Archive | March, 2011

Spring Deals

  1. Towson’s third annual Recycling Dropoff lets you dispose of household electronics, batteries, printer cartridges and single stream materials for free! The dropoff will be held from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 20 outside of the lower entrance to the Union Garage, so swing by before work or on your lunch break. For  more information on what you can bring to the dropoff, go here.
  2. If you have kids, there’s no better deal than the Saturday Science Series. Hosted by TU’s Hackerman Academy of Mathematics and Science and managed by resident astronaut Don Thomas, the kid-friendly events shed light on interesting aspects of science. Workshops are held at 10 a.m. and noon on select Saturdays, coffee and donuts are provided, and the whole thing is entirely FREE. Go here for a schedule.
  3. The University Store Spring Clearance Sale is your chance to get TU gear at discounted prices. From May 9 through May 27, all regularly priced Towson apparel will be 20 to 25% off, with select clearance apparel up to 60% off, select giftware up to 70% off, and select hats and t-shirts priced at just $6.50. Make sure to go early to get the best selection!
  4. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: you just can’t beat $5 Fridays at the Glen Dining Hall. All spring and summer, get all-you-can-eat pizza, salad, sandwiches and more for less than the cost of an expensive coffee drink.
  5. Have you heard about the University Store’s new Tiger Rewards card? During the month of April, cardholders will receive double rewards points on all qualifying purchases. Rack up those points to earn free store merchandise!
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Spring Events

  1. The Annual Employee Benefits Festival & Health Fair will take place Friday, April 15, 2011 from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the University Union’s Potomac Lounge. Stop by for free health screenings, benefits demonstrations, and of course, great giveaways.
  2. TigerFest is getting a shake up! This year’s event is being held in Unitas Stadium on a Friday, May 6. It will start at 3 p.m. and go until 10, with plenty of activities and live music.
  3. The campus community will celebrate employees’ service to the university at the Service Awards Ceremony, being held from 9 to 11 a.m. Thursday, May 5 in the University Union. Grab a free ticket beginning Thursday, April 7 and enjoy breakfast and networking with colleagues. More information on the ceremony is available here.
  4. Join your colleagues for food, refreshments, giveaways and entertainment at the 2011 Employee Appreciation Picnic. The event is taking place on Burdick Field June 3 from 4 to 8 p.m.
  5. Wish farewell to a host of new TU graduates at Spring Commencement! Ceremonies will be held in the Towson Center at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily from May 25 to 27. Watch a live webcast of the ceremony at http://www.towson.edu/commencement/index.asp.
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Spring Dates to Remember

  1. Bid farewell to our 12th president on April 19, Bob Caret’s last day at TU.
  2. Hear the sounds of summer break on Tuesday, May 24, the last day of the spring 2011 semester. Classes end Tuesday, May 17.
  3. Whether you participate or not, it’s good to know that Bike to Work Day is Friday, May 20. Remember to share the roads.
  4. RecycleMania ends Saturday, April 2. Find out how TU measured up against other colleges and universities next week!
  5. It may be called the summer session, but it technically starts in spring. The first session of 2011 summer classes begins Tuesday, May 31.
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University Embarks on $8 Million Project to Increase Energy Efficiency

After more than a year and a half of planning, TU has contracted with Constellation Energy on an $8 million project to improve the energy efficiency of campus lighting. The deal was approved by the Board of Public Works late last month.

The partnership between TU and Constellation is part of an Energy Services Contractor (ESCO) arrangement made possible by Maryland Senate Bill 267, which mandates that all state agencies reduce energy consumption by 15% over 2008 baseline numbers by 2015. To help organizations achieve the mandate, the state created a program to match agencies with ESCOs and then pay up-front for energy-reduction measures implemented through them. Agencies pay the state back over time using the money saved from reduced energy costs. According to Energy Manager Steve Kolb, Towson is paying for the project through a similar set-up with the University System of Maryland (USM).

