you’re director of Academic Computing Services and director of Digital
Projects. What is your personal interest with technology?
personal interest in technology comes from being curious about how
technology can solve problems, about how it can improve our ability to
understand the world, and how it can allow us to communicate that
understanding in new and effective ways.
Q: When did
you come to Wesleyan?
A: I came
here in 1996 as the Humanities Computing Coordinator. A year later, I became
Director of Academic Computing Services for Information Technology
Services. Last year, I added to my ITS job responsibilities in the Library
as director of digital library projects.
Q: Where are
your degrees from and in what?
A: I have a
B.A. in philosophy from Dartmouth College and a M.A. from Duke in English.
Q: How did
this lead you into working in information technology?
graduate school, I started working at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for
Afro-American Research on a large-scale publishing project, creating
microfiche edition of literary materials from African-American periodicals
from the late 19th and early 20th century. In order to
manage this process, I had to learn a wide range of technologies that we
were using to make the project more efficient. The Institute became
increasingly interested in how emerging technologies – at the time, CD-ROMs
and primitive multimedia programs – might serve as a platform for
documenting and making available African American resources, and so allowed
me to learn these new technologies as a form of research for the Institute.
I had learned some computer programming in high school, and so this was an
excellent chance to return to an area of interest that I had ignored during
my college and graduate education.
Academic Computing Services, you provide Wesleyan faculty with resources to
help them incorporate technology into their teaching and research. How would
you describe what you do?
Computing Services consists of three major groups: The first group is the
Academic Computing Managers, who work directly with faculty and at times
with students to use technology resources for in their teaching and
research. The second group is Instructional Media Services, which focuses on
classroom technology, the public computer labs, support for special events,
and most recently, the WebTech program. The third group is the Learning
Object Development Group, which is a grant-funded initiative that provides
professional design and programming resources for faculty projects. My work
mainly focuses on trying to make sure that these three groups work well
together, have the resources that they need, and receive the support they
need from the rest of ITS. I also spend a fair amount of time working on
collaborative projects with the Faculty Career Development Center with Andy
Szegedy-Maszak on the Academic (Technology) Roundtable and our Teaching
Q: What is
your role as director of Digital Projects?
A: The work I
do in the library on digital projects focuses on identifying ways that ITS
resources can be brought to bear on library initiatives, and in identifying
opportunities where ITS and the Library can work together on projects that
will improve the campus computing and information environment. Examples
include work on a new facility that will open in the fall in Olin library,
work on Information Literacy, which is one of Wesleyan’s new key
capabilities, and work on building a catalog of departmental resources --
books, videos, etc. -- that can be viewed via the library Web site.
Q: What are a
couple examples of ways faculty members are using these services?
A: More and
more faculty are using technology in some aspect of their teaching and
research. Part of that is because of our investment in putting technology
into the classroom. Part of that is because of changes in the way that
academics do their work that are happening on a national scale. Most faculty
are very pragmatic about how they incorporate technology. They rightfully
don’t want to invest too much time in learning something new if they can’t
see an obvious benefit to that new thing. That said, there are many examples
of Wesleyan faculty who are doing new things in their classrooms and in
In the Economics Department, Tanya Rosenblat and Alberto Isgut have
developed a very interesting game called the Ricardian Explorer that they
use to teach their students about comparative advantage and international
David Schorr in the Art Department teaches typography and design in our
interactive computer classrooms.
Pete Pringle in chemistry uses Web-based multiple choice questions to help
his students review the material he has presented in class.
Barry Chernoff in the Earth & Environmental Sciences Department uses
nearly every gizmo in SC150 to enliven his large lecture classes with the
use of rich media that he draws upon from a wide range of sources and in a
wide range of formats.
Madgalena Teter is developing a rich resource for a working group that she
is part of that is studying early modern Jewish history, using the Web to provide access to primary
source materials, translations and commentary on those resources, and
video of discussions.
Cecilia Miller is creating with Alan Nathanson a rich set of annotated
links to materials for her students in her Intellectual History courses to
of the most interesting things about all of this is that the way we have set
up our environment here. There are no doubt dozens and dozens examples of
effective and innovative uses of technology that we don’t know about because
of the fact that we provide technology that faculty can use without needing
to necessarily ask for help.
Q: In some
respect, are you teaching faculty?
A: I don’t
think of our work as teaching faculty, but rather as a partnership where we
work together to think about how various technologies might be put to
appropriate use, and as importantly, which technologies should we not be
pursuing. I don’t spend as much time as I would like working directly with
the faculty, but do spend a fair amount of time in conversation about
projects and initiatives.
Q: Are you a
member of the Academic Technology Advisory Committee? What topics would be
addressed at meetings?
A: I am a
member of ATAC. We meet two or three times per semester. ATAC serves as a
sounding board for us, providing us an opportunity to have conversations
with faculty and other key constituents about our planning, and to evaluate
our existing services. We spend time talking about our course management
system called Blackboard, the classrooms and labs, software licensing and
our wireless strategy.
Q: Are you a
member of other professional organizations?
participate in meetings of Nercomp, Educause, New Media Consortium, and MANE
IT Network. A group of us are also just about to launch a new project
called Academic Commons, which will serve as a place for faculty,
librarians, technologists, and other academic professionals to discuss the
role of technology in liberal education.
I understand you were an English instructor at Duke and a writer for the
Dictionary of Global Culture in the early 90s. Are you still a writer?
A: Yes. Last
fall I published a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education titled “The
Open-Source Bazaar Makes Scholarship Available.” For the Academic Commons
project, I am serving as the interviews editor, and so will be spending time
interviewing people about their views on technology and liberal arts
obviously very well-rounded. Why is this important to you and are you glad
to be working at a liberal-arts college?
A: I like
working at a liberal-arts college because it allows me to spend time working
on a wide-range of topics, and to spend time with people who think hard
about interesting things. I also believe that this kind of education is
important, and so like to be able to play a small role in the way liberal
arts education is transforming itself in the face of the challenges that
this forms of education faces, from technology, but also from myriad other
Q: What are
some of your interests and hobbies outside of work?
A: I like to
go running with my new puppy, play guitar not very well, and I coach soccer.
Q: Do you
have family or pets?
A: My wife
Lisa and I have three kids, Ethan, 12, Anna, 9 and Julian, 3. We have two
cats, a puppy and a lizard.