There are many different routes taken by students, faculty and staff on their journey to the University of Minnesota. The one taken by St. Paul-West District Senior Building and Grounds Worker Bjorn Anderson is very unique.
Born and raised in St. Paul, not far from his daily muster location in the Biological Sciences Center, Anderson used to play pinball at the St. Paul Student Center. He’s always been a hands-on kind of guy and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree -- his father is a carpenter and his grandfather was an electrician. After graduating from St. Paul Central in 2000, his automotive instructor got him a job as a diesel mechanic in a shop less than a mile from his house. For three and a half years he worked repairing trucks, semis and tractor trailers.
“My diesel mechanic days definitely helped me become a senior B&G,” commented Anderson. “Having that mechanical inclination really helps me trouble shoot operating system issues with the machinery we use.”
When Anderson turned 21, he and two friends dropped everything to move to Seattle. He first worked as an auto mechanic, but decided that was too mundane compared to his diesel mechanic past. Then he got a job at a four star hotel where he catered to important clientele, like Maya Angelou and Al Gore. He said that the customer service experience he gained at the hotel helped prepare him for working with customers at the U.
After a year in Seattle, Anderson returned to the Twin Cities to attend the McNally Smith College of Music. An instrument collector who owns a mandolin from Italy and a brass drum from the Bahamas, Anderson played piano when he was younger and had always been interested in film. He wanted to combine the two and learn more about making short films. But the program proved to be too commercial for his tastes, so he decided to pursue an engineering degree at the U.
Anderson took a job washing dishes in Comstock Hall in 2004 in order to take advantage of the Regents Scholarship. After spending a summer working in FM, he pursued a full-time job as a building and grounds worker in 2005. He was promoted to senior B&G last year.
“The scholarship idea was just too good to pass up,” said Anderson. “That’s why I started off washing dishes, and fortunately I’ve made it up the ranks a couple times in FM.”
A big fan of astronomy and the space program, Anderson referred to a story he heard about custodians at NASA during the Apollo mission to convey his feelings about the importance of the work building and grounds workers do at the U. He said that when asked how they liked their jobs, one NASA custodian replied, “Well, it’s just a job.” The next guy replied, “Well, I’m helping put somebody on the moon.”
“So if you look at it in that aspect,” commented Anderson. “Especially in laboratories, we’re not just here to clean, we maintain the facilities that help students, faculty and researchers achieve their goals.”