“All of the state ESCO money was used quickly and by the time we were ready to sign a contract, state funding wasn’t available, so the USM gave us the loan for the project,” Steve said.

Over the past year and a half, Steve and Director of Energy Engineering & Conservation Dennis Bohlayer worked closely with Constellation Energy to refine the proposal for new lighting fixtures in each of the 38 campus buildings receiving the upgrades. Steve used standards published by the Illumination Engineering Society to determine appropriate lighting levels for each campus application—including classrooms, offices, bathrooms, corridors, dining halls and outdoor areas—and then selected lighting fixtures and layouts to accommodate these levels. For instance, classrooms are receiving energy-efficient T5 volumetric fixtures that are 30 – 40% more efficient than the existing fixtures. The brightness and efficiency of the fixtures will allow the number of bulbs to be reduced from between three and four per fixture to only two per fixture.

“It’s tricky because we’re talking about going into every building on campus and changing the lighting,” Steve said. “Luckily, we have a good idea of what fixtures we want for the buildings since we tested those fixtures in other lighting upgrade projects when we had the opportunity. My job is to work with Constellation and ensure that TU is getting the best product for each application. We want to get it right the first time.”

The design phase of the project wrapped up this January, and the year-long construction phase is expected to begin in April. When all is said and done, the campus will have 14,000 new light fixtures, 20,000 retrofit fixtures, and 9,300 occupancy sensors which will allow the university to reduce emissions by 9,943 metric tons of carbon equivalent per year. Steve estimates that the cost savings from the project will reach more than $1 million annually.

“Once all of the fixtures are installed, we expect to reduce energy costs by between $1 and $1.5 million a year, or about 15% of our annual electric bill,” Steve said. “That alone is impressive, but on top of that we are also going to get back nearly $2.3 million in BG&E rebates when the new fixtures are installed. Overall, we expect the project to pay for itself within about 5 years—a great rate of return for this type of work.”

For additional information about Towson’s energy-saving initiatives, go to www.towson.edu/energy.

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User Advisory Committee Works to Improve PeopleSoft Financials

To be fully utilized, a system as complex as PeopleSoft Financials cannot just be implemented and then left alone. Rather, it must be continuously refined in order to increase usability and maintain relevance amongst the ever-evolving needs of its users. Luckily for TU, a dedicated advisory committee is working to make PeopleSoft Financials more intuitive for all campus users.

The PeopleSoft Financials User Advisory Committee was created in October 2009 after the dust from implementation had settled and internal procedures were developed to the point that external feedback was possible. After a year of work, the functional and technical PeopleSoft teams had gotten the system to a stable level, but they continued to receive requests and ideas from the system’s users.

“We were ready to go beyond our borders and get feedback from outside the functional team,” PeopleSoft Finance Functional Manager Karen Michalak said. “[Associate Vice President for Fiscal Planning and Services] Jim Williamson charged us with developing the committee, and that got the ball rolling.”

Jim reached out to university vice presidents and deans to obtain recommendations for individuals to serve on the committee. Within a few months the committee had a solid group of 19 members, including representatives from the PeopleSoft functional and technical teams as well as end users representing a cross-section of campus departments. Soon, the committee began meeting on a regular basis and elected a chair, Student Affairs Business Manager Bonnie Lingelbach. Now it was time to get to work.

“We started out with brainstorming sessions to find out what  users were struggling with, what types of improvements we wanted, and what needed attention first,” Bonnie said. “We tried to have all the representatives share feedback and then discuss as a group to determine if it was an individual issue or something that needed to be resolved on a larger level.”

Prioritized feedback from the brainstorming sessions gave the PeopleSoft functional team the information needed to develop a list of core issues, which were then evaluated based on the the resources needed to solve the problem. The team also analyzed the list to find patterns and determine where clusters of issues could be resolved at the root, rather than patched over on a smaller level. Some issues required sub-committees to be created under the committee, while others were resolved by the PeopleSoft functional team, who would brainstorm solutions and then work with the committee to get them to a place where they delivered the most benefit. The first major issue resolved in this way related to nVision reporting.

