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2014 move in stats
*All numbers are approximate.

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A day fishing with OTS

This blog often covers the daily work lives of A&F staff, but rarely have we shared our colleagues’ lives outside of the office. This summer, I got a glimpse into OTS’s work hard/play hard mentality as I headed out on their annual fishing trip.

I must admit, I was nervous. I don’t work in OTS and I’ve never fished as an adult–much less gone out on a massive chartered boat on the Chesapeake Bay. But like the others on board, I had chipped in my charter fare and shown up at the docks ready to compete for the day’s top prize: a red and white kayak, to be awarded to the person who caught the two largest combined fish of the day.

Tom Slemp, Tyler New and Nathan Leonard summoning fish

Tom Slemp, Tyler New and Nathan Leonard summoning fish

While there were no professional fishermen on board (just a professional yo-yoer–Nathan Leonard has traveled as far as Ohio for competitions), the competition was fierce. I couldn’t help but laugh as I witnessed the elaborate tactics used to court an advantage over fellow fishermen. I was lucky enough to be let in on some of these practices, including “fish summoning,” wherein one attracts fish using magic powers. Summoners are typically younger OTS employees who assume various poses designed to draw the biggest fish. The older staff watched with amusement, but they aren’t exempt from antics. I’ve learned firsthand that if you bowl against them in the faculty/staff league, you should not leave your ball out of sight. Whenever I have a missing bowling ball I always find it hidden near the OTS team’s table.

The trip wasn’t all about fishing–many boaters were just as interested in talking with each other as they were concerned about winning the kayak. I walked by a group of people joking lightheartedly on one side of the boat and then listened to a conversation about theoretical physics on the other. Talk about varied conversations!

As the day went on, I realized my nervousness about the trip was for nothing. I was welcomed by each staffer there, and they took the same interest in me as they did in each other. Before I knew it, I was familiar with everyone on the boat. If I didn’t know better, I’d think the “F” in A&F stood for friendly.

In the end, I tied for first in the fishing competition (owing, of course, to my supreme summoning powers). But the laughter and  camaraderie with new friends was the true prize of the day. The trip was the highlight of my summer.

By Tyler New

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5 projects you need to know about

It’s surprising but true: summer can be just as busy (and sometimes even busier!) than the rest of the year as staff head out for vacations and return to anxiously prepare for the year ahead. The bustle can make it hard to stay in touch with even the most compelling campus projects. Here are five you’ll want to know about, including a major improvement to software you use every day.

1. Order online, take food to go

Beginning this fall, Dining Services will allow you to skip the lines by ordering food via the new Tapingo mobile app. The app will let you order select menu items from several dining facilities, including 7720 Grille. You pay directly through your mobile device (both OneCard and credit cards are accepted), then pick up your meal and head back to your desk—no waiting in the order or checkout lines! The app is free and will be live by the beginning of the fall semester, with additional dining locations added by the spring.

2. Office upgrade means more space, better functionality

For many of us, access to Microsoft Office is as essential as access to a computer itself. If you’re a Word, Excel or Powerpoint junkie, you’ll love the Office upgrade kicking off this fall. The project will increase H drive size by five times, increase email storage by 200, and give you the ability to access your files from wherever you have internet. Basically, it’ll make it easier for you to do your work when and where you want, plus collaborate with others and then save that work without fear of maxing out space (goodbye, archiving!). Stay tuned for project updates in T3 over the coming months.

3. Single maintenance request system to open for entire campus

Submitting a maintenance request is getting much simpler. In the past, access to submit online maintenance requests was limited to building coordinators, so a staff member with a request would have to email the coordinator, who would submit the issue using one of three different forms. Beginning this fall, there will be one online system for submitting all routine facilities-related requests, and anyone can use it. To submit a request, you’ll simply log in with your Net ID and password, then complete the form to enter the location and nature of the task. If a service you need isn’t listed on the form, simply contact Work Control (x4-2481, workcontrol@towson.edu) and a staff member will guide you through the process.

4. Wireless access, simplified

Currently, faculty, staff and students needing wireless access for a campus guest have to sponsor them personally, filling out a web form to get a temporary username and password. Not difficult when you have just one visitor, but a pain when you have multiple vendors needing access. Beginning this fall, that pain will be gone when OTS replaces the current TU Guest wireless network with TU Open Access. The new network, available to all visitors, will not require a username and password. OTS Associate Director of Communication Services Eric Cannizzo says TU Open Access will make wireless easier to use and more accessible on campus. “The changes will simplify access for campus visitors and reduce the administrative overhead,” he says.  Faculty, staff and students should still use “TU Secure” to access the wireless network because it has extra security to protect University data, but sponsoring access to the guest network is one thing they can check off their list for campus visitors.

