Sep. 23, 2008 by Olivia Drake
Q: Karen, when were you hired at Wesleyan as the director of user and technical services in Information Technology Services?
A: I started my position on the first day of classes, Sept. 2.
Q: What attracted you to Wesleyan?
A: I have been in information technology for 10 years now and I like the work. The position attracted me because it requires a good mix of technical understanding as well as “public relations,” both of which I enjoy. As a Middletown resident for nine years now, I have long had an interest in working at Wesleyan and being more integrated with the community at large. Moreover, I am a huge fan of the liberal arts. I love the environment that it fosters. While I have been interested in higher education for a while, I have been specifically interested in an institution of this size and scope. It is a great fit for my varied interests and passions. So far, very good.
Q: ITS recently combined its desktop support services and technology support services into one unit. Are you leading that unit? Is this a new position?
A: Yes, I am leading that unit and yes it is a new position, although I understand at one time in the department’s history they may have been combined before. I am not sure about that. In any event, they have not been combined in quite some time so it is new.
Q: What exactly is “user and technical services?”
A: User services refers to desktop support services (DSS) including peripheral devices like iPhones, Blackberry devices, etc. “User services” encompasses support for all faculty, staff and the student help desk as well. The front line support for folks are our user services people: Desktop Support Specialists in the academic areas, student help desk, and administrative help desk.
Technical Services (TSS) includes the back end networking and server support. All the core functions that keep the network running smoothly from infrastructure, such as switches, routers, wireless access points, and firewalls, to servers and central data storage units- all the hardware that hosts the numerous services Wesleyan offers. The TSS staff are network specialists, server administrators, Unix administrators and others.
Q: Who are your primary “clients?”
A: We serve the entire Wesleyan community including the students. The student Help Desk is now under our Help Desk manager,John Hammond, so we touch every aspect of campus operations from administrative offices to dorms and everything in between. The other areas of IT, Administrative Computing and Academic Computing, are also our clients. They rely on the core services to be running for their applications to run properly. The database operators need the hardware running their databases to be in peak performance. The same is true for Blackboard and so forth.
Q: What are typical questions or issues someone might contact you about?
A: If someone has an urgent need that cannot wait in the queue, he or she would contact me directly so I can find someone to address it even if it is outside that person’s usual coverage area. I am also beginning to meet with departments to ascertain where other needs may be and how ITS can serve them more efficiently. We are looking at how to address training needs, for example.
Q: What goes on during your day? Are you in a lot of meetings? Working on a computer? E-mail?
A: All of the above. Really I am in a lot more meetings than I have been before. The e-mail is about the same. If you think of DSS as the field operatives and TSS as the core operations, my role is to make sure those things don’t get out of sync. The DSS people can be far more efficient when they know what is happening or is planned for server updates, changes, etc. Conversely, the TSS folks need to know if there are repeating issues from the field that need to be addressed. We don’t always see problems here in ITS first. Their feedback drives our response. In an organization of this size, that requires a lot of communication and planning as well as understanding of both sides of the equation. One cannot exist without the other.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to say about your role at Wesleyan?
A: I think my role here is a work in progress. No moss grows under my feet so I plan to be out there and have a little fun with it.
Q: What is your background?
A: I was director of Information Technology for American School for the Deaf in West Hartford, Conn. I started there when the entire IT department was two people, myself included. By the time I left, there were six of us, and the number of computers had more than quadrupled. In my time there, I oversaw a data center relocation, a major network infrastructure migration, and countless updates to services and available technologies, including a lot of two-way video to support the communication needs of the deaf population.
Q: Where are you from and where did you attend college?
A: I grew up in Ellington, Conn. and attended East Catholic High School. I went to Mount Holyoke College and got my degree in English. Yea liberal arts! I will withhold the year since it is farther back than I care to admit.
Q: What should we know about you outside of Wesleyan?
A: I live right in town with my husband, 3-year-old son, two dogs and one ornery and rather elderly cat. We love to be outside kayaking, biking or just plain hanging around. A lot of or activities revolve around the never-ending process of house and yard projects. I love the theater and have done a lot of performing, though most of that is on hold while my son is little. I dance, practice yoga and watch baseball.