The best part of Roger Behrens’ day is when he gets the chance to say hello to a student. He only sees them for a short time each day, when he rolls in to clean his assigned floors in Watterson Towers. But those brief moments can make a lasting impression.
“I like to just say ‘Hi’ or ‘How’s your day?’ It seems simple enough, but it’s another way to show you care, and show the students that we feel like they belong here,” said Behrens.
Behrens has been on the janitorial team for Building Services for the past 21 years – 12 as extra help, and nine as a full-time Illinois State employee. Throughout the years, those quick greets have made an impact with students.
This year, Behrens was nominated by students for an Impact Award. Organized through University College, the award recognizes the positive influence individual members of the Illinois State University community have on new students and student retention.
“Roger is always so sweet and so polite,” declared a student nomination. “He is a really amazing person and I could never do what he does every day.” Another nomination said of Behrens, “He is a kind and great man, always making us smile.”
According to Amy Roser of University College, Impact nominees are usually advisors or faculty who work closely with students. “It’s rare to have a Building Services worker on the list.”
Behrens himself was surprised that he was nominated. “I don’t think I go out of my way to take care of the new students or freshmen. To me, they are no different than any other student. They all have the right to be here.”
Throughout his time on campus, Behrens has worked in almost every building. He declines to pick favorites, but said he enjoyed his last year working on several floors of Madison in Watterson Towers. “A lot of those students are coming back, including the RA (residential assistant). It was nice when they asked me to come back and work those floors again next year. I’ll definitely put in for it.”
Janitorial staff put in for a lottery of which building and floors to work. Those with seniority generally get first pick. It’s a system Behrens knows well, not just for his days at Illinois State, but his mother’s as well. “My mom, Patty Fitzgerald, worked 26 years in Building Services before she retired,” he said. “She liked her job, and I like mine. It’s a great way to meet new people.”