 21st century business college” while still allowing for an appreciation of its architecture. The planned renovations will make the building flow better for students. As Klein explains, another benefit will be “getting our faculty more in one location so that we create internal collisions of collaboration and research ideas.”

In a building where its past contains such a rich history, Klein has great plans for its “future footprint” where tomorrow’s students will be comfortable and able to learn in the most technologically advanced way. With its new design, this space will be easier for students to navigate. Klein looks forward to ushering in many positive changes for UNK students over the next several months.             

By: Sandy Brannan

Category: Entrepreneur, General, Marketing, Business and Technology

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