Widener Campus Safety Director Constantly Nurtures Connections with Students, Officers

Just weeks into the job before the pandemic hit, Anthony Pluretti was able to make impactful connections with students and staff through various creative initiatives.

Widener Campus Safety Director Constantly Nurtures Connections with Students, Officers

Widener University's campus safety department consists of 74 officers on three campuses in two states.

CHESTER, Penn. — There are many traits that make a successful leader, including self-awareness, integrity, creativity, and innovation. This year’s Campus Safety Higher Education Director of the Year winner Anthony Pluretti possesses all of these qualities, but the most impressive is his ability to connect with others — both the people he serves and the people he leads.

Pluretti, Executive Director of Campus Safety at Widener University, manages a department of 74 officers across three separate campuses in two different states. In an earlier interview with Campus Safety, Pluretti discussed customer-centricity, which he defines as “immersing ourselves in the situations, perspectives, and expectations of our customers.” Pluretti’s customers are Widener students and officers.

Throughout the interview, Pluretti shared ways he has ensured his customers are satisfied in their day-to-day experiences at Widener while also feeling safe and supported. As one of this year’s winners, we wanted to share even more of those initiatives.

Making Connections with Widener Students

Pluretti was hired to lead Widener’s campus safety department in February 2020 — just weeks before the pandemic shut down much of the world. During those limited few weeks, Pluretti hit the ground running, meeting with faculty, staff, and students to learn about their interactions with campus safety to identify areas for improvement.

Students complained of the traditional “security” image campus safety officer uniforms presented, noting officers had similar uniforms to the local police department, which also caused confusion as to whether someone was Widener staff or police. They also noted that officers appeared unprofessional at times with ill-fitting uniforms and absent name badges. Similarly, officers complained about the thin polyester pants and shirts that offered little to no protection from the elements regardless of climate.

To resolve these issues, Pluretti partnered with uniform vendors to craft a new uniform. His administrative team tested the new uniform for a few months to ensure it resolved all of the stated issues before issuing it to staff. The new uniform is unique to Widener, using school colors, easy-to-read name badges, reflective campus safety lettering, khaki cargo pants, functional materials, and an overall design that brought a business casual appearance to the team.

Students also indicated the patrol vehicles looked like police cars and shared similar decals with state and local police, making it difficult to tell the difference. In collaboration with the university’s marketing team, a redesigned department logo was approved as well as redesigned vehicle graphics.

Having started an important and impactful new role just weeks before the pandemic, Pluretti was met with a lot of unforeseen and unprecedented circumstances but took them in stride. When students were quarantined on campus during the start of the pandemic, the department’s ability to continue growing connections with students was significantly hindered. To combat this challenge, Pluretti helped establish the “Campus Safety Cares” program in which officers would deliver care packages to people in quarantine. The packages included items such as succulents, coloring books, puzzle books, homemade snacks, and helpful resources for students who otherwise had little to no in-person interaction.

To continuously engage with students who were both on and off campus during the pandemic, Pluretti also created Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn accounts for the department. The social media accounts were used to introduce individual officers since most weren’t meeting students face to face. The team constantly uses the accounts to share both useful and fun information, and has since created a TikTok account as another means to reach students.

Perhaps one of the more obvious situations in which Pluretti’s dedication to student wellbeing was apparent was when a student attempted to take their own life in a residence hall.

“Along with his team and ours, Anthony responded to the student right away. An ambulance took the student to the hospital and we notified her family. Anthony made the choice to follow the ambulance to the hospital and be there with the student until released to the care of parents by doctors,” says John Downey, Dean of Students. “This extra effort touched both the student and family so much. They now refer to him as their ‘Guardian Angel.’ Anthony took this all in stride, describing it as the level of service everyone should expect from his team. Having been on a college campus as long as I have I can only tell you, I wish that were always true.”

Department Changes Improve Officer Morale

Another area that stood out in Pluretti’s Director of the Year submission materials was the efforts made to improve officer morale. In his earlier interview, Pluretti shared that he relaxed grooming standards for the department, allowing officers to grow facial hair, show appropriate tattoos, and wear their hair in a style that they prefer. He also accomplished this by changing the entire department patrol schedule.

Pluretti recognized the rotating eight-hour schedules made it difficult for staff to plan vacations and created suboptimal staffing levels during peak crime hours. He worked with officers to establish a 10-hour schedule that gives them three days off a week. It also created an overlap of personnel at the beginning and end of each shift, which enhanced communication between officers. Furthermore, it led to a significant decrease in alcohol and drug violations as it accomplished staffing levels of 18 to 22 personnel on patrol at once during peak crime hours.

Assistant Director of Campus Safety Allison Taddei recalls her first-ever discussion with Pluretti was about the shift change.

“At the time, I was the Lieutenant for Second Shift. I remember him immediately talking to me about how we could improve scheduling. He found a whiteboard and proceeded to draw out an entirely new scheduling plan for the entire department, within a matter of ten minutes,” she wrote in her nomination letter for Pluretti. “This was the moment I knew that he was a visionary and our department finally had a true leader that would ultimately bring about the change we all had hoped to see.”

Taddei says Pluretti is constantly looking at the “bigger picture” and that he understands his leadership is only as successful as the success of the people he is leading.

“One of the best aspects of Anthony’s leadership is that he is able to pick up on others’ strengths and he then helps them cultivate those strengths. He places people in positions that he knows they will succeed.”

About the Author

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Amy is Campus Safety’s Senior Editor. Prior to joining the editorial team in 2017, she worked in both events and digital marketing.

Amy has many close relatives and friends who are teachers, motivating her to learn and share as much as she can about campus security. She has a minor in education and has worked with children in several capacities, further deepening her passion for keeping students safe.

In her free time, Amy enjoys exploring the outdoors with her family.

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