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Pacific Technology steps up in many ways

Jul 10, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has made the word “essential” an oft-spoken tribute to the people upon whom we rely. Doctors, nurses, grocery store workers, truckers and so many more. University of the Pacific also has many essential employees who have stepped forward to help in myriad ways.

In coming weeks, Positively Pacific will profile some of the essential teams and employees who have helped serve others during the pandemic.

We start with Pacific Technology.

Throughout the coronavirus crisis, university technology—at home and on campus—has kept humming with the help of the staff within the Technology Division and across the university.

Faye Snowden
Faye Snowden
Raoul Villapaldo
Raoul Villalpando

The team’s impact has been profound.

The Helpdesk staff led by Kevin Lemoine, Matt Jameson and Chris Gimroth continued troubleshooting issues for students and employees as the Pacific community moved to a remote learning and work environment.

Christian Sumabat in digital media and networking services and Tony Carrero in enterprise  hosted services as well as their teams continued to carry on work supporting existing web conferencing. They handled classrooms, hardware/applications, cloud services such as Microsoft Teams, and implemented new services such as Zoom to meet the needs of faculty.

While the Helpdesk, digital media and networking service team members paved the way for Pacific’s technology response to the coronavirus, additional members of the team continued to advance  projects through our Program Management Office, led by Fran Hatter, which included two strategic initiatives in partnership with other divisions: Chart of Accounts and enrollment.

Faye Snowden, Raoul Villalpando, the enterprise applications team, the Business and Finance Division and a university-wide team implemented the Chart of Accounts redesign with a successful launch on July 1.

Rob Henderson, Angela Melero and Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) team members continued their partnership with enrollment services to further Pacific’s engagement of prospective students by way of email campaigns, text messaging and other targeted marketing tools. 

All of the initiatives listed above also included careful reviews by the information security team, led by Ken Kerrick, to ensure our safety as these services were quickly but properly implemented. And so many others on the Pacific Technology staff contributed to the effort—most working from home, but sometimes needed for projects on campus.

Art Sprecher, vice president for technology and chief information officer, expressed pride in the work of his staff and shared some of the challenges and success stories from the past few months.

  • Preparation and change: Pacific Technology staff anticipated a potential shift to distance learning and the closure of most campus operations. Department leadership discussed the likelihood in departmental meetings in early March. “Our March Lane building had to be evacuated for a COVID-19 case (from another building tenant), so we had been through that process. We were prepping for the likelihood of a change in campus operations a few weeks in advance.”
  • Changes in equipment: It was an all-out effort to procure enough laptops for students, faculty and staff and get other needed equipment in place. Scott Christensen, Denise Fitzgerald, the Technology Business Office and Helpdesk staff “went on shopping trips to Walmart, Best Buy and online to get as many laptops, hotspots, headsets, software, and webcams as we could use,” Sprecher said. “Then we collaborated with the provost office and the mailroom to get all of those to faculty and students in need.”
  • Distance learning switchover: Pacific Technology purchased 400 additional Zoom licenses. Just as many faculty and staff had preferences of Macs versus PCs, some “were either Zoom people or WebEx people,” Sprecher said. “Everything worked because people were willing to help one another and work together. There was tremendous collaboration across the institution.” Staff in a number of units volunteered to create help guides and training materials to smooth the transition.
  • Other work did not stop: Pacific was in the midst of a changeover to the Chart of Accounts, essentially the new business backbone for the university. “We kept right on pace with that work and I’m very proud of the university-wide project team for the effort,” Sprecher said. “They made their dates in spite of unprecedented circumstances.”
  • Dealing with issues: With so many employees working from home, some were strapped with personal Wi-Fi that lacked bandwidth. The Helpdesk had to be prepared to help when needed. “Screens would sometimes freeze and then people’s voices would get verrrry slooooow,” Sprecher said, perfectly mimicking the conference call delays we all have heard. “Fortunately, we did not have any Zoom bombings. We did have some problems from our internet providers, but those were worked out.”
  • Getting ready for fall: Pacific is in much better shape technology wise heading into fall, Sprecher said. HyFlex classroom technology is being added, storage moved to the cloud and tools that enable remote help desk support have been deployed. Improvements in connectivity between the Stockton and Sacramento campuses are underway. “We are in much better shape now than we were in March,” Sprecher said. “We got a lot of the upfront work done in areas where we needed to improve.”
  • Hoping for a return to normalcy: “We miss the students,” Sprecher said. “Just the experience of walking around campus, maybe having lunch at the DUC, talking to some students, faculty or staff. Introducing yourselves to people that you do not know.”
  • Proud to be a Pacifican:  In closing, Sprecher said, “I am so proud of how well the technology team responded to the events and equally proud about how our overall community responded. The level of collaboration from all divisions was extraordinary and we could not have done it without doing it together.”

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