5. New goals for A&F departments

Assessment isn’t just for academics anymore. Based on accreditation requirements, beginning this year each TU department is being measured and assessed on achieving quantifiable goals that tie to a TU2020 theme. For example, one of Human Resources’ goals is to provide supervisory skills to university supervisors, aligning with the TU2020 theme of serving as “a model for leadership development”. The first draft of A&F’s departmental goals were presented and reviewed by a cross-section of faculty and staff earlier this month and received great reviews. The President will report on the university’s overall assessment progress at her Fall Address this September. Staff members are encouraged to remain aware of their departmental goals, since as assessment evolves it will touch everyone.

By Pamela Gorsuch

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A fond farewell to an OTS friend

Brenda Yarema and Alex

Brenda Yarema with her husband Alex.

OTS Network Project Engineer Brenda Yarema will be retiring from TU as of April 1, taking with her decades of institutional knowledge and insight. Though her retirement is well-deserved, she will be greatly missed.

Brenda started working at TU more than 20 years ago spending much of her time in Academic Computing and the Office of Technology Services (formerly known as CANS). Her work has contributed to the success of many OTS projects including, but certainly not limited to, the installation of the original TU network, the refresh of the current campus data network, wireless network installations and the development of TU’s current VoIP phone system.

Active in the Council of University System Staff (CUSS) and the Towson University Staff Council (TUSC), which she chaired for three years, Brenda unabashedly participated in important shared governance issues pertinent to staff on campus and across the state.  Brenda can also be credited with co-creating and implementing (alongside other dedicated TU staff) the first Staff Development Conference.  She has been a tireless advocate at the Maryland State Legislature and has worked on several state and national political campaigns.

Brenda’s future plans involve a trip to Poznan, Poland to teach English as a Second Language (ESL) this summer. Brenda and her husband Alex spent part of last summer there and loved the experience so much that they signed up for a second trip. In the short term, the couple plans to pack the car and hit the road, touring states they didn’t have time to visit when they were working full time.  They look forward to being free spirits for a while—traveling with no plans and no agendas.

“It has been a pleasure to work these past twenty plus years at Towson University,” Brenda said. “I am truly grateful to have worked with many professional people, for the many personal friendships I have made, and the numerous favorable opportunities I have encountered. It has been a great place to work.”

Best wishes to Brenda in her retirement and many thanks for 20 years of great work.

Did you work with Brenda? Leave her well-wishes for retirement in the comments section below!

Written by Joanne Bracken

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Business travel becoming easier for campus

byline photo of Brian Starkloff

By Brian Starkloff

Business travel is getting an upgrade. With the help of consulting firm Gideon Taylor, Financial Services and OTS are developing a new business travel system that will move the current paper-based process online. The project has been years in the making.

“I saw a demo of a similar system at the University of Maryland, Baltimore about two years ago and liked the software,” said Associate Director of Financial Services Sue Brodie, who initiated the project. “I knew it would work well for Towson. I spoke to [Comptroller] Debbie Asbury and [CIO] Jeff Schmidt and they were onboard for the joint project.”

The project moved into high gear this fall with the support of executive management and the Enterprise Information Technology Committee (EITC). The project team started out by convening focus groups with representatives from across campus who are involved in business travel. Together, they helped to shape the new system, which includes an online interface with electronic forms and routing to make the entire process simpler and faster for TU’s business travelers.

The project aims to help travelers plan their trips, with easy access to authorization requests for approval, expense reporting and more. In the new system, travelers will even be able to track how far along they are in each approval process, giving them a better understanding of when to anticipate approval and reimbursement.

Project leads Mardette Wetzelberger and Karen Michalak expect to launch the new system this summer with the help of team members Cyndi Zile, Ella Watts, Raza Hasan and Jay Amballa. Feedback and guidance from campus representatives will also play a key part in the development and implementation of the system.

For updates on the project, stay tuned to T3 and the business travel website.

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What’s ‛APPening in OTS?

by Bob Cave

Apps, apps, apps!  There are camera apps, music apps, cooking apps, and productivity apps. We may not all have washboard “apps,” but we do have apps for laps on maps. And, afterward, we’ve apps for naps. We’ll use an app to buy a cap, or just to find another app. The rapping, tapping, yapping apps might lead us all to drinking schnapps (or those less spirited to making frappes). But apps have got us and there’ll be no relapse.

