What do supporting faculty gradebooks, class attendance, student meal and room access, computer labs, Wi-Fi, and support for new students through the admissions process all have in common? It’s the friendly and skilled people of the Information Technology (IT) department of Pensacola Christian College.
Many of IT’s workers have been students studying computer science as a major or minor, as well as graduate assistants (GAs) working on their M.B.A. Caitlyn Turner (VA), a senior studying cybersecurity, has been a student hardware technician in IT for the last two years, often assisting staff or faculty with a variety of tech problems. During the start of a semester, she also helps fellow students with setting up their student Wi-Fi. “Working in IT has definitively reinforced the idea that everything we do goes back to people. Whether it be working with their information or their technology, people are the reason we do what we do,” she said.
“As we’ve raised expectations over the years, the students in IT have risen to the challenge, as our goal is for them to act as young professionals,” said David Valles, director. “Student workers serve on most of our teams: programming, computer hardware, and networking. They help with maintaining the ministry’s websites, computer labs, office computers, and computer networks, and also may help their fellow students directly through our Wi-Fi Help. They bring an exciting spirit of energy, flexibility, and enthusiasm to their work.”
When PCC announced it would transition to online learning back in March, the talents of the department were key in bringing together hundreds of teachers and thousands of students as they began using new tools. The changes required for online learning saw PCC implementing technologies that would have taken a year’s worth of careful planning, analysis, and testing, but were put to use in mere weeks or days. Vendors and consultants saw a sharp increase in traffic as other businesses and schools began to move online, making PCC’s transition challenging at first, but they steadily saw progress. “The situation was changing by the hour as various technology vendors announced special COVID support and programs,” said Valles.
As one of the systems administrators, Wayne Siegler assists in installation and upgrading projects across campus infrastructure. He works to ensure that on-campus computers and ministry logins can securely access needed resources even in the event of an equipment outage or local disaster such as a tropical storm.
“Many in IT came together to find solutions that would solve the needs, maintain security, and not overload our network bandwidth,” Siegler said. “Thankfully, the industry offered some robust cloud-based solutions that we were able to rapidly set up, test, and deploy.”
The IT Help Desk offered support to students and faculty on and off campus as they finished their online courses, including giving students access to resources like AWS Workspace to allow them to access computer labs remotely. “All this was accomplished while also helping a large number of staff people to work remotely, which was a big transition as well,” said Janae Sparks, one of the team of six at the IT Help Desk. “I have heard a couple of people say that they were impressed by how quickly PCC was able to get classes up and going online. I feel that the faculty did a phenomenal job of adapting to a situation that no one saw coming.”
Although those serving in the IT department often stay behind the scenes, their work, even through unprecedented circumstances, has been widely appreciated across campus and beyond. Some students wrote and said,
“Can we all take a moment to appreciate how well PCC has done with transitioning to online classes? It can’t be easy to move everything completely online. Thanks again for y’all’s continued commitment to excellence and our education!”
“We may not begin to comprehend all the sacrifices that you have made and are currently making for us, especially during this period of transition, but the Lord sees it all. You each have made an imprint in our lives forever. May we continue to remember that despite all that is going on, God IS in control and we have this hope in Him. So, in the middle of this chaos . . . thank you!”
As one of many who have been assisting students through the IT department, Janae Sparks gave a clear perspective of the hearts within her department: “We are constantly working to support the technical needs of our staff, faculty, and students so that they can be successful in what God has called them to do.”