Carnegie Mellon University

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image of Perry Cansick

May 06, 2020

Cansick Keeps Calm and Carries On for Students

By Kelly Saavedra

Like many of us, Perry Cansick is used to crossing the intersection at Forbes and Morewood avenues amid throngs of people. These days, there is rarely a soul in sight.

“Occasionally, you’ll see someone out jogging or walking a dog, but many times I don’t see another person or even a car at the intersection. It’s a good thing, I guess. It means people are taking the pandemic seriously, but it’s definitely a strange feeling,” he said.

As assistant director of facilities in Housing Services, Cansick is considered an essential employee, so he is one of the few staff at Carnegie Mellon University who is still working on campus. Cansick and his team have been splitting shifts to continue providing a safe, secure and comfortable environment to the 400 students still living on campus.

“We consolidated the students to 12 buildings with the help of Residential Education and closed more than half of our housing facilities,” he said. “Every student now has either their own suite or apartment, private bedroom, private bathroom and private living area. Buildings that had common areas, common bathrooms, and double and triple occupancy rooms are closed.”

Cansick’s primary responsibility is overseeing the physical operations and maintenance of the residential facilities. It requires communicating with students on issues that are facility-related, figuring out how to solve those problems and coordinating the associated repair work and cleanup. He also plans and manages some smaller non-capital improvement projects such as lighting, flooring, painting and bathroom renovations.

“I’m still performing my normal job responsibilities, just under a completely different set of circumstances,” he said.

While Cansick and his team carefully adhere to government and university guidelines regarding facial coverings and social distancing, they are also trying to limit their interactions to keep everyone as safe as possible.

“We’re focusing on essential services. If it’s an urgent repair, like a clogged drain or heat that isn’t working, we are definitely going to go into the room and take care of that,” he said. “But if it’s something that would just be nice to have, then we talk with the students about possibly waiting a little bit to do that work, and I think the students definitely understand.”

Cansick said the greatest challenge he faces right now is the uncertainty.

“This is a complex situation, and there are just so many unknowns about what is going to happen in the summer and fall,” he said. “We’re doing our best to plan around those unknowns to make sure we’re prepared and still providing the best residential experience we can.”

Prior to CMU, Cansick was a civil engineer in the U.S. Air Force for eight years. When he’s not working, he is enjoying time at home with his wife and their 11-month-old baby, and looks forward to everyone’s return to campus.

“Anyone who is part of the CMU community knows how special it is. The students are the reason why we are here. They bring so much energy and life to the campus, and interacting with them and other staff is very motivating for me,” he said.

He also looks forward to the day when the Underground reopens and plans to be first in line for a breakfast sandwich.

“You take for granted all the little comforts and luxuries we have around campus,” he said, “but this is temporary. I’ve been thinking about how sweet it’s going to be when we are all back on campus again.”

image of Perry Cansick, his wife and daughter
When he is not working, Perry Cansick enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter.
image of Perry Cansick on the job
Perry Cansick, shown here in front of Henderson House, is splitting shifts with his colleagues in adherence to the government and university guidelines in place during the pandemic.
image of Housing Services' assistant directors
Assistant Directors (l. to rt.) Jamie Kronberger, Andrew Henry, Sarah Mihal and Perry Cansick continue to deliver on Housing Services' mission to provide students with a safe, secure and comfortable environment despite the challenges presented by the pandemic.
selfie of Cansick wearing mask and showing empty intersection behind him at Morewood and Forbes
Perry Cansick is used to crossing the intersection at Forbes and Morewood avenues with throngs of people, but these days there is rarely a soul in sight.