Campus tech helps another 4,500 freshmen get moved in

Helping freshmen connect to campus technology when they arrive in the dormitories seems like an obvious idea now. But having IET employees turn out in force during move-in weekend to help orient the students is a fairly recent practice.

It grew out of problems that emerged early this decade as each new class of students arrived with an increasingly varied hodgepodge of computers that didn't mesh well with the campus system. That, plus the fast spread of a computer worm in August 2003, highlighted the value of providing more on-the-scene help.

The big move-in, on Sept. 22-23 this year, "is about as much fun as you're going to have, working on a weekend," said Mark Stinson, client services manager in Data Center and Client Services. Student Housing helped about 4,500 new students move into campus dorms, said Chuck Huneke, Student Housing technology coordinator. About half arrived each day, starting in the morning.

They said goodbye to parents, met roommates, carried boxes and clothes from cars to rooms--and sometimes needed help troubleshooting any problems they had getting hooked into the campus computer networks.

It's a big two days, full of details and transitions.

"The excitement is palpable," Stinson said. "You can feel it. There's this whole range of mixed emotions. You'll see the combination of anxiety and apprehension and excitement in the students' faces, the pride in the parents' faces. It's just so full of energy. It's just a fun thing to be part of."

About three dozen people from Information and Educational Technology worked extra hours during the weekend, some in the dorms, some in the dorms' computer centers, and others providing support through IT Express, the campus help desk.

The big turnout on move-in weekend helps the students settle in. It also helps IET work more efficiently.

The help desk, for example, has grown strong enough to provide network support to the new students--second-level support as well as initial help.

In 2003, the year the Blaster worm infected computers all over the world, "just about every other client had a problem in their dorm room and [the call for service] had to escalate to the Network Operations Center," Stinson said. That's not the best place to handle those calls, and the center wasn't staffed for the volume.

This year, he said, no calls had to advance to the NOC. He elaborated in an email Sept. 25 that complimented the work of dozens of people: "We had no network, telephone or account management system problems, our support teams worked well with Student Housing staff, and everybody did a great job of representing IET while providing excellent technical support to students and their parents."

IET has made other changes to help orient and equip students during the past few years. The Internet tools CD, which has anti-virus and other useful software, is now freely and widely given away to UC Davis students. Previously the CD was sold, at the Campus Bookstore.

IET also sends staffers to other new-student events, such as the dorms' resource fairs and the Fall Welcome Downtown in central Davis.

And the campus now encourages students to register their computers in the summer, instead of leaving it as one more chore to accomplish on hectic move-in weekend. About 2,000 students registered their computers during the weekend this year, Huneke said. That's less than half of the new class.

In the years before the big tech turnout during move-in, IET staffers would join the orientation training for students done by Student Housing. They'd attend for a question-and-answer session, Stinson said. But eventually it became clear that level of involvement wasn't enough, so IET and Student Housing started ramping up the tech presence during move-in.

Huneke works with 26 Student Housing student staff members, whose training includes a few days of tech education. "Having the IET staff right there in the computer centers, helping people out in the halls, is great," Huneke said. "It takes a lot of the technical pressure off my student staff."

Student Housing, of course, dealt with more than technology as the thousands of students and their families arrived at the dorms. That Saturday looked logistically difficult, thanks to parking problems posed by the UC Davis-Northeastern football game at the new Aggie Stadium nearby. Rain was possible.

"We had the feeling it would be a real headache," Huneke said, "but it ended up not being so bad."


The photo accompanying this story shows Caryn DeMoura, an IET analyst and one of the dozens of campus tech employees who helped during move-in weekend.