The faces behind the phone

Hannah Lentz

Many students have heard of the non-emergency dispatch center hotline in the Grand Valley Police Department, but few have met the people behind the phone calls — students dedicated to assisting their peers.

The dispatching phone line is run 24/7 and handles items from maintenance needs to vehicle problems. The workers also direct emergency phone calls.

Of the more than 25 student workers who serve as dispatchers, a minimum of two is required to man the phone line at all times, even during holiday breaks and snow days, which makes for a sometimes straining job. One of these student workers is Meghan Cytacki, a senior at Grand Valley State University. Cytacki has been a student dispatcher for a year and a half.

“We’re the first glimpse that people get of Grand Valley security,” Cytacki said. “It’s important that we maintain a professional and helpful atmosphere for anyone who needs us.”

Cytacki described her position as having a “meet and greet” feeling, though her work varies depending on the day and time. She often receives phone calls regarding parking and citation questions as well as the occasional phone call from a concerned parent.

To an outsider, the job can seem stressful, with the constant multitasking and sometimes urgent matters requiring immediate action. Students must go through extensive training to be prepared for all that it entails. They are given experience with the databases that are used by GVPD and go through programs to help them cover the questions that will need to be addressed on a day-to-day basis.

The experience of being a dispatcher, though, can be invaluable to the futures of students who hope to pursue jobs in similar vocational areas after their education at GVSU.

Senior Veronica Beltran plans to attend law school or go into the military after graduation, and she has worked as a student dispatcher for nearly two years. Beltran calls the experience she has gained “imperative” to the life she wishes to have in the future.

“I feel as though I have become more prepared for something such as working in a government position due to the experience I have with confidentiality and working to help people,” Beltran said. “This job presents opportunities to get an education outside of the classroom — something that can benefit anyone as they merge into the professional field.”

These faces behind the phone work day and night serving the GVSU community. Students in need of help or information need can call dispatch at 616-331-3255.

“It’s important that students know we are a resource readily available for them,” Cytacki said. “When people think about the police department, they often associate it with being in trouble or negativity. We are here to help the students in any way we possibly can.”