One of the main ways that PeopleSoft users obtain information is through running set nVision reports, and yet when the committee first began meeting, many end users provided feedback that the output of the reports didn’t give them all of the information they needed. Instead, users said they had to run several reports and then pull pieces from each report to get the information they needed—a frustrating and time-consuming process.  Based on the reporting feedback, the PeopleSoft functional team set out to revise six of the seven nVision reports—as well as some of the subreports—to better meet end user needs. The functional team worked with committee members to remove information they didn’t need, add information that was more useful, and reorganize the reports in a more intuitive manner. The redesign of the reports was a more than six-month undertaking, but Bonnie says that the result was more than worth the wait.

“We no longer have to run five reports to get the information we need,” Bonnie says. “It saves a lot of time.”

In addition to revising the nVision reports, feedback from the committee has also resulted in the development of a secured query capability, which allows users to pull information from the system based on specific criteria. Other improvements provided users with access to chartfield pages and attributes, and enabled users to see all of the reporting needs for a grant or project on a single page. These refinements have made the system a more effective application for campus users, and Karen believes that without the committee they would have never been uncovered, much less accomplished.

“I really think that without the committee many of the current improvements would not have been possible,” Karen said. “The user group came together and gave us feedback that allowed us to look at institutional, rather than individual, solutions to problems. Instead of helping one person at a time, we were able to help all users at once.”

The committee’s next task will be the assessment and review of PeopleSoft Financials version 9.1. The committee will assist the functional team in determining the campus’s need for the upgrade and exploring the potential impact of the upgrade on end users.

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Tip of the Month: Accessing Virtual Workspace

When you need to get some work done on the weekend but don’t have time to drive to the office, the virtual workspace (VW) can help you access key TU applications from home, a hotel, or any other Web-accessible location. VW allows TU faculty and staff to remotely access several software programs (such as Outlook, Word, PowerPoint, etc.) from virtually any computer with an Internet connection and browser. When using the VW website for the first time, a browser component must be installed. The instructions below will take you through the steps to download this client and then access the VW.

Web Browser Recommendations

  • For Windows Users: Internet Explorer 6.0 or higher.
  • For Mac Users: Mozilla Firefox 1.5.0.7 or higher.

Downloading the Citrix Client Software and Accessing the VW

To install the browser component, you must first log in to the VW. Please note that these steps were written using the Internet Explorer browser.

  1. Open your internet browser and type vw.towson.edu in the address bar and press Enter.
  2. Log in with your NetID (UserName) and Password.
  3. Click the Log On button.
  4. The Citrix XenApp screen will appear. Click the Install button.
  5. Click beside I agree with the Citrix license agreement to accept.
  6. The File Download – Security Warning dialog box will appear. Click Run.
  7. The Internet Explorer—Security Warning dialog box will appear. Click Run.
  8. The Citrix online plug-in installation dialog box will appear as the client is installing.
  9. After the Client Software has been installed successfully, the Citrix online plug-in
    installation dialog box will appear. Click the OK button to proceed to the log on screen where you must type your NetID(Username) and Password and click Log On. *Note: Some browsers may require you to close out of the browser and then re-launch the website.
  10. Once logged in, the Applications Page will appear allowing you access to Outlook, Excel, PowerPoint, Word the Towson Desktop and more.

Logging Off of VW

  1. From the Applications Page, click the Log Off button located at the top right of the screen.
  2. A dialog box will appear confirming you have been logged off.

For more tips and information from OTS, go to the OTS training website at http://www.towson.edu/adminfinance/ots/trainingdoc/.

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Blackboard Updated to Version 9.1

To many staff members, it’s just a number change. But when Blackboard was upgraded from version 8.0 to 9.1 this January, it changed the navigation and improved the speed of access for thousands of TU students and teachers who use the online learning management system. The upgrade is also enabling classes to interact on new levels both in and outside of the classroom.

