Left to right, back row: Dylan Outten, Maurice Anderson, Malcolm Edwards, Paula Hart, Jimique Brown. Front row, Katherine Turner, Taneaka Harris, Tracey Griggs, Taquana Cunningham, Micheal Brown.

This new team, clad in blue and green, is making a big impact on UMB’s outdoor spaces.

Photo: Back row, left to right: Dylan Outten, Maurice Anderson, Malcolm Edwards, Paula Hart, Jimique Brown. Front row, left to right: Casey Turner, Taneaka Harris, Tracey Griggs, Taquana Cunningham, Michael Brown. Not pictured: George Bahr, Antonieka Nance, Shony Turner, Raekwon Wallace, Edward Taylor, Ronald Grant.

Sometimes, it’s what you don’t see that can make the biggest impression.

If you see a member of the Environmental Services (EVS) team outside, outfitted in an unfamiliar (but impressive) new uniform, you’re seeing an initiative several years in the making. What you’re not seeing is litter on campus. That’s because the uniforms are worn by the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s (UMB) Clean Campus Ambassadors, a team assembled to help enhance the look, feel, and vibrancy of UMB’s outdoor spaces. While the uniforms are new, the people behind the uniforms have been doing their thing for the past 12 to 15 months.

The team was envisioned in 2022, as UMB leadership was looking for a way to restore some of the campus vibrancy that was lost during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. Part of the vibrancy initiative included helping address litter and debris removal in and around the UMB campus. To this end, the University authorized the creation of the Clean Campus Ambassador program, a group of individuals that would be focused entirely on outdoor spaces.

“The goal was making sure we were keeping our exterior spaces as clean and healthy as our interior spaces,” said Denise Meyer, director, EVS. “In forming the positions, we had to look at what we had in place. As a state agency with a lot of positions already provided for us, and a unionized workforce, we had to carefully consider where to draw the lines when outlining the duties of the new team. Not blurring the lines was imperative.

“We have a landscaping contractor, and they provide very specific services. We have custodial services that provide very specific services,” Meyer added. “Identifying what the needs were — litter pickup, emptying outdoor trash cans, recycling pickup, and wiping down tables and chairs to encourage people to utilize the outdoor spaces. What they don’t do is landscaping proper such as planting, cutting, trimming, mowing, pruning bushes, and things of that nature.”

The team of 12 was staffed during March and April 2023, and they went to work almost immediately. Their service area originally included all of the outdoor areas of UMB but quickly expanded to include campus-adjacent areas of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard from Saratoga to Pratt streets, the median strip running through it, and the areas on both sides of the street. The team also is helping with the 500 block of West Lexington Street where vendors are set up.

Making Connections

Service workers, and anyone who provides services, can often feel devalued, underappreciated, or overlooked. But the Clean Campus Ambassadors have been embraced by the University. The team has bridged gaps between students and the community, enhanced UMB’s relationship with Lexington Market, and helped the University connect with the vendors on West Lexington Street and the community at large.

Keisha Blake, senior manager, EVS Customer Services, says these connections aren’t by accident.

“Each member takes ownership of her or his area,” Blake said. “Individually and collectively, they all have a tremendous amount of pride in the work that they do. They are the epitome of teamwork, and they make sure they have each other’s backs. They have great customer service instincts, which demonstrates the core values we all abide by. They come to work smiling and laughing each day and just have great attitudes and personalities.”

As the current weather pattern demonstrates, one of the biggest challenges the team faces is the weather. Baltimore is known as a place of extreme highs and lows, so working outdoors all day can be challenging. And while it’s rare, the ambassadors occasionally will encounter an individual who isn’t as kind as our students, faculty, and staff. But the team has been equipped with ways to handle these kinds of outlier situations. So even in the event of a heatwave, they can help everyone keep their cool.

So, the next (or first) time you see an individual with the Clean Campus Ambassador uniform on, please feel free to say hello, offer them a bottle of something cold if you’ve got it, and let them know you appreciate their efforts. Not only will you make their day, but you’ll also help add to the vibrancy that we all cherish.

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