Andy Blacker, publicity-promotion specialist at Facilities and Services, has been an employee at the UI since 1991. The Monticello native and self-described farm boy started his career as a dishwasher at the Allerton Park Conference Center, and then ran the front desk for seven years before transferring to campus in 2000. He was the marketing coordinator for Campus Stores, Mail and Receiving before F&S formed in 2003. After graduating from Monticello High School, Blacker earned associate degrees in business and art from Parkland College, and is finishing up his bachelor’s degree in general studies through Eastern Illinois University.
Tell me about your job.
I work in customer relations, communications, marketing and advertising for all of F&S. Every day is a new and different challenge because we do a little bit of everything. In addition to internal communications for 1,300-plus employees, my area also handles external communications to the campus as well as the local community regarding what F&S is currently working on.
It’s an exciting place to work, and I enjoy it because we have so many challenges.
What are you working on now?
Among many other things, I’ve been working on energy conservation for the past year, and right now we’re preparing to launch a major program to reduce campus’s overall energy consumption. From a communications perspective this is a huge project for us because we’re partnering with the departments and we get to share our success stories with all of campus.
The main component is an energy conservation toolkit that will help departments across campus build their own energy conservation programs from the ground up. We will work with the departments to help them customize these programs to meet the university’s goal of reducing our energy consumption by 10 percent over the next three years.
What is your proudest accomplishment on the job?
Definitely the energy and sustainability project. Within Facilities & Services, we’re doing a lot across campus to reduce our energy consumption and become more sustainable, and I’m very proud of our efforts. Each piece of our organization is doing its part for the environment, which makes this a really exciting project.
What got you interested in energy and sustainability?
Little by little, I’ve learned more about the issue through my work here at F&S, and that’s what got me interested. When we started working on our Web site (www.energymanagement.uiuc.edu/), I started to think a lot more about our energy conservation efforts, and looking at the projects that we were working on really got me interested.
What do you do in your spare time?
When I’m not busy with work or taking classes, I volunteer a lot of my time at the Champaign Urbana Theatre Company, and I’m now on its board of directors. Whether it’s behind the scenes or on stage, I try to stay very involved.
I help build the sets and do quite a bit of the set design, which I enjoy a lot, but I also like to be onstage. Usually, for one or two shows a season, I’m some kind of character onstage, which is a lot of fun. I enjoy the singing, and that’s really what got me started.
The quality of the shows that we produce is amazing considering the theater company is a non-profit organization basically run with volunteer labor. It takes a tremendous amount of time but I find it to be very rewarding.
When’s your next show?
Our next show is “Little Shop of Horrors,” from Oct. 23 through 26 at the Virginia Theatre. I’ve seen some of the rehearsals. I’m not in that one, but I’m designing the sets.
What do you like better, the behind-the-scenes work or singing and acting?
I like both equally, but they’re different types of satisfaction. At the end of a performance, I like being able to come out in costume as part of the cast and greet the audience who came to see our shows. But I also like being able to sit in the audience and watch the set that we designed from scratch come alive onstage.
How did you become so handy?
I think being raised as a farm boy really lends itself to being handy at a lot of things. I grew up on a working farm where we raised cattle, sheep, goats, chickens and pigs -- a little bit of everything. I was always interested in art, so having a practical knowledge of how to build a barn or work on a piece of equipment translates very well to working in the theater. Besides, all of my set pieces only have to look good from 20 feet away.
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