In addition to reducing upload times and decreasing the number of clicks necessary to perform routine tasks, version 9.1 of Blackboard incorporates a wide variety of Web 2.0 features. Blogs, wikis, and journals are now available on all Blackboard course sites, providing new platforms for classes to discuss and debate course material, share information, and get answers to questions outside of the classroom. According to Director of Information Technology Support Centers Matt Wynd, faculty members have requested the features in version 9.1 for years.

“Faculty have over the past five years found useful ways to add blogs, wikis and other Web 2.0 features in their courses,” Matt said. Some faculty have found these tools to increase interactive participation in their courses’ content. Blackboard has recognized this trend and provided these and other Web 2.0 functionalities in the 9.1 version of Blackboard Learn.”

Matt worked with Senior Blackboard Administrator Patricia Halstead and a team of nearly 10 OTS and Blackboard engineers to complete the upgrade over the recent winter break. The switch to 9.1 marks the largest upgrade to Towson’s learning management system in 3 years, and implementing it required nearly a year of planning and testing on behalf of the team. The process started last spring when Patricia convened a workgroup of faculty members from across campus to assess the university’s current learning management system needs. The workgroup met regularly to evaluate the products and features in the LMS product space and provide recommendations on which features best met the teaching and learning needs of campus. One of the recommendations was to upgrade the TU Blackboard environment to the newest version. Patricia says this resulted in a more inclusive upgrade process than ever before.

“It was a very collaborative process with the workgroup,” Patricia said. “We even developed a dedicated upgrade website to keep the faculty and students aware of the process and sent out updates on how the process was going.”

As part of the upgrade process, this fall OTS launched a Blackboard 9.1 development environment that mirrored the upgraded system. Members of the faculty work group were given access to a preview environment and encouraged to work in it and share feedback on any problems or glitches they encountered. The environment was tested and improved throughout the fall until the work group was confident that all significant issues were resolved. During implementation, the development environment went live, replacing version 9.1. As a result of the extensive testing of the environment, the switch between versions went relatively smoothly.

“In the past, once the upgrade was underway the environment was unavailable for up to a week,” Matt said. “We would launch the new version with fingers crossed and iron out any problems from there. Now because of a new virtual hosting environment behind Blackboard, we were able to create a duplicate environment and resolve those initial problems in the development stage. This resulted in a much smaller window when faculty didn’t have access to their course sites.”

Having the option to upgrade by creating a new installation of Blackboard allowed OTS to maintain access to version 8 of Blackboard for minimester courses that were underway during the transition. This provided a continuity of instruction that wasn’t possible during past upgrades.

“Blackboard has become a critical resource for many courses at TU. Growing the environment to allow for ongoing teaching during an upgrade and increasing up-time within the system through infrastructure choices were high-level goals of the project,” Matt said.

Despite a successful upgrade, the team’s work is still not done. Now, Patricia and her colleagues are in the process of developing specialized training components to help faculty adapt to the new system. These components will add to the wealth of materials—ranging from demonstrations to movie tutorials to self-help documents—already available on OTS’s website.

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Spotlight on Procurement

Location: Administration Building

Director: Lucy Slaich

Number of employees: 10

What they do:

The Procurement Department is TU’s face to the business community, obligating nearly $80 million on approximately 1,000 contracts in 2010, including $16.9 million to Maryland minority-owned businesses (MBEs). Procurement also conducts nearly 100 bids, quotes and requests for proposal (RFPs) annually, and oversees thousands of transactions on the university’s approximately 500 Visa procurement cards.

Towson University boasts the only procurement team in the University System of Maryland (USM) in which every buyer holds one or more professional certifications. The certified staff has 117 combined years of purchasing experience that they regularly share with colleagues by serving on the state’s MBE Advisory Committee, providing advice to other USM PeopleSoft eProcurement (ePro) users, presenting workshops on procurement card management and other purchasing topics, and sharing specs and sources with other universities. Last year, their excellence in achieving state MBE goals led the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus to nominate the department for a 2010 “best MBE practices” award.

