We’ve all been there. Someone’s about to show a video or a slide presentation. The lights go down.
Up on the wall – nothing happens.
At the University of Minnesota-Morris, that’s where Ron Kubik comes in. Kubik, of Local 3937, makes sure that classroom projectors, computers, and internet work when faculty need them. If the technology in today’s wired classrooms doesn’t cooperate, Kubik fixes it – in a hurry.
“My job is critical to keeping all that equipment running,” Kubik says. “Those are the things that are so important to keep this university moving.” Efforts like Kubik’s occur on every campus.
Helping scholarship funds grow
A few buildings away in Morris, Local 3800’s Laura Thielke manages nearly 150 scholarship funds. That includes tracking how much each fund can distribute each year, and making sure the scholarships meet the donors’ intent.
“It’s really fun for me to see a particular scholarship fund grow and, each year, be able to give a little bit more, or increase the number of recipients,” she says. Thielke knows that scholarships mean students won’t have to work as much, and will graduate with less debt.
Other duties as assigned
On the Duluth campus, bookstore cashier Judy Borrell works one-on-one with freshmen to make sure they find all the books they need, class by class. Borrell, of Local 3801, is also an ad-hoc campus guide, handing out maps and giving directions to people who show up at her counter, looking for the nearest bathroom, cafeteria, or an office they can’t find in the maze of hallways.
In Duluth’s Physics department, Denise Osterholm sets up lab equipment, manages inventory, handles hazardous waste issues, and provides safety training. She operates a machine shop that crafts custom gears, shafts, and other equipment for one-of-a-kind research. And she maintains three wireless networks and 150 computers, too.
In the Twin Cities, Local 3937’s Mark Desrosiers manages all the printers, copiers and microform machines at Wilson Library, the university’s largest. Every week, he sends as many as 500 books and periodicals to the campus bindery before adding them to the stacks.
Skip this vital step to preserve materials, and “the library would be in shambles,” Desrosiers says. “There’d be damaged books on the shelf, there’d be unbound periodicals sliding off everywhere.”
Desrosiers also manages the campus’ Get It service, which delivers as many as 400 books a day directly to faculty, staff, and students. Like other services, Desrosiers says, Get It is designed so “people get access to the information they need as efficiently as they can.”
Kubik knows all about access to information. He runs the computer help desk at Morris, trying to trouble-shoot software problems for often-desperate students and instructors. “Usually, you don’t get someone in here unless they’re in a panic,” Kubik says. A computer is loaded with malware. A student has a paper due, but can’t find it on his or her laptop. Faculty members can’t locate vital research files on their hard drive. “That’s where their information is nowadays,” Kubik says. “If that information isn’t there, they’re in trouble. We’re here to take care of that.”
Streamlining campus life
In Duluth, Local 3801’s Marian Syrjamaki-Kuchta makes her own contribution to efficient access of information. She helps run the website for Academic Support and Student Life, which includes the registrar’s and financial aid offices.
The department utilizes its website in ways that make paper documents almost obsolete. Students can access and fill out most forms online. They can find all the policies they would ever need to read. Financial aid counselors can access the records of any student online at any time. That eliminates the notorious days when students stood in lines for hours to get scholarship or loan issues resolved.
Transfer students can find out which academic credits apply toward a UMD degree, and which will not. “We get all this information that feeds into a document that tells the kid ‘I’m getting credit for this, this, this, this. I still have to do this and this. And then I can graduate’.”
Forms are a personal crusade for Syrjamaki-Kuchta. Whether electronic or paper, she wants them as user-friendly as possible. “If people are filling them out wrong – not only one student, but many students – then there’s something wrong with the form,” she says. “So we have refined and refined and continue to refine those forms so kids get it right the first time.
“Our whole goal is to help kids get through school, and do it smoothly, and finish up, and get their degree, and go for it.”