If you are a smartphone user, you probably rely on a number of favorite apps to stay informed, organized, and entertained.  And, if you’re like me, your mind is bursting with important questions, such as “is there an app out there of which I am not yet aware that is perfectly suited to my needs?” (Yes, yes, I will get a life. But first, let me finish this article.) It is that question which compels me to read anything titled “Top __ Apps” and has me thinking about my own professional backyard.

So, what apps are favored by the “tappers and swipers” of OTS? Well, I asked – and here’s what I learned:

Among the 19 OTS staffers who kindly responded, there was no clear Top 10, or even Top 5. But considering that the number of available apps is in the high hundreds of thousands and that users are rarely without them, it probably shouldn’t surprise us that app collections are as varied and personal as their owners. But you, fine reader, want names and numbers.

Of the 89 distinct apps identified in this not-even-remotely-scientific survey, here is a rundown of those mentioned more than once:

Apps identified by at least two respondents comprise our third place category; they are “CamScanner,” “Evernote,” “Facebook,” “Google Drive,” “Google Maps,” “Instagram,” “LastPass,” “Mint,” “OneNote,” “Remember the Milk,” “Shazam,” “The Simpsons Tapped Out,” “Waze,” “Yelp!,” and “YouTube.”

Identified by three respondents, “GasBuddy” took second place. And, with five fans each, “Flashlight” and “TowsonU” tied for first. Interestingly enough, these top apps are both well suited for those seeking illumination, albeit in different contexts. If you’re unfamiliar with the “TowsonU” app, why not give it try? It really is useful.

Finally, the also-ran “Fart Studio” deserves honorable mention owing to its high-ranking source, but don’t expect me to divulge that source any time soon.

If you want to learn more about these titles, run them through your favorite web search engine or install a few on your smartphone and give them a spin—every title mentioned here is free. Enjoy your apps!

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Microsoft Lync, a Great New Program for Everyone

The digital age is a fascinating era; computer and Internet technologies allow unprecedented new ways to share and get information and communicate. As a university, we here at Towson are lucky enough to use this technology for learning, teaching, conducting business, growing and evolving, and generally sharing and extending the Towson experience – in short, we get to take full advantage of the digital age.

Unfortunately, there are disadvantages to technology – as we all know. For all the benefits, technology also creates new problems to be solved. The numerous programs, passwords, websites and so on can quickly stir up a headache – to say nothing of “efail,” as Michael Bachman, OTS, has termed the overwhelming tangle of emails we all know so well.

Enter Microsoft Lync, a new program available free of charge to all TU faculty and staff. Students can attend faculty/staff hosted meetings.. Lync is a one-stop shop for communications. It offers video chats, video conferences, telecommuting and instant messenger. Do you want to make sure so-and-so knows that you received their last email, but don’t want to send another email? Send them a quick instant message! Voila, less inbox clutter! Do you need to walk to a meeting across campus, but it’s raining outside? Video Conference! (Admittedly, you should probably use an umbrella instead of Lync, but the point is that you could use Lync.)

But wait! There’s more! (This is turning into an infomercial) You can set up online meetings with invites that sync directly to Outlook calendars. You now have an alternative to acquiring a WebEx host account and passwords. Multiple users can collaborate and work on the same document, at the same time. Tired of holding a telephone? Lync can do conference calls!

But wait, that’s not all it does! Lync has more features than I have time to tell you about, and its versatility means the possibilities are ENDLESS!

Lync is like everything Billy Mayes ever sold combined into the ultimate, most awesome thing ever, and then you called in the next 10 minutes for twice as much awesomeness at no extra cost (except separate S&H)…
… BUT BETTER!!

So call in the next 10 minutes!

But really, go online and take the Lync tutorial NOW to be entered to win a prize. Seriously, I’m not joking about the prize drawing.

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TU Innovation: OTS & TechHelp

By Eric VanLieshout & Michael Bachman

In August 2012, OTS began phasing in a new Web-based service called TechHelp. The key goals were to better manage and track technology-related service requests, solve problems faster, and deliver service more efficiently and effectively. TechHelp is now in full production, and while the implementation stage is complete, the system will continue to evolve and expand to meet campus needs. To say that the goals were met would be an understatement – the new TechHelp system has exceeded all initial expectations. So far, this system has handled 14,457 requests.

