A Noisy Sort of Symphony
Construction of Student Life Pavilion requires a well-organized conductor
by Julene Snyder

nsistent beeping is interrupted by sustained clanging, then overshadowed by a loud “ker-thunk” before being drowned out by the shriek of power tools. Ladders and cords, tools and materials, stacks of finished walnut, pallets of tile are all abundantly scattered about. Everything smells, ever so faintly, of newness and metal. It’s a seeming chaotic jumble, a site where everything is happening everywhere at once. Loudly.

But in fact, the frenetic, incredibly noisy scene, populated over the life of the project by hundreds of workers representing 35 trades, is the exact opposite of chaos. All of those disparate sounds are a symphony of sorts, a cacophony of sustained effort. Because this is exactly what a huge project looks and sounds like when it comes down to the wire, just a few weeks before USD’s Student Life Pavilion is scheduled to open.

“This is the fun time. This is what you like to see, when it really changes every single day,” says Andy Rogers ‘02. “This is when we have to have the most amount of tradesmen on site. We’re really at our peak of manpower right now.”

He’s in his element, gesturing towards key architectural features, leading the way up stairs and around workers, pointing with pride to intricate tile-work here, precast concrete there.

Rogers admits to enjoying being in the thick of the action on-site more than sitting at his desk. He’s got a lot on his plate: As general contractor Rudolph & Sletten’s project manager for the SLP, he and his team have been charged with keeping the 53,000-square-foot project on track.

Pretty big responsibility for a guy who originally came on board when he was a USD student by simply walking up to a trailer parked alongside the then-under-construction Donald P. Shiley Center for Science and Technology and knocking on the door.

“I’d previously worked as a laborer and loved construction,” he recalls, noting that his dad was in the business. After an attempt to get an internship at an investment firm didn’t pan out, he realized his heart wasn’t in it. “I wondered what I was going to do. I knew I didn’t want to wear a suit and tie every day.”

He kept on working throughout his senior year — moving into a position as a project engineer intern — while carrying a full load of classes. “I came on for a trial period at $10 an hour. I was basically a gopher, but they did a good job of training me.”

Rogers says that his double major — economics and urban design — was priceless. “My classes taught me how to learn, how to ask questions, how to work with people. That’s been invaluable.”

The company has had a hand in several big campus construction projects. In addition to the SLP and the science building, Rudolph and Sletten worked on the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice and the School of Leadership and Education Sciences building, Mother Rosalie Hill Hall.

“Did I expect I’d be on campus so much when I graduated? I hoped. I definitely hoped. Once I started working, I could see that USD was constantly building. The buildings are fun to do because they’re challenging, and the people are great.”

And he’ll get to remain a daily fixture around campus for at least a bit longer. Once the SLP opens for business, the next step is to renovate the Hahn University Center. Rogers will be smack in the middle, coordinating the project.

“This is my favorite time,” he reiterates. “Now, and the time right after this time, when we get to see if we’ve delivered exactly what the client was expecting. Meeting those expectations is very rewarding.”