Skip Navigation

Produced by the Office of Marketing and Communications

Subscribe Now
Campus & Community

A Peek Inside … Director of Residential Facilities Andrea Crabb’s Office

Disney Magic, CIA Secrets and Terp Pride Reflect Eclectic Career

By Karen Shih ’09

Andrea Crabb sitting on her desk in her office

Director of Residential Facilities Andrea Crabb celebrates her far-flung career as a female engineer with mementos throughout her office.

Photos by Stephanie S. Cordle

What’s harder: Designing gadgets for America’s secret agents—a la “Q” from James Bond flicks—or getting a steady supply of two-ply toilet paper for University of Maryland’s residence halls?

It’s a question that confounds even UMD Director of Residential Facilities Andrea Crabb, possibly the only person in the world who’s tackled both tasks.

“Students will ask us for all sorts of crazy things, from green roofs to masseuses in the halls,” she said. “But I think we’re going to be able to get that two-ply.”

Now in her 11th year, Crabb oversees a team that’s responsible for cleaning and maintaining all the residential and Greek housing across campus—that’s 2.7 million square feet—as well as recreation facilities such as Eppley Recreation Center and Ritchie Coliseum.

She’s had an unusual career, going from the mysterious world of the Central Intelligence Agency (“The fact that I can even tell you I worked there means I didn’t do anything that secretive”) to the most magical place on Earth, Disney’s theme parks in Florida, before coming to UMD.

It was a homecoming of sorts; her parents are both UMD grads and Terp fans, and her son is now a student. “I was pregnant with Grayson when I came to games at Cole Field House, and I said he’s either going to come out singing the fight song or he’s going to want nothing to do with Maryland,” she said. “Luckily, he’s here!”

Crabb shared how engineering has taken her across the globe, the challenges of dealing with hippo poop and why she feels a kinship with Tinker Bell.

A Case of Mistaken … Location

Andrea Crabb's CIA badge

It was at the CIA that she first worked on facilities projects—“I tell people, ‘Yes, they use drywall and studs like everyone else’”—and traveled throughout Western Europe, South America and the Caribbean.

“My first trip (as a student co-op employee), they call me and ask, ‘Can you go to Vienna?’” And I’m thinking it’s Virginia, so I say, ‘Yes, just give me directions,’” she said. “But then they said, ‘No, you need your passport!’”

She also worked for the CIA’s Office of Technical Service, creating “gadgets” and tools for agents in the field. “I can’t tell you exactly what I did, but it was a lot of fun to do more development and engineering,” she said.

Bookshelf with Testudo, books, old valve

Disney Delights
The valve on the left is from the iconic Epcot fountain, which Crabb grabbed during an upgrade as a memento of her seven years at Disney. “I’ve always wanted to build one here for the students, but they won’t let me!”

She had moved to Orlando in the early 2000s to seek better work-life balance after having her son, and found herself thrown into a world of engineering puzzles, from figuring out how to dehumidify the “Pirates of the Caribbean” water ride to properly filter excrement from a hippo pond in Animal Kingdom.

The “Look Book” on her shelf details the dress code required of all cast members (what Disney calls employees), even behind-the-scenes ones like Crabb. The guide includes acceptable fabrics, skirt length, earrings and more: “My girlfriend got written up for having black nail polish!”

Tinker Bell

Tinker Bell
The Tinker Bell she keeps on her shelf inspires her: “She’s a tinker fairy, so she’s a female engineer.”

As an engineering student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Crabb was occasionally asked by professors if she was in the right class, she recalled. And though she was glad the CIA actively recruited women when she was in the market for a job, once she entered the workforce, she was mistaken for a secretary more than once.

“It’s wonderful to see the progress, with so many females in the STEM field and going into engineering at Maryland today,” she said.

NCAA Final Four Ticket

Terps NCAA Championship Ticket
The Gary Williams-signed Men’s Basketball World Champions book with her Final Four ticket is from the Terps men’s basketball team’s national championship-winning run in 2002.

Her dad, Harold Adams ’72, is a Terrapin Club member who “bleeds red, black and gold.” He scored floor-level tickets to the game in Atlanta and brought Crabb along.

“I had the best seats in the house,” said Crabb, who now holds season tickets for Terps women’s basketball.

Two framed images of buildings on UMD's campus

UMD Buildings, Then and Now
The painted glass (top) was a gift from her grandparents to her father when he graduated from UMD. Though she can’t quite figure out what campus building it’s supposed to represent (possibly one that’s been renovated or razed), it has the classic Georgian, red brick look.

She loves the traditional look of the campus, but is looking forward to updating some older buildings in the next few years, including those in the Ellicott Community. “It’s nice to see those residence halls getting that kind of attention and renovation,” she said.

As part of Crabb’s role overseeing residential facilities, she regularly meets with a student advisory board that proposes ideas for improvement. They range from the mundane, like better laundry equipment, to the ambitious, like spa services. “It all comes from a good place,” she said. “They just don’t realize how much things cost!”

This is part of an occasional series offering a look inside some of the most interesting faculty and staff offices around campus. Think you have a cool workspace—or know someone’s that you’d like to recommend? Email

Schools & Departments:

Division of Student Affairs

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Marketing and Communications for the University of Maryland community on weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.