Savvy, efficient service combines with student opportunity and interdepartmental cooperation in student information technology support services at UC Merced.
Todd Van Zandt, who manages student technology support for the campus, has been helping people get the most out of computers since he was a student himself at UC Davis. As a student employee there, he started preparing for his current career — making sure students can use whatever technology they have to its full potential at one of the most tech-friendly college campuses in the nation.
The most important thing for students to know, Van Zandt said, is that his team is available to help.
"There isn't an additional cost to them to use our support services," he said.
His group has even teamed up with Associated Students of UC Merced (ASUCM), the campus' student government, to offer expanded open-computing hours in computer classrooms during non-class times and $1.50 in free print credits (enough for 35 pages) per semester for each student.
Students may have seen Van Zandt's team at Move-In Day over the weekend; what he calls their busiest and most important time of the year. In 2009, for example, they set up more than 650 wireless Internet configurations that weekend alone.
More than 20 student technology consultants (STCs) prepare for the move-in crunch each year with a special two- to three-day "boot camp" training, making sure that the already tech-oriented staff is up-to-date on the troubleshooting techniques and customer service skills they'll need. That's important, he said, because new students often show up with the very latest devices.
"STCs tend to be more in tune with the newest technologies and have the aptitude to adapt to them quickly," Van Zandt said. "They keep up-to-date on the current world of technology and are often aware of the current issues as well as the tools and solutions needed to fix them."
In addition to helping students configure their devices, the team also offers Symantec Endpoint anti-virus software.
"We've covered the cost of the software for each student in an effort to minimize the issues they may encounter on their computers, as well as to mitigate the risk of potential viruses spreading across the network," Van Zandt said.
They're also anticipating the impact of new technology — again, in cooperation with ASUCM.
"Mobile tech devices like smart phones are becoming as powerful as laptops once were," Van Zandt said. "Many services will have to be adapted to work with them."
The campus portal was recently upgraded to improve performance on mobile devices, and a mobile Web app for students to get UC Merced-specific information may soon be in the works.
He encourages students to make full use of the portal, where many campus resources are available through a single sign-on, and UCMCROPS, where they can access information for all their classes. And students who didn't catch the support team at move-in can still reach them at the IT Help Desk in room 132A of the Classroom Building.