Students arrived on the University of La Verne campus Monday toting backpacks and hot coffee, some still sleepy-eyed from months of summer relaxation and others raring to go for the first day of t...
Stan Skipworth has been on the job for less than a year, but has already made quite an impact on the University as Director of Campus Safety and Transportation.
Listen to the detail with which Stan Skipworth describes La Verne’s recent Silver Award as a Bicycle Friendly University and you can’t help but wonder if he pays attention to anything else in his job as the university’s Director of Campus Safety and Transportation.
“My familiarity, my background in working with Bicycle Enthusiasts of America was to get a designation for the university to show its commitment, to bring a bike-friendly lifestyle and to help us meet all of those other goals through this particular program, which is growing in popularity and significance,” Skipworth said.
But Skipworth is also a security expert, one of the best in the business.
Because of that, and because of all of the measures he and his department have put into place, the University of La Verne was also honored recently by being listed in Security Magazine’s Security500 annual rankings — one of only four colleges in California to make the list.
Skipworth, who has had a significant impact on campus safety at the University since coming on board in January of this year, is detail-oriented, which is what one might expect from one who has been in law enforcement and security since the Carter Administration. A police officer at the age of 19, the ambitious Skipworth was dedicated to public safety. Along the way, he transitioned to campus safety at the collegiate level, including as Chief of Police at California State University, Long Beach, where he directed a force of more than 100 campus safety officers.
So, when the University of La Verne was in the market for a security professional who was qualified to the utmost, Skipworth proved to be the man for the job, and he brought some big ideas with him.
“Stan was a very strong candidate, given his background and experience with campus safety functions within a higher education setting,” said Clive Houston-Brown, La Verne’s Associate Vice President of Facility & Technology Services & CIO, and Skipworth’s boss. “Having served for many years within the (California State University) system, he eventually headed the (campus safety) department there and was active in CS issues in the CSU system as a whole. His hands-on experience with developing relationships with college student populations is as invaluable as his law enforcement background.”
The Bicycle Friendly University Silver award was the result of Skipworth working hard and managing expectations.
“We were thinking we might get an honorable mention,” said Skipworth, who said Transportation & Parking Services Coordinator Lisa Grater was instrumental in bringing in the Silver award. “I had a really modest approach to that because it was the first time that we had ever applied for that here. But I really believed in what we were doing. When we got notice that they had selected us, not for honorable mention, not for bronze, but for silver, that was just a wonderful announcement for us, to join an awful lot of prominent universities and colleges across the country that worked very hard to get their programs up and going.”
The League of American Bicyclists has recognized 75 Bicycle-Friendly Universities in 32 states and Washington, D.C. Many institutions now use the ratings to benchmark their progress toward improving their bicycle friendliness.
Skipworth said the University of La Verne will work toward gold status in the future by working even more diligently and doing everything it can to serve bicyclists coming to campus. Those measures include placing bike carrier racks on the university’s shuttle buses, working with the City of La Verne to paint sharrows on streets, and linking up city bikeways to other bike roadways in surrounding areas.
In the Security500 rankings, which Skipworth calls the “gold standard” by which organizational security is judged, the University of La Verne was one of only 24 colleges nationally — and one of only four in California — to make the list. The ratings extend across 17 major industries, including finance, energy and oil, government, health and hospital, hospitality/casino and industrial/manufacturing and lists America’s largest companies, including Microsoft, Best Buy, Target, McDonald’s, the National Football League, Boeing and General Electric.
The number of organizations vary in each industry and the higher education segment was one of the smallest, with 24. Industrial/Manufacturing had more than three times as many listings with 75. The purpose of the Security 500, the magazine says in its methodology, is to create a reliable database for an organization to measure itself versus others and create a benchmarking program among security organizations.
“There was no doubt in my mind that we would get serious consideration for joining that list, somewhere,” Skipworth said. “And I was realistic. I didn’t expect the University of La Verne’s Campus Safety department to be in the top two or three.
“But I really believed that, based on what we could represent, in terms of the people who are here, the technologies that we use, the programs that we unfold, the people that we work with, and the partners that we have, I knew we had a chance at being recognized for that. It bore itself out. It came true.”
Skipworth is also in charge when it comes to campus crises. A major earthquake, a terrorist attack, an outbreak, a hundred-year flood — Skipworth is the man with the plan. He conducts emergency preparedness drills, where President and Provost, deans and department heads, all sit quietly and listen as he plays out scenarios and instructs them about procedures.
“Stan is very well structured in what he does, with security and emergency preparedness,” said Jeff Boster, Safety Specialist under Skipworth in the Campus Safety and Transportation Office at La Verne. “He brought a structure to the department that we didn’t have here.
“He is a leader, but he is also at the same level as all of the team players. He is part of the team. He lets you do your thing and he has the confidence in you to do that, and I think that is reassuring, that he has that confidence in you.”
During emergency drills, Skipworth is all business. Burly and sporting a thick moustache of which any cop would be proud, Skipworth has the look of Secret Service in his navy blue suit. In his office, Skipworth greets a visitor with a powerful handshake, then kids about the vistor’s purple shirt.
“What, did you go to a Donny and Marie concert last night or something?” he says, breaking into a wide grin.
“He’s a lot of fun,” Grater said. “He wants to make sure that everybody is safe and out of harm’s way, that everybody is on board and following the same path. He just wants to do the best for the kids, and for his team, for the university, for the president.”
Adding certified officers to the Campus Safety force, working closely with the La Verne Police Department across the street, maximizing technology, Skipworth has built a well-oiled security machine, though he says he’s not a perfectionist.
“I think what we have here is a culture of excellence, not perfection,” Skipworth said. “Perfection, to me, is a nice concept. But perfection, once it happens, is over, done with. You could be perfect today and we’re going wake up tomorrow and have to do it all over again.
“But if we’re excellent today, we know, we have already committed ourselves to a mindset and a paradigm of, ‘I want to be a little bit better tomorrow, and I want to figure out how.’ There are days where we take a step back because there are challenges that require a little more growth than we were planning on. Having a culture of excellence is a powerful thing. When you get to work with a group of people who share that, that’s even more powerful.”
If La Verne is making a name for itself in security and campus safety, it may have a lot to do with the reputation that precedes Skipworth at various functions and within organizations.
“He has signed us up with an emergency managers organization, which has quarterly meetings,” Boster said. “It was neat, when we went to the last meeting, because he went with me and he was like, a celebrity there. Everybody knew Chief Skipworth. For me it was neat because I was, like, ‘Yeah, I’m with him.’ ”
Skipworth is quick to pass along credit to his team. The Bicycle Friendly University award? The Security500 designation? Those are team awards, he says.
“You get to a point where it’s nice when things happen for you,” Skipworth said. “But when it happens for other people, then you really get jazzed because you realize that it’s a statement of what an ensemble of people have been able to do together.
“A person who is happy being part of a bigger group, working on a common goal and to see success come out of that…you know that there are a lot of people who had a hand in that and a lot of people who can grow from that success. You start to realize, this is pretty cool. Being part of a special group of people can really make your day pretty awesome.”