Current projects:

  • Completing work on a new contract for comprehensive housekeeping services in the university. The contract has a potential 10-year term.
  • Identifying an executive search firm to support the selection of a new TU president.
  • Gearing up for year-end buying, including furniture, carpeting and microwave/refrigerator combo units to improve our residence halls.

Upcoming initiatives:

  • Planning the next upgrade to PeopleSoft’s ePro module.
  • Publishing a series of quick guides to help new users navigate the complex process of purchasing with state funds.
  • Promoting the use of small business reserve (SBR) vendors in procurement card transactions.

For more information on Procurement, go to http://www.towson.edu/adminfinance/fiscalplanning/procurement/.

 

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Did You Know…

Administration and Finance’s 586 employees are broken down into eight subunits. Facilities Management and Auxiliary Services comprise the largest number of A&F employees, but you might be surprised by how the rest of the staff breaks down:*

 

  • Facilities Management has 160 total employees (155 full-time, 5 part-time)
  • Auxiliary Services has 146 total employees (119 full-time, 27 part-time)
  • The Office of Technology Services has 99 total employees (97 full-time, 2 part-time)
  • The Office of Public Safety has 79 total employees (69 full-time, 10 part-time)
  • Fiscal Planning & Services has 75 total employees (72 full-time, 3 part-time)
  • Human Resources has 21 total employees (20 full-time, 1 part-time)
  • The Office of Administration and Finance has four total employees, all full-time
  • Management Advisory and Compliance Services has two total employees, one full-time and one part-time.

 

The percentage breakdown of employees by department is as follows:

 

  • Facilities Management 27.3%
  • Auxiliary Services 24.9%
  • OTS 16.9%
  • OPS 13.5%
  • FPS 12.8%
  • Human Resources 3.6%
  • Office of A&F .7%
  • MACS .3%

 

 

* Please note that all numbers include both exempt and non-exempt employees.

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Updates on TU Emergency Preparedness Projects with Corporal Joe Gregory

Hi, I am Corporal Joe Gregory with the Office of Public Safety. Since July 1, 2005 I have worked in TU’s Office of Emergency Preparedness, which is located with Environmental Health and Safety in the 7400 York Road building.

The Office of Emergency Preparedness works to enhance the preparedness of the university community in responding to natural and man-made threats.  We also promote emergency preparedness through awareness and education within the community. Below, I’d like to share some of the recent achievements and upcoming projects that are making TU a better prepared community:

  • The university recently completed its Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP). The plan lays out the university’s strategy for maintaining essential functions and resuming normal operations in the wake of a disaster. The completion of the overall university plan, which combines and prioritizes the COOP plans of all university departments, has been underway for more than a year and involved individuals from virtually all areas of the campus community. The plan was reviewed and approved last month by the university vice presidents.
  • The university has implemented a new Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Hazard and Vulnerability Assessment process for identifying and evaluating threats that face the campus community. The process was adapted by the Office of Emergency Preparedness based on protocols at an Enhanced Risk and Threat Assessment course hosted by FEMA last fall. The new process allows for increased precision in the identification of threats, increasing campus preparedness.
  • Last month, the university was certified by the National Weather Service (NWS) as a StormReady Supporter community. This certification process began last summer when the university compiled documentation demonstrating that the campus has the proper planning processes, alert systems and trained personnel to manage a severe weather incident. The documentation was submitted to NWS, and following review staff from the local Emergency Management Agency (Baltimore County Office of Emergency Management) came to campus for an onsite tour and interview to verify our information. The certification was given to TU at a conference call with the National Weather Service and the Baltimore County Office of Emergency Management, and was during a press conference last month.
  • We are in the preliminary stages of developing another full-scale exercise to test the preparedness of the university community. That exercise will take place in 2012.

If you have any questions or would like to schedule an emergency preparedness presentation for your group, please contact me at 443-296-3915 or jgregory@towson.edu.

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