At the beginning of fall term, Professor Henry Balfanz’s Selling/Sales Management class was given an assignment called an Elevator Speech and was instructed to write about problems in Alma’s campus community. These speeches were then presented to Alan Gatlin, chief operating officer (COO) and senior vice president for finance and administration.
“An elevator speech is called that because you run into somebody, and maybe you have 60 to 90 seconds to say something about yourself. You’ll either be running into a client, a possible client, or you’re running into your boss, and [you’ll] be able to make an appointment with that person to be able to talk in more detail [about yourself and your job],” said Balfanz.
Balfanz has assigned the elevator speeches every year so students within the class would get to know each other better. “People have come up over the years with different missions they are on, like more parking, better lockers, better equipment for the athletes, a new in-field for the baseball stadium, better lunches in Hamilton. Just all sorts of things,” said Balfanz.
Management major Katie Howd (’20) wrote hers about the lack of handicap-accessible seating at Bahlke Field. Her speech, along with the rest of the class’, were presented to Gatlin during the second week of classes. After hearing Howd’s speech, Gatlin set to work on getting new stands ordered for handicap accessibility. “It was the first year that that [one of the speeches resulting in positive changes for the campus community] happened,” said Balfanz.
Howd was both surprised and happy about the outcome of her speech. “I thought it was pretty cool. It’s not very often that you voice your opinion on campus and what you say is actually used,” said Howd. “It’s not just an Alma College thing [needing more handicap accessible seating], it’s a community thing too.”
Gatlin, who has been at Alma for a year and a half, has endeavored to make positive changes for the campus that also save money for students and faculty. Howd’s speech truly caught his attention. “That was the one I felt the most concerned about [and] that I felt that I could have the quickest impact on,” said Gatlin.
On September 6, he placed an order for new portable stands for the handicapped and disabled. These stands took two weeks to deliver, but were on Bahlke field for the Homecoming football game. They can also be wheeled over to the Tennis Courts for seating during matches, providing seating where there used to be none.
“It was the first discussion I had had about the stadium,” said Gatlin. “It’s an older facility, and it was built before the [Americans with Disabilities Act] standards. There’s not an easy way to make it compliant.”
Gatlin explained that because the current stands are built on a hill, there would be no way to change them and still meet the ADA regulations without removing the hill itself. “There’s no major funding to build and new football stadium [and] to bring Bahlke field up to code would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Gatlin.
The new handicap stands are located in the end zone closest to the Hogan Center. The reasons for this location are to provide seating where one doesn’t have to go up a hill while also helping to control that area of the end zone, as Gatlin said was a goal of Steven Rackley, Athletic Director.
The stands themselves can be shifted anywhere the campus needs, which Gatlin said is a goal achieved for both himself and President Jeff Abernathy in making the campus more handicap accessible, and more changes like this are in the plans to come.