Meet Pete Sandberg: Assistant Vice President of Facilities

Now that we’ve moved in to our beautiful new building on campus, it would be good to know whom to thank! That man is Assistant Vice President of Facilities Pete Sandberg. Sandberg, who has worked at St. Olaf for 23 years, oversaw the construction of Tomson Hall and will be a big part of the upcoming renovations around campus.
 
Her Campus St. Olaf: What kinds of things do you do as a part of your job?
Pete Sandberg: You have to think about St. Olaf as being like a small city. About 3,000 people live here, and about 800 come here every day. So we have to do all the services that keep a small city running. The facilities crew does all the grounds stuff, custodial, painting, plumbing, heating, electrical, air conditioning, and more. We have about 110 people in our group. We have really great folks, so it works pretty well.
 
HC: How were you involved with the building of Tomson Hall?
PS: When we’re doing major projects, my position has the overall charge of the operations side, but also I lead the planning, designing and construction. We always have someone from the constituent group be the co-leader with me. For Tomson, that was Mary Cisar from the registrar’s office. Those co-leaders communicate to me what their needs are for the building, and then I translate that and get it built. We do it together – it’s a partnership.
 
HC: What was the biggest challenge you ran into while building Tomson?
PS: It wasn’t too bad, really, because we knew the building pretty well. We looked back and found out that we projected a cost for this about 10 years ago, and we came in under that cost. But budget’s always sort of a challenge because we want to pay more attention to value than price. You can pay a whole lot, but if the building doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do, then it’s a crummy value. Or, you can pay a more modest amount, but if the building does what people need, the value is tremendous. We’re always aiming for value because you’re making a huge investment and your parents are making a huge investment. It needs to be right.
 
HC: How is Tomson running so far?
PS: I think it’s mostly running smoothly. It was under the wire to get stuff done before people moved in, but the irritating things are small and getting resolved, from what I know.
 
HC: Do you like your new office in Tomson?
PS: It’s good! We’re a little bit isolated back here – I used to be in a very public quarter, and people would stop in every three minutes. I don’t have the biggest attention span in the world, so it’s pretty easy to get distracted anyway!
 
HC: What’s your next big project?
PS: We’ve already started work on the old administration building. There are two parts: the low part was built in 1960, and the higher, three-story piece was built in 1986. The two-story part is going to be going to music, because they’ve never really had adequate practice facilities for students, despite the quality of the program. It’s going to have about 40 practice rooms and some teaching studios, and it’s going to be a huge gain for music students.
 
HC: What is your favorite thing about St. Olaf?
PS: We struggle all the time with saying just what it is that makes this place so good. I don’t know if anybody has ever really been able to put it into words, but there’s a common spirit here. Students will make eye contact and greet you, the faculty is pretty much on board with everyone and we work well together. People make whatever kind of contribution to the common mission their positions let them. That doesn’t happen everywhere.
 
HC: Finish these sentences:
Ole men are…
Ole women are…
PS: I think it’s true for both genders: they’re just fundamentally nice people. It’s really refreshing that people can just take care of each other.
 
HC: Any advice for St. Olaf students?
PS: I worry about senior Oles who are getting ready to leave. Many of them seem to want to cram even more in. In spite of all the work, these are some of the good ol’ days, and I just want kids to step back a little more and enjoy their last year and have some fun. Go a little slower and enjoy your friends while you’re together.