In 2014, just one year after joining UCLA as an extra hand for the Plumbing Shop, Rahsonn McGlothen became a permanent fixture at Facilities Management. He does a lot — from fixing toilets to repairing water heaters in campus buildings and at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center — all while mentoring apprentices, building a new generation of skilled professionals.
McGlothen is a journeyman plumber with several special certifications under his belt. He does installations, alterations and repairs. Remember the major water main break on campus in the fall of 2022? McGlothen was on the scene, making sure no contaminants got into the campus’s potable water supply.
“I’ve learned to be calm and patient and not to panic — I’ve always operated like that. I look at everything: front, back, left, right to find all possible solutions,” he said.
A winner of Facilities Management’s Employee of the Quarter recognition, which honors top performers in the department, McGlothen received the special acknowledgment for regularly demonstrating his commitment, keeping a vital campus system functioning and handling difficult tasks safely and efficiently, all while teaching others.
The Compton native got his start in plumbing in Northern California. When he graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in business, the recession of 2001 made it difficult to find work. Then an acquaintance’s relative, who owned a two-decade-old residential plumbing business, suggested he take on the trade. McGlothen leaned in. With a photographic memory, he could see a technique demonstrated once and quickly pick up the necessary skills.
One day, while he was driving the plumbing truck along Embarcadero Street, the high-rise buildings of San Francisco’s Financial District piqued his interest in commercial plumbing. He returned to school to learn the other side of the trade. In 2006, he moved back to Compton.
McGlothen’s desire to constantly learn has made him passionate about educating others about the professional possibilities a plumbing career offers — particularly in Compton. “Helping people learn, teaching, that’s what I do. I try to make a difference, inspire them, give them hope, make them as comfortable as possible on the job,” he said.
On campus, the Plumbing Shop team is his community. “There’s a camaraderie we’ve built. We look after each other,” he said. “UCLA is a good place to grow and move up. On campus, we get exposed to a lot of unique plumbing work.”
Take UCLA’s 86,000-square-foot Cogeneration plant, for example, officially known as the Energy Systems Facility. It generates electric power and produces chilled water for cooling and steam for heating that is distributed to over 60 campus buildings. The plant draws in 520 gallons a minute. Helping maintain the pressure in the distribution lines is part of McGlothen’s job.
When not working on campus, Facilities Management’s “water guy,” a dad of five, indulges in hobbies, including flying radio-controlled model airplanes and DJing, a gig he’s maintained since he was a teen. “I love music,” he said. “My father was a jazz musician who played with Prince, Miles Davis, and B.B. King. I love helping people have a good time with music.”
Whether spinning records or turning plumbing valves, McGlothen knows how to reach the right temperature and keep everything flowing.