By Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU News Bureau
Not only can Grand Canyon University staff and students and Grand Canyon Education employees commune with four calling birds and three French hens, but they might just happen upon a ring-tailed lemur rollicking about or a ponderous pachyderm plodding round a covey of cubicles in the 27th Avenue office building.
Just head to the building’s fabulously festooned fourth floor and you’ll find a veritable Christmas extravaganza of decorations.
It’s where the Curriculum Design and Development Department and Academic Web Services Department have decorated more than half a dozen aisles of cubicles for their second holiday decorating contest, each with its own theme. A group of judges will pick the winners on Friday.
Among the décor is one aisle inspired by the Phoenix Zoo’s ZooLights, complete with an elephant silhouette bordered by little white lights at the entryway. A butterfly garden of 3D butterflies on flower paper covers one partition wall, a jungle tree beckons at the end of the aisle, and each cubicle celebrates a different animal.
Brittany Buschatzke, an Academic Web Services project analyst, has embraced the ring-tailed lemur as her chosen animal. Rope and green “vines” drape above her desk, like a forest canopy, with bird cutouts happily perched there.
She and her fellow co-workers started decorating for the contest three weeks ago, putting a little bit of time each day to create their zoo-like Christmas wonderland.
“It’s fun to decorate for the holidays,” said Buschatzke, who will dress as a ring-tailed lemur for judging on Friday (the rest of the team also will dress as their chosen cubicle animal). But, more importantly, “The contest gets people into it – the spirit of Christmas – and we become a cohesive team, which makes it really fun.”
Curriculum developer Ashley Wilson and other employees in her aisle brought to life the 12 Days of Christmas. Each cubicle represents one of the 12 Days, with three google-eyed French hens wrapped in red feather boas nestled in one desk area. At Wilson’s desk, her four calling birds are cheekily burrowed into a garland, each holding a miniature cellphone.
She sees the contest as “an opportunity for us (employees) to be creative” outside their jobs.
Visitors to Curriculum Design and Development and to Academic Web Services also will spy Christmas movie, Advent, ’Twas the Night Before Christmas and even “Winter Punderland”-themed aisles.
Employees in the Human Resources Department, also on the fourth floor of the building, came in one Sunday and whipped up a Grinch-themed lobby with a Grinch wreath and even a Christmas tree made out of chicken wire and garland that looks like the antihero’s wonky Santa hat and hairdo.
Compliance administrator Nicole Santarlasci in the Office of Academic Compliance is part of the “Aisle of Misfit Employees,” decorated with white icicle lights, garlands and red bows. She gave a thumbs up to the Library Department’s Whoville-themed aisle. She likes the department’s twist on Whoville: “They have ‘Dr. Who’ instead of just Whoville,” Santarlasci said, with “Dr. Who” characters drawn in Dr. Seuss style.
Reference librarian Joanne DePastino said she and her co-workers took inspiration for their Whoville aisle from a seeing the Curriculum Design and Development Department and the Academic Web Services Department really go big in their Christmas decorations last year.
The decorations aren’t limited to 27th Avenue, of course — there has been lots to see on the main campus, too. GCU’s Christmas tree, in its purple and silver splendor, beckons to passersby near GCU Arena, and the Lope Shop created a Christmas tree out of shopping boxes.
The College of Science, Engineering and Technology came up with a familiar formula for festiveness: its second hallway decorating contest.
Faculty went into competition mode before the holiday break, not afraid to bribe students with cocoa, cookies and candy canes (the latter being one of the four main elf food groups, according to Buddy the Elf) to win their votes during the two days of voting.
CSET faculty jingled all the way to campus one weekend to get the decorating job done.
It took chemistry instructor Rebecca Socia and fellow employees in her CSET faculty hallway a month to plan their theme: “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” inspired by the Tim Burton film. They spent two weekends decorating.
Jack Skellington soars above students’ heads in the hallway, black plastic bags cover the walls to give the scene the proper nightmarish look, skeleton antelopes graze on one side, and trick-or-treat jack-o’-lantern buckets adorn the hallway floor.
The CSET department wanted to start a decorating contest to help ease the stress of the season.
“Finals are a very stressful time, particularly in the hard sciences. We decided to decorate to lighten the mood,” Socia said. “The faculty get into it. It makes the students smile and it encourages them to come up to our office hours as well. They want to see the decorations, and for a lot of them who haven’t come into office hours before, this is a great way to draw them in and let them know we’re not so scary.”
Among the decorations in the biology hallway, mostly put together by Gail Francis: a tree with colorful test tubes and agar plate ornaments filled with as much glitter as possible.
The theme of the hallway: “Sci-land Night.”
“Instead of Santa’s workshop, it’s Santa’s lab,” biology instructor Dr. Sandra Bledsoe said. She added that the department wanted to decorate “just because it would be fun, to get the kids into the holiday spirit, and to remind them we’re a Christian university. It makes sense to do all of that. It’s what we’re celebrating – the birth of the Son.”
Other offices in the building touted different themes, such as Dr. Tom McCarthy’s toy workshop and Dr. Gary Cao’s games-themed office. On one wall, students could see whether their professors had made the naughty or nice list.
Science Program Director Dr. Binaben Vanmali said she wouldn’t have liked to participate in her college’s Christmas decorating contest if it merely involved decorating doors. For her, it’s all about bonding with her GCU co-workers: “It’s all about the teamwork,” she said.
Student level evaluator Phillip Bynum in Student Records Management in Building 71 added some height to his desk with plastic pipe framework from which he hung snowflakes and the North Star above his desk’s manger scene: “It’s Bethlehem at night,” he said, and reminded everyone not to forget what the season is all about: “I’m just celebrating the Lord’s birth.”
Contact GCU senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 602-639-7901.