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Newcomers’ Caution December 20, 2007

Posted by Michael McVey in Colleagues.
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edmt faculty

Here is a photo taken during the first meeting of the year in my Department. It’s a beautiful photograph and shows us all in our new Teacher Education Department t-shirts. It dawned on me that all five of the new faculty were cautiously standing along the back wall. That’s 100 percent of us. A few of the tall ones were scattered among us but, without exception, we were on the periphery of the group – physically and metaphorically. Just an observation. It makes sense though. We don’t want to barrel into the front of the camera. To do so would be evidence of pride, arrogance, or both. So, as our careers evolve in Higher Education, we will likely move closer to the front of the photo.

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Skin on Metal December 7, 2007

Posted by Michael McVey in Colleagues, Hardware.
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glasses   “How many pairs of eyes do you have?”

When I first began work as a Director of Technology, I would amuse myself by gathering up my network manager’s reading glasses from behind computers, under desks, next to phones, wherever you could lose them in the normal course of a day. When I reached thirty pair of them I just piled them on his work bench.

When you only have one pair of glasses, you tend to take care of them. When you