The TechHelp project was headed-up by Mark Addy, Director of Enterprise Services and Michael Bachman, Director of Information Technology Client Services. Both report to Jeff Schmidt, AVP/CIO. Bachman recently explained in an interview that TechHelp is more than an issue reporting and tracking tool. The system has powerful features that facilitate communication between solution providers in OTS and their faculty, staff, and student users. “TechHelp empowers our clients through features like self-service problem reporting, ability to check progress of requests, and dynamic FAQs that can answer common questions without having to wait for a response” according to Bachman.

If anyone is unfamiliar with using the TechHelp system, here is an overview of how the self-service feature works. Towson faculty, staff and students log into the system at http://techhelp.towson.edu with their NetID, then select the role associated with the “Request Type” (either employee or student). Successive drop down menus present options that help the user narrow down and pinpoint the specific problem or topic. A problem report from a faculty member in a classroom can be tracked right down to the building, room number, and specific device.

Once the Request Type is complete, users can type in additional notes and information, if necessary, attach a file, and then click Save to send the report directly to OTS. Once submitted, users can view the entire conversation or email thread and not only track but also interact with the processing of their request. This also does away with fractured, incomplete and disjointed email threads and the miscommunications that go with them, a troublesome phenomenon Bachman has termed “efail.”

The system is available 24/7. During business hours, staff members in the Faculty/Staff Help Center, Student Computing Services, and other intake points in OTS use the system to record telephone and email requests, providing a comprehensive history from initial report to resolution to client satisfaction. The ultimate use of TechHelp, in Bachman’s view, is to collect incident data that can then be used to identify recurring problems and patterns—then, using this information, develop solutions that prevent problems before they arise. OTS can create reports with TechHelp that sort requests by type, building, location and other criteria; this allows OTS to pinpoint a problematic room or building, or discover another specific pervasive issue and address the overarching problem, instead of responding to numerous individual service requests about the same classroom or building.

The TechHelp system is also astoundingly user-friendly for those without much knowledge of computers and technology. Bachman, Addy and the OTS team are serious about service excellence and effective communication and with the campus community; all the menus and options in TechHelp are expressed in layman’s terms, in plain English. You don’t have to know the entire OTS organizational chart to use the system. For example, “Enterprise Systems Engineering” is not on the menu, but you will find “Email, Outlook, Exchange, Calendars, etc.” which most people can relate to.

Classroom and Computer Lab Technologies (CCLT) was one of the first areas of TechHelp to go live. OTS administers the $3+ million Student Technology Fee budget which funds an enormous amount of the audiovisual and computer technology that students and faculty use daily in any of Towson University’s 400+ smart classrooms and computer labs. Maintaining the innovative CCLT program is paramount in facilitating the academic pursuits at the university, and teachers and students need the full advantage of this technology to provide the modern education expected at TU.

Recently, TechHelp allowed OTS to work with a TU Biology professor on a way to capture his in-class audio descriptions of the slides in his PowerPoint presentations so students could review and study class material. He plans to link the presentations through Blackboard. He submitted his original request through TechHelp as a general question on what type of microphone he should buy. OTS met with him shortly afterwards, reviewed his needs and goals, and then identified a small USB microphone to use with Microsoft Lync. The microphone is on order, and within a week or so, OTS plans to turn it over to the instructor to try in his classes. If it works, it could solve not just the professor’s capture need but also provide a solution for people with medical conditions or disabilities who need an easy-to-use portable amplification solution in the classroom.

The success of TechHelp lies in the way it facilitates collaborative solutions. As they planned and ran the project, Bachman and Addy worked to get people from all areas of OTS involved in developing the TechHelp system. The implementation project, originally given the codename iTraq, was an extensive in-house effort, instead of relying on outside development companies. This allowed Bachman and Addy to designate project teams that took advantage of their colleagues’ unique skills and apply them to the greatest effect. For example, those with a background or interest in English worked on communication, etc. etc.

To put it simply, Bachman and Addy let their OTS colleagues shine and work to their full potential. Perhaps, Bachman admits, an outside developer could have launched the system in less time; TechHelp was huge, sprawling effort. But faced with the task again, he says, “I wouldn’t change a thing. Sure, there are things we could improve as a project, but the distribution of work, ownership, teamwork, and collaboration throughout the process was a unifying exercise that brought people together from diverse areas for a common goal.” In the end, TechHelp is by Towson, for Towson, and those who built it understand the needs of the university as only an insider can.

