History alumnus Alexander Salois becomes key member of Facilities Management

by | Jul 5, 2022

Salois began working in the department part-time as a student, and has led an effort to digitize campus key records.
Alexander Salois leaning on railing

Alexander Salois began working for Facilities Management part-time as a history student, and after graduating from UMSL in December, he accepted a full-time position with the department. During his time with Facilities, he’s led an effort to digitize campus key records, which has made campus safer and more sustainable. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Alexander Salois’ resume includes a bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri–St. Louis and a position with the university’s Facilities Management team, and now thanks to the latter, he can add a unique special skill: lockpicking.

“I just recently learned how to pick locks, locks that we’ve lost the keys for,” Salois said. “We don’t know where they went – someone retired and we don’t know where they put them – so we have to get in.”

It’s just one of many things Salois, who graduated in December with a BA in history, has learned since becoming a full-time maintenance services attendant in March. He began working in Facilities part-time as a student and has become an instrumental member of the department, leading an effort to digitize campus key records.

“He led the charge with updating our whole system for tracking keys,” UMSL Sustainable Energy and Environmental Coordinator Katy Mike Smaistrla Lampe said. “He’s pretty much single-handedly bringing the key shop into the digital age and helping us set up a new software program. This means campus will be safer – we’ll more quickly be able to identify who has a key to what office – and it will be more sustainable, no more stacks and stacks of old slips of paper. He’s really a shining star in this process.”

For Salois, the decision to attend UMSL was easy. Not only was it close to home, but it was affordable. Salois earned the Curators’ Scholarship, the Bright Flight Program’s Higher Education Academic Scholarship and a Federal Pell Grant, which covered the majority of his tuition for four years.

Initially, he wanted to study physics but changed course after taking several history classes. His new path wasn’t too surprising, given his family’s enthusiasm for the subject.

“My mom’s a historian, and my brother and I have had fierce debates over historical debates,” he said.

In addition to his studies, Salois began working as a student custodial worker during his first year on campus in 2017. After about a year and a half, Smaistrla Lampe offered Salois a data entry position at Facilities headquarters.

In that role, he was tasked with helping modernize the university’s key records – a considerable endeavor. The records contained about 40,000 registered keys and listed 17,000 current and former employees.

“Someone had to go through all our old paper records, put all of it into Microsoft Excel and then import it into the SimpleK key software,” he explained.

While Salois diligently worked his way through the stacks of paper, Smaistrla Lampe was there to provide support and understanding along the way.

“Katy Mike was extremely helpful in making sure I always had the hours I needed or giving me time off to study for exams or write papers,” Salois said.

After graduating with his bachelor’s degree in December 2021, he accepted a full-time position with Facilities Management.

“It was just a really great opportunity,” he said. “Job searches are tough. I have great benefits and decent starting pay. For someone who’s just graduated, it’s not a bad opportunity at all. Plus, I get training to be a locksmith.”

His work to modernize the university’s key records has continued, but it’s moved beyond data entry. Salois has been meticulously auditing the locks at every building on campus to determine how many have been re-keyed. He’s also been reviewing employee records to weed out former faculty and staff.

In his training as a locksmith, Salois has learned to cut keys, install lock sets and, of course, pick locks. The process for installing a lock or re-keying it is more complicated than most people realize. Even Salois was surprised by the care and complexity it takes.

“All the locks, you have to calculate pinning systems for them, so when you put a key in, it’ll raise the pin this much,” he said. “It’s very interesting. There’s a lot more math involved than you might expect.”

That training might come in handy in the near future, as Salois expects to pursue a second bachelor’s degree in physics at UMSL. He’s thankful for the opportunities the university has given, and continues to give, to him.

“I just believe it’s important that UMSL exists – a public institution that’s relatively affordable that provides people with an education,” he said. “It opens doors for people.”

Burk Krohe

Burk Krohe