David Laveist with his June Pride Month display board

David Laveist provides positivity and safety to the UMB community.

Security officers welcome students, faculty, staff, and visitors to University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) buildings every day. For those in the Allied Health Research Building, security officer David Laveist is an especially welcome sight.

“He’s a breath of fresh air. He has great insight,” says Joyce Johnson, academic program specialist with the Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “We all adore him. He’s very dependable and adds to the feeling of safety.”

When Laveist joined the department in March 2020, he knew his positivity could make a difference to the UMB community. “I greet every person,” he says. “I try to be their hype man when they come in the building, especially when it’s during exams. I want to see everyone happy.”

Providing “service excellence and accountability” is important to the UMB Department of Public Safety. The value was adopted by Administration and Finance, in addition to UMB’s core values. These core values are posted throughout the Pine Street Station and Pine Street Annex, where nearly 200 UMB Department of Public Safety employees work. Laveist is one of approximately 80 security officers.

“He creates an atmosphere where people feel comfortable communicating with a security officer,” says Tori Marchese, PT, PhD, Jane Kroh Satterfield Professor of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science and chair of the Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science. “He cares about the community — the students, faculty, and staff. He knows people by name. He sets a great example for the Department of Public Safety.”

“It’s a good thing when students feel comfortable talking to a security officer,” adds Laveist. “By making students comfortable with me, it’s building better relationships with our department.”

When Laveist first arrived at the Allied Health Research Building, he says there was “no personality.” He channeled his creativity into developing display boards for the lobby.

The boards began in October/November 2021. Community members wrote what they were thankful for on sticky notes and placed them on the board. “People wrote everything from physical therapy, to their mom, to coffee,” says Laveist. “The board gave me an opportunity to get to know people.”

With finals approaching in May 2022, Laveist used his own money to create a board for mental health month. He reached out to the Student Counseling Center for resources, placing pamphlets next to the board. Laveist talked with stressed students and encouraged them to take resources.

Laveist’s engagement is making a difference. In a thank-you card, one student wrote, “Your kindness and smiling face kept me happy the whole year. It is rare to have such an optimistic person to talk to every day.”

In June, Laveist was invited by the Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Services to provide a student safety presentation alongside UMB Police Chief Thomas Leone, MSL.

“He takes pride in his work, and it shows through his diligence in taking his responsibility seriously,” says Marchese. “He has created a positive experience around the security desk.”

Laveist hopes that when the community sees other UMB security officers wearing the same red uniform shirt he wears, they feel comfortable approaching them. In fact, providing excellent customer service is part of Laveist’s strategy for improving safety at UMB. “If something traumatic happens, they already know I’m a friendly face,” he says. “I want to make sure everyone is safe and has a wonderful experience at the University.”

His strategy is paying off. “David is a pillar of support, a beacon of confidence, a positive presence, a ray of sunshine,” says Marchese. “I am confident about our security when David is at the door."

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