Meet Maalik: recycles’ Jack-of-All-Trades

Maalik Gardner joined the University of Chicago as an intern with the Office of Sustainability in 2012. Below, he shares the story of his journey from bike messenger to intern to recycles guru, and gives you a sense of what he’s up to while his beloved bikes take their annual winter nap.

Hi my name is Maalik Gardner, and I wanted to take this opportunity to share my experiences here at the University of Chicago as a staff member and why I appreciate them so much.

First off, ultimate credit goes to Blackstone Bicycle Works for reaching out to the University of Chicago and getting me an interview with the Office of Sustainability. Thanks a lot guys.

I was a little overwhelmed by the opportunity to work with a big organization like the University of Chicago, but that did not stop me from reaching my goal and obtaining the job. Honestly, the position was perfect for me. It allowed me to do what I love to do – it feels more like a hobby than a job. I was given my own little bike shop with a door. This made me very happy, because my last job as a bicycle messenger offered a great deal of freedom and it would have been a little bit difficult to go back to a “regular” job.

This independence taught me that you have to be responsible for your work and always do your best – there’s no one to blame for your slack when you’re on your own! I also met all kinds of people from all over the world - they were very kind and made me feel quite at home. During the past two winters, I’ve stored the bikes, shared winter biking advice, and worked in inventory management at ATS (the Facilities Services’ warehouse on the eastern edge of campus).

I didn’t realize it at first, but inventory management is a very complicated task! I learned to keep track of an enormous number of parts, how much they cost and how to keep them organized in storage for easy access when someone makes a purchase.

Next week, I’m rejoining my Sustainability team at their new home in Harper Court to shadow them at different meetings about event planning and communication around campus. I’m helping to plan the Earth Fest celebration in May, and my team has created a plan to help me develop more computer-based skills, like InDesign and Excel. I’m very excited to learn, and I think this is definitely going to help me take the next step in my career.

This spring, Maalik will wake the recycles bikes from hibernation get them back out on campus – so enough with the snow already, Chicago!

Click here for more information on recycles – UChicago’s free bikeshare.