Whether it’s something as small as a leaking sink in a dorm, or as colossal as constructing a $34 million academic hall, it all falls under the purview of VP for Operations Jim Ravelli.
At least, it did. After 13 years at UP, Ravelli retired on March 31. A permanent replacement has not been announced, but VP of Finance Eric Barger will fill the role in the interim.
“This felt like a good time to make the change,” Ravelli said.
During his time, Ravelli oversaw the construction of several buildings and Franz River Campus, managed IT and technology issues, made improvements to academic and residence halls and helped UP navigate the pandemic.
The job is dynamic, which made it a great fit for Ravelli.
“No two days are the same, which is absolutely perfect for me,” Ravelli said. “It can be everything from strategic planning and trying to figure out how we’re going to build a building… all those things down to, ‘Hey, someone has broken a water main in the building and we need to get that solved.’”
Ravelli started at UP in 2008 as chief information officer. After a few years, UP president Fr. Bill Beauchamp asked Ravelli to take on additional responsibilities, including overseeing construction and capital projects, creating the role of VP for operations that exists today.
While he enjoyed the job, it didn’t come without its challenges. Construction on Franz River Campus has proven to be a difficult process over the years.
“There are lots of regulatory obstacles that we had to get over,” Ravelli said. “There were lots of surprises along the way. UP has been here for over 100 years, and our intention is for it to be for another 100 years. This is a long-term investment… we want to do the right thing.”
The pandemic had its impact on the job as well. While most of us did work and school remotely, Physical Plant — overseen by Ravelli — was on campus maintaining the grounds and making repairs in our absence. They also took on sanitation and safety measures when students returned.
“I think the Physical Plant has done a fantastic job and they pivoted and really stepped up in terms of their care of the University,” Ravelli said. “We were also on the frontlines of trying to keep the place clean and disinfected, and all the different things we need to do to keep the students and faculty safe.”
“Also, kudos to the IT team who really pivoted on a dime to turn us into an online institution,” Ravelli added.
Ravelli cited the development of a new strategic plan and other changes at UP as one of his reasons for stepping down, but says it was a natural progression.
“For me it was either being here for another five years, or it was time to maybe think about doing something else,” Ravelli said. “I’m certainly getting to the age when I should start thinking about those things.”
Ravelli has no concrete plans at this time, but wants to take this opportunity to get outdoors, go fishing and spend time with family.
“If I was a salmon I’d probably be a little nervous right now,” Ravelli said. “Yeah, just spending more time at home, regrouping and refocusing, and maybe doing a little of my dear friend Tom Green's thinking, which is read good books.”
After over a decade at UP and over $300 million worth of investment into the campus, what stood out to him the most was the community, and the people he’s met on the job. He’s enjoyed working with people who are really focused on student success.
“I’ve worked in the corporate world before I came to UP and you just don’t find that in places that aren’t mission driven, and this place is,” Ravelli said. “I will miss the conversations, the interactions, and the friendships I made here.”
Ravelli has made an effort to make the UP experience a good one for students, and says that others at the institution continue to do the same.
“You have an organization that is really here for you, and it’s trying our best to support you and invest and make this experience at UP the best it can be,” Ravelli said. “I was happy to hopefully play a small part in that.”
Austin De Dios is the Editor-in-Chief of The Beacon. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.