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OTS Team Steps Out

By Samantha Knight

By Samantha Knight

The OTS Information Technology Support Centers Team (OTS Training, Web Team, CIAT, Multimedia Services, Instructional Design, and Blackboard groups) has made an effort to step out of the office and become more familiar with the people and places around Towson University.  Recently, we were fortunate to visit two different sites in one week.

The week started with a tour of the redesigned television studio located in the Media Center.  The studio is used for Electronic Media and Film classes, as well as for production of WMJF-TV.com shows.  David Reiss, associate professor in the Electronic Media and Film Department and technical coordinator of WMJF-TV.com, explained the updated control room and was able to demonstrate to us the virtual sets that are now available.  Some of us tried out the set while others stayed back in the control room to see the magic happen.  It was very exciting, especially for all the video people on our team! 2012-11-16 15.38.49

Later in the week, we had a private tour with Mike Harris from Athletics around the new Tiger Arena.  We took an hour out of the day and ventured over to the new building to see the seats being installed, walls being built, and many other projects that were going on during that time.  Mike explained where they were in the timeline and what will be built over the next few months. We’re very excited to go back at the beginning of May to see the finished product!

2012-11-16 15.52.08

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A Seasonal Favorite with an SCS Twist

By Bob Cave

Grateful for this first opportunity to address A&F staff through this blog, my inclination was to share some information about my own unit: Student Computing Services (SCS). After all, who doesn’t enjoy settling into a squashy armchair by a frosted window pain, hot beverage in hand, to read about technology services?

But, before you scroll away, consider that this review of services has been liberally seasoned for the upcoming holidays. So, find your note and sing along to the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” If you memorize this, you will never be at a loss to extol the benefits of SCS in an exceedingly entertaining fashion. We’ll call it our gift to you. No thanks are necessary (or for that matter, warranted).

The Twelve Days of Service
A High-spirited Holiday Ode to Student Computing Services

On the first day of service
Gave SCS to me
a fixed laptop with USB

On the second day of service
Gave SCS to me
two awesome labs
and a fixed laptop with USB

On the third day of service
Gave SCS to me
three forms scanned[i]
two awesome labs
and a fixed laptop with USB

On the fourth day of service
Gave SCS to me
four camera loans[ii]
three forms scanned
two awesome labs
and a fixed laptop with USB

On the fifth day of service
Gave SCS to me
five puzzles solved!
four camera loans
three forms scanned
two awesome labs
and a fixed laptop with USB

On the sixth day of service
Gave SCS to me
six nerves a’fraying
five puzzles solved!
four camera loans
three forms scanned
two awesome labs
and a fixed laptop with USB

On the seventh day of service
Gave SCS to me
seven posters printing
six nerves a’fraying
five puzzles solved!
four camera loans
three forms scanned
two awesome labs
and a fixed laptop with USB

On the eighth day of service
Gave SCS to me
eight techs consulting
seven posters printing
six nerves a’fraying
five puzzles solved!
four camera loans
three forms scanned
two awesome labs
and a fixed laptop with USB

On the ninth day of service
Gave SCS to me
nine green screen sessions[iii]
eight techs consulting
seven posters printing
six nerves a’fraying
five puzzles solved!
four camera loans
three forms scanned
two awesome labs
and a fixed laptop with USB

On the tenth day of service
Gave SCS to me
ten Lynda[iv] lessons
nine green screen sessions
eight techs consulting
seven posters printing
six nerves a’fraying
five puzzles solved!
four camera loans
three forms scanned
two awesome labs
and a fixed laptop with USB

On the eleventh day of service
Gave SCS to me
eleven ResNet rescues
ten Lynda lessons
nine green screen sessions
eight techs consulting
seven posters printing
six nerves a’fraying
five puzzles solved!
four camera loans
three forms scanned
two awesome labs
and a fixed laptop with USB

On the twelth day of service
Gave SCS to me
twelve Wi-Fi setups
eleven green screen sessions
ten Lynda lessons
nine ResNet rescues
eight techs consulting
seven posters printing
six nerves a’fraying
five puzzles solved!
four camera loans
three forms scanned
two awesome labs
and a fixed laptop with USB


[i] SCS offers optical form scanning for academic purposes.

[ii] SCS offers Gear2Go equipment loans for students, staff and faculty.

[iii] SCS offers media production space and assistance in the SCS Studio.

[iv] SCS manages a set of Lynda.com online learning accounts for student use.

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