Rosann Sillasen examines laminate flooring
before installing it in the 200 Church Street house for students.
Project Manager Oversees Construction, Cares for the
knows how to take care of a bowing floor or sagging ceiling. She’s also
pretty good at helping treat pneumonia, intestinal bleeding and other major
Sillasen, the associate director and project manager of Wesleyan’s
Construction Services, is also a practicing registered nurse. The full-time
project manager and part-time nurse says the two occupations are a perfect
“Both careers involve working with people and critical thinking,” she says.
“They create a balance.”
Not that balance equals easy. Being that this is July, Sillasen is mid-way
through a hectic schedule of projects. Most of these need to be completed by
the third week in August – the week students begin to return to campus.
“There are lots of projects that we need to get done while the students are
on summer break,” she says, examining new floor laminate for the 200 Church
Street freshman residence hall.
Along with the renovations at 200 Church, Sillasen’s to-do list for the
summer includes repairs to Science Center classroom 339; the Center for the
Art’s Jones Room renovation, art workshop cabinetry, exterior lighting and
cinema lighting; the Davison Art Center’s and Center for African American
Studies Americans with Disabilities entrance ramps, Olin Library’s interior
and exterior painting and elevator modernization; the Van Vleck
Observatory’s interior dome painting; Shanklin Labaratory’s window
replacement; Foss Hill’s steam manhole maintenance; and the William Street
Highrise exterior renovation.
Her most time consuming project is managing the renovation of the Center for
the Arts Art Workshop. Construction Services is morphing the first floor
into a technology hub for the CFA. Ultimately, the hub will house a digital
classroom, media lab, editing rooms and a new drawing studio.
Barbara Spalding, project manager of Construction Services, says her
co-worker possesses a wide range of technical knowledge on every aspect of
construction. Spalding says Sillasen has the ability to talk to senior
staff, coworkers, architects, engineers and contractors -- and get her
“She is the original multi-tasker, which you have to be to be a good project
manager, and she really loves what she does,” Spalding says. “I have no idea
how she does it, but she does more work than is humanly possible. She is
super organized, has a mind like a steel trap, and has endless energy.”
A typical summer day begins at 7 a.m., when Sillasen visits each
construction zone, unlocking doors and overlooking each work site.
Later, she stops by her office at 186 College Street to check voice and
e-mails, review schematics, respond to priority calls, develop bid documents
for new projects and attend project meetings.
“In Construction Services, we are mindful stewards in the management of new
construction, renovation and major maintenance of buildings and
infrastructure on campus,” she says. “We work with clients to address their
need and incorporate them as best as possible into projects.”
While her attention to construction projects consumes her work week, every
other weekend she focuses on people with serious medical conditions.
Sillasen works two weekends a month at the John Dempsey Hospital, part of
the University of Connecticut’s Health Center in Farmington. She works on a
floor with eight monitored cardiac beds and helps those suffering from
pneumonia, intestinal bleeding, immunosuppressed conditions, cardiac
monitoring, stroke, renal failure, peritoneal dialysis and end of life care.
”Nursing is both rewarding and challenging,” she says. “I am a part of my
patients' lives at a time that is extremely difficult for them, providing
comfort, support and advocacy. It's not just medical care that makes them
feel better, it's the personal attention and care I give them.”
It is Sillasens fifth year in nursing.
Joyce Topshe, assistant vice president for Facilities, worked with Sillasen
13 years ago at the University of Connecticut Health Center. When the
position opened at Wesleyan, Topshe persuaded Sillasen to apply. Sillasen
came to Wesleyan in 2001 as the associate director in construction services
for renovation and new construction projects
“Roseann’s work ethic is second to none, and I am so glad to have her here
at Wesleyan,” Topshe says. “She is incredibly talented, motivated and
reliable. She is doing a tremendous job leading our major maintenance
program and a variety of other key projects.”
Sillasen learned the construction trade after gaining hands-on experience at
an architect’s office as an administrative assistant in 1984. There, she was
involved in the coordination of all phases of the construction process from
negotiating contract fees with civil, mechanical and electrical consultants,
to approving site plans. She learned how to prepare condominium and bid
documents, calculate building square footage, review shop drawings and
attended several site meetings.
At Wesleyan, she’s involved in many of the same processes.
“I’m never bored,” she says. “I enjoy working in construction. Everyday you
have the opportunity to learn a new approach to an issue that may arise in
Sillasen says she never feels awkward working in what once was a
male-dominated field. She works among several women in the construction
field including Joyce Topshe, assistant vice president for facilities; Stacy
Baldwin, construction project assistant; Barbara Spalding, associate
director of construction services and project manager; Brandi Hood, senior
project coordinator; Bev Hugee, facilities manager for student life
facilities; Amy Regan, a maintenance and repair mechanic; and Kim Krueger, a
Alena Staron, Joyce Heidorn, and Abby Chaplin support the physical plant
offices. And budget accounting and finance coordinator Claire Schukoske,
customer service manager Chris Cruz and department assistant Donna Steinback
ensure all work orders are processed.
“Women in the field have become more common. You get what you give,” she
says. “I am treated professionally and with respect. I have high
expectations that are reasonable and the people I work with know I expect
them to be met.”
She also sets high expectations for herself. Although she juggles two jobs,
Sillasen makes time to continue her education through Wesleyan’s Graduate
Liberal Studies Program.
She’s four classes short of the degree.
“Learning is a life long process,” says Sillasen. “When you stop learning,
you stop growing.”
Sillasen also is an avid volunteer. As an Architecture, Construction and
Engineering (ACE) mentor, she works with high school students in Hartford to
expose them to the inner workings of these fields. She also is the treasurer
of the Connecticut Nurses Association, a member of the National Association
of Women in Construction (NAWIC) and a member of the building committee for
the Northern Middlesex Habitat for Humanity, leading a crew for the Habitat
Whittier House in East Hampton last year.
In addition, she’s a member of her alumni association and assists with its
newsletter. She’s also a member of the Oncology Nursing Society, the
American Cancer Society Power Over Pain, Iota Upsilon Chapter Sigma Theta
Tau International Honor Society of Nursing and the Alpha Chi Honor Society.
And with any time left, Sillasen enjoys bird watching, watching science
fiction movies and spending time with her husband, John, and her three grown
children and four grandchildren between the ages of 12- and 15-weeks-old.
“I really do enjoy being busy,” she says, grinning.
Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection