KUDOS: Information Technology

KUDOS, Kutztown University’s Dedication to Outstanding Service, focuses on university administrative offices and the individuals within them, giving the campus community a look inside the working areas on campus.

This week, University Relations (UR) sat down with the Office of Information Technology to get an inside look at the dedicated individuals who innovate and maintain every aspect of KU’s technology – from helping students with their passwords to developing network infrastructure.

UR: Would you introduce yourselves and tell us how long you’ve been with KU?

TV: I’m Troy Vingom. I’m the chief information officer. I’ve been here for a year and a half.

DH: My name is Devin Hosie. I’m a senior systems administrator. I’ve been here for seven and a half years.

DF: I’m David Feight. I’m manager of Client Technology and Support and I’ve been here 11 months.

DJ: My name is David Jones. I’m the manager of Cyber Security and I’ve been here for 14 years.

UR: What is your department’s role and mission at the university?

TV: Our office consists of two distinct areas. There’s the Office of Information Technology that provides technology support for the university, ensuring that the students have the tools needed to be successful. We also have the Office of Distance Education that oversees the delivery of D2L and support for faculty in providing the content onto D2L.

DH: Our role is to support the university mission by providing and meeting the technological needs of our students and faculty to facilitate learning and teaching.

DF: In my department, we manage the Help Center and desktop support. We have a very friendly staff in the Help Center, that’s the dominant trait. They’re friendly, very open and willing to work with students and staff, regardless of the problems they have. Desktop technicians also have a wide variety of knowledge bases because we have so many platforms and infrastructures that they have to work on across campus.

DJ: My role is to develop and run the university’s cyber security program. Higher education has been the top two or three industries for cyber security over the past few years. It’s particularly important to spend time looking at trends and figuring out ways to deploy education and technologies to help keep the university system secure.

UR: Can you explain your department’s staff make-up and responsibilities?

TV: The IT group consists of a couple main areas. I mentioned the Office of Distance Education, that’s led by Doug Scott. Other areas include System Administration, led by Rick Miller. We have the Client Technologies Group, which oversees Helpdesk, network, ResNet and classroom technologies. We also have Cyber Security and Application Development and Support.

DH: My team is System Administration. We consist of my supervisor, Rick Miller, myself as the senior systems administrator, three other system administrators, a database administrator and an enterprise desktop infrastructure administrator.

DF: We have four desktop technicians that work on everyday problems, break-fix and other related software installations. Then we have two Helpdesk technicians along with student staff that manage our Help Centers at the Academic Forum and Stratton Administration Building. We have desktops that are hooked up to electron microscopes for classroom computer labs. We have more than 15 computer labs that we work with. We also collaborate with our classroom technology staff. There are more than 200 classrooms with digital infrastructure built in for all the presentations and different lectures that happen on campus; we have a wide variety of knowledge bases to help support the university and the students. They’re not just computer nerds, they’re people. We have a variety of people with different backgrounds and all sorts of different interests, not just computers. They can talk in everyday language. That’s important because there’s a wide variety of different backgrounds that come to the Help Center. They may be very tech-savvy, they may not be. We have to speak in their language to make sure we understand the problem and hopefully solve it as quickly as possible.

DJ: For cyber security, our role really is to engage the different areas of Information Technology and the departments around campus. Look at the different technology that they use, the different ways they process data, and work with them to figure out strategies to make sure it’s compliant and that the data is being sufficiently protected.

UR: How does your department serve students and the campus community?

TV: We serve the students and campus community in many ways. First of all, we provide the infrastructure to enable the use of technology – everything from the connectivity to the internet, to classroom technology, to the technology available in laboratory classrooms, as well as our applications to enable registration, delivery of online course materials, etc.

DH: My team specifically deals with the back-end data center infrastructure that the university systems run on. This covers networking, storage and compute. Our infrastructure runs systems like MyKU, KU card Bear Bucks, printing, the computer science student development environment, the university website and several facility systems, including the university work order system. In addition to that, our enterprise desktop administrator manages the academic teaching areas and computer labs, with support from our back-end system administrators.

DF: We work in collaboration with ResNet, which has a Help Desk Center in Johnson Hall, which is available seven days a week for students with different hours of operation. We have two Help Center locations in Stratton and the Academic Forum that are open for students to come in and explain any issues they may be having. ResNet helps resident students with internet and cable TV questions and break-fixes for personal devices as well.

DJ: Higher ed has a few key threats. Email is one of them. Email is one of the biggest ways that people will try to attack the university. Last year, we received more than 55 million email messages and more than half of those were junk messages, phishing messages or malware. We like to look at those trends and put things in place to help protect what the students, staff and faculty are receiving, since that tends to be the No. 1 problem that we see. We also look at other issues that effect higher education, like ransomware, and seeing what we can do to prevent and react to threats to make sure it doesn’t impact the university at all. For example, ransomware takes and encrypts your data, so you’re required to pay someone to un-encrypt that data, essentially holding it hostage. One way to solve that is to just restore the data and that’s what we do. We take precautions and put backup technology in place to restore the data as it was at a previous point in time. One of the things that is really important is notification remediation and education. It’s something we’ve really been trying to put effort into. As things come up, we are putting an effort into notifying the community to help them fix the problem and learn what to look out for.

UR: What are the points of pride in your department?

