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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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Technology consultants troubleshoot norms

The Grinnell College Technology Consultants, comprised of roughly 100 students, is harder to get into than the college itself.

“We hire in the fall, we hire in the spring, and we get hundreds of applicants,” said Karen McRitchie, Information Technology Services. “We got 100 applicants for this spring and there were only ten positions, which was good for us, but it’s hard to turn people away.”

Boanne MacGregor '12, left, and James Ng '12 discuss how to resolve a presenting problem on a student computer at the Helpdesk on Tuesday morning. Photo taken by Aaron Barker.

The program is highly popular for a number of reasons—students do not necessarily have to come to the program with technological expertise, but will gain experience in a variety of tech-related fields from working at the help-desk to systems management, and because being a TC can be a lot of fun.

“Throughout the year we have TC bonding events like the pumpkin farm, we had bowling once,” said Shitanshu Aggarwal ’11, the Systems Manager for the TC’s internal network. “At the end of every class year there’s a picnic at Karen’s home and the graduating TC’s get golden disk awards.”

McRitchie bought the “awards” online in bulk from Ebay.

“They’re old-fashioned 5 ½ inch floppy disks that we spray paint gold,” McRitchie said.

“We had a pub night and there’s an origami sumo wrestling thing coming up,” said Sunanda Vaidheesh ’12, TC administrative coordinator.

The TC’s also engage in entertaining and extremely helpful activities, which involve the broader campus community.
“When the first years come in during NSO we do a whole weekend of basically a giant help desk and are out in the dorms helping the new students and their parents get hooked up,” McRitchie said. “They [TC’s] wear propeller beanies and tie-dye shirts that are really brightly colored… so we’ve gotten to be known as the beanie team.”
Aside from picking pumpkins and fixing first-year’s computers with the wind in their hats, members of the TC program also, as their name would indicate, coordinate and facilitate the use of technology on the Grinnell Campus.

“The TC program essentially exists to help all the students on campus, and professors and everyone who uses computers to use technology better,” Aggarwal said. “So anyone who has questions—anything related to technology—it doesn’t have to be campus computers specifically, it could be any technology: phones, computers, printers, internet, anything. The idea is the TC are here to help.”

Part of being in the program, especially at the leadership level like Vaidheesh, is thinking of new ways to serve the campus community.

“We’ve started a new tech support shift,” Vaidheesh said. “So now you can i.m. a TC anytime between twelve noon and ten p.m. … TCs are basically there to answer your minute by minute questions.”

Recently, the TC’s stepped in to solve the tricky technological situation, which kept KDIC from streaming its radio shows online.

“Thank God for them, or KDIC wouldn’t be online or alive right now,” said Kelly Musselman ’11 KDIC Station Manager.

But the TC’s aren’t just out to fix broken modems, they’re also interested in malfunctioning norms through the new Women in Technology group.

“We started it last semester and that’s a field I’m really interested in,” McRitchie said. “Being a woman in technology in a male dominated field… it’s a way I thought of first of all trying get more women in the TC program, that’s one of the goals, because we only have about 30% right now. The second part of that was also to educate, to let students know that there’s other jobs in technology besides programming. I think a lot of people associate computers with programming and not the educational piece, you know there’s a lot of fun stuff to do in technology without actually becoming a programmer.”

From helping frantic students re-boot their laptops to advocating the entrance of women into a historically male-dominated field, the technology core is here to help.

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