Electronic whiteboards, iLearn, firewalls, distance learning, cloud computing, free software and student printing, Digital Commons and the list goes on. The Information Technology (IT) Department at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) has been an important partner since the university’s founding in 1995 – bringing the campus into the 21st century.
Seventy full-time and about 15 part-time student employees manage six IT areas on campus: Network Services, Information Systems, Compliance and Planning, Technology Support Services, Center for Academic Technologies and Project Management Office.
Technology Support Services – the IT area most in direct contact with the CSUMB community – is divided into subgroups which include website services, the IT help desk and technicians who work on the campus computers that support staff, faculty and computer labs.
“Freshman coming onto campus in 2019 are coming in much more tech-savvy than a freshman coming onto campus in 1995,” said Amy Marbach, CSUMB’s user services specialist & help desk student assistant coordinator.
“The same could be said about staff and faculty. Original help desk student assistants would assist students, staff and faculty to gain access to our dial-up service,” Marbach continued, “Now students can go to the library circulation desk and check out Wi-Fi hotspots for two weeks if they don’t have access to their high-speed internet service at home. The scope of technology in society and on campus is always changing. The challenge with IT is keeping up with the trends and changes at a sustainable level.”
Two full-time staff answer the 582-HELP phone support line, Marbach and Wynter Nichols. Nichols has been a staff member since the university opened. Marbach was a student assistant from 1995 until graduation in June 1998 with a B.A. in liberal studies and hired full-time in November 1998.
“Between the two of us, we have a relatively vast knowledge of who can help and with what – even if it’s an issue that isn’t technology related,” stated Marbach. “We can usually get the caller to at least the right area of campus.”
The IT help desk has been located in various areas on campus starting in the building now called Ocean Hall. It has been located inside the library since November 2008 with the opening of the Tanimura and Antle library.
In 1995, each student was required to take a course in the basics of computer usage which included word processing, spreadsheets, powerpoint, email and what was at that time, the new use of the internet.
“It wasn’t uncommon for first-year students to not have any computing experience at all,” said Marbach. “As a student assistant back then, our help desk students would give seminars on how to connect your home computer to the campus internet using antiquated dial-up modems.”
Twenty-four years later in the Spring 2019 semester, there are nine student assistants who keep open the library’s IT help desk 70 hours a week during the semester. An additional student assists the IT technicians. Contrary to popular belief, one does not need to be a technology major to be hired as an assistant.
“When I am interviewing candidates for the IT desk student assistant positions,” said Marbach, “I am looking for students who are personable, responsible, willing to learn and have a personality that I think will make an excellent addition to our team.”
Hundreds of students, staff and faculty visit the IT help desk where they receive assistance in helping to connect their mobile devices, cell phones, tablets and laptops to the campus network. Assistants also help with software questions, printing problems in the cafe and reference area of the library, as well as certain account issues. They cannot, however, change passwords or take a device apart, replace items – e.g. hard drives or RAM – or do anything that would require them to break the seal on a device.
“Technology is continually evolving,” said Marbach, “and we are just trying to keep up as a campus with the technology as it advances so that our students, staff and faculty have reliable access to the emerging technologies in a productive way.”