TV: The relationships we’ve built with the faculty, staff and students across the university, I think that’s really important. We strive to provide the highest possible service we can. We try to make sure they know that we are here to support them and enable success.

DH: Our department takes pride in serving the campus community and ensuring that the university’s technologies are operational and available.

DF: For our department, it’s the collaboration. It’s a field that requires input from a lot of different people. There’s no way to pigeon-hole just one problem. One problem may involve three separate teams and it’s important to collaborate, work with and be able to trust those individuals. Our mission is to serve every ticket we have on a first-call basis. This doesn’t always happen, but we strive to make sure that those 350 issue tickets that we get each week are resolved as fast as possible.

DJ: For me, it’s the team that we have. We have a relatively small team with a lot to do. As a result, we have a lot of smart and creative employees in IT. We often work together to solve different problems. I really enjoy working as a group.

UR: What would you like people to know about your department that they may not know already?

TV: There’s a lot that has to happen to provide a safe, secure, reliable technological environment that people don’t see. That’s the way we like it. We want to make sure that the environment is available without them having to see the complexity of what is behind-the-scenes. There’s no such thing as a dumb question and every question is worth answering.

DH: The biggest thing for me is that I want people to know that we are here to help with technology. We have a Help Center and they are there to assist anyone and everyone, on or off campus with any technology problem. If they can’t, there are others in IT they will actively seek out to help with the problem.

DF: The most important thing everyone should know is that we truly don’t believe there are stupid questions. We enjoy people stopping by and asking us for help to solve an issue they have, whether it’s something wrong or just looking for a different way to do or look at something. They test our ability to think outside the box a little bit. There’s nothing that we aren’t opposed to trying in seeking a solution for you. Don’t think it’s outside the realm of possibility that something can be done – let’s figure it out. There’s a solution out there somewhere.

DJ: Information technology isn’t just about getting computers to work. We like partnering with faculty, staff and students. It helps us find solutions that help everybody. We are an educational institution, so I like to think that we help educate people in whatever area we can. Specifically, for cyber security, if anyone has accidentally clicked on a link or accidentally given up a password, reach out right away. We’ll do everything we can to fix the situation.

UR: How can the campus community learn more or become involved with your department?

TV: Whenever we’re rolling out larger changes, we try to engage the campus community to get feedback. We’ll have open house sessions for different technology that we may be seeking feedback for. We ask students, faculty and staff to come in and provide us feedback before we roll it out. We want to take different viewpoints into consideration, because we don’t have all the answers. Depending on the project, sometimes we have a committee of people to help us design what we are trying to roll out. It depends on the changes being made. We often have open house sessions which we’ll announce through the Daily Brief and other ways to invite feedback from an open session.

DH: The Help Center is a good way we reach out. Another good resource, from our side, is the IT website. There’s a lot of information, resources and FAQs. It’s a good place to get information about what we do and answers you might need.

DF: You can visit our different Help Centers I’ve mentioned - the ones in Johnson Hall, Academic Forum, Stratton and there’s also a D2L office in the Academic Forum. We do a nice job of updating the website. We have an FAQ, updated service catalogs, what we do and what we offer. The Help Centers and the website are the best places to get to know us.

DJ: The Help Center is obviously a great way to reach out, but I’m available directly by email (dajones@kutztown.edu) or phone (610-683-4880) for any questions related to cyber security. We like looking for solutions to problems and we have our own ideas about what that might be, but I like to hear from other people too. So, if anyone has questions or if they have ideas, feel free to reach out with a phone call and share your thoughts.

UR: What’s your favorite thing about your KU experience?

TV: Seeing the students evolve from the time they come into the university until graduation, I think that is really fulfilling.

DH: For me, I’ve been here since 2005. I was a student here and I came back as an employee. I’ve been here for seven years. For me, it’s the people. I think that the students, the staff, the faculty, we are all amazing. We’re all here striving to make a better experience for everyone, especially the students.

DF: Mine comes from outside the office. I have a special needs son. So, I have been here three times for Special Olympics of Berks County. Just seeing the entire community – everybody is so pleasant and so helpful. They were three hugely positive experiences and I’ve always looked favorably on the university, even when I didn’t work here. So now being a part of this community, that’s something that I take personal pride in.

DJ: My favorite part of the KU experience is the community. There are so many different people and things represented here. Everybody tends to be very knowledgeable in their area. We’re exposed to everything, the academic departments across campus and on the administrative side; we have facilities, health care, public safety. Being exposed to everyone in their own discipline is a really cool part. It’s part of our every day coming here to work. I often think about how working at a corporation, they are focused on one single thing and we get to be exposed to everything. That’s a great thing about working here.

UR: What does “It’s Good to be Golden” mean to you?

TV: It’s having pride in the university.

DH: I agree. It’s being a part of and taking pride in Kutztown.

DF: For me, it’s not being afraid to strive to be the best. Gold represents being at the top of our field or the top of your industry and we aren’t embarrassed or afraid to strive to be golden, to be the best you can be. In that way, hopefully your success will inspire others to strive for their best.

DJ: I’m going to take this from my time in the Air Force. So, for me, “it’s good to be golden” means excellence in all we do. Whatever it is we’re working toward, big or little, we do our best.

KUDOS is published twice monthly by the office of University Relations. All issues can be found at www.kutztown.edu/KUDOS. For questions or more information, please contact University Relations at UR@kutztown.edu.