This month IFMA Atlanta is highlighting Ken Stephenson, Architect and Operations Officer for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Chairperson of the IFMA Atlanta Accredited Degree Program (ADP) Liaison Committee.
Something most people do not know about Ken is that he practiced architecture, interior design and facility management for 30 years before returning to graduate school. Ken enrolled in the FM Program at Georgia Tech in 2003. This allowed him to spend time with people much younger than himself, and to stretch his imagination and skills in order to participate in the program. He feels like this experience “reset his professional clock”. Shortly after graduation, Ken joined IFMA.
Since joining IFMA Atlanta in 2008, Ken has served as Chair of the Education Committee and was the VP of Professional Development for 2 years before establishing the Accredited Degree Program (ADP) Liaison Committee. He felt that there needed to be a committee that focused on the colleges offering IFMA Accredited Degree Programs, working with the students who represent the future of Facilities Management. This is a new opportunity because, until relatively recently, there was little formal education or degrees in Facilities Management. Rather, people just “fell into” the role from some related field. Now students can be educated in all aspects of the broad field of facility management. IFMA Atlanta is unique in that there are two ADPs in our area – an Undergraduate program at Kennesaw State University and a Graduate program at Georgia Tech.
I asked Ken what is his favorite thing with regards to being a member of IFMA Atlanta. “The opportunity to meet and get to know so many different people with different perspectives who do so many different things. Every one of us has a unique working situation and we all work together well to share ideas and perspectives.”
Ken came to CDC in 1991 and has worked in Facilities Management since then. During his time at CDC, the Headquarters Campus on Clifton Road has doubled in size. The Chamblee Campus was a collection of aging buildings when he arrived. Ken has had the opportunity to influence the design of most of the buildings now on the two main Atlanta campuses of CDC as well as other CDC buildings in Atlanta and around the US.
Ken shared with me that one of the “neat aspects” of his job is that it is never boring, never repetitious. There is something new every day. Earlier this year, Ken began working in a new role at CDC where he oversees how effectively the CDC is using office space with a goal of improving the utilization rate. He also manages the logistics of moving employees from place to place.
Traditional office space utilization based on an assigned workspace for each staff member is the norm at CDC. As is the case in Corporate America, this leads to a lot of unoccupied space each day as staff are working from other locations. One of the more progressive Centers is leading the way with respect to unassigned /shared workspace in order to increase the effective utilization of the space. Staff members who are out of the office frequently use a reservation system to reserve a space for those days when they are in the office. This activity began with a pilot project which Ken co-led in 2012 and has continued to evolve since.
Ken is about as “native” to Atlanta as one can be. He moved to the College Park area at age 4 and grew up on a site that is now part of the airport’s long term parking and rental car area – they literally paved paradise and put in a parking lot. He remembers taking the electric bus to downtown Atlanta at the tender age of 10 with his playmates.
Ken and his wife met at church. They have been married for 38 years and have two daughters and two grandchildren. Ken’s wife, before retiring, was a microbiologist and a professor in the Nursing Program at Mercer University. Their oldest daughter is the Assistant Rector at an Episcopal Church in High Point, North Carolina. Their younger daughter worked as a high school guidance and college admissions counselor and has two young children that keep her very busy.
When I asked Ken his ideal destination, he shared a very interesting story with me. During his college years, Ken was able to study abroad in Europe. When in Rome, Italy exploring and observing the architecture of the city and immersing himself in the city, he began to have a strong feeling of having been in Rome “Pre-Renaissance”. The feelings he experienced were very strong, as if from a previous life during the 1600’s or perhaps 1700’s. Needless to say, Ken says he would “go back to Rome in a heartbeat”.
In closing my interview, I asked Ken who he would choose to be for one day… “Happy being me. No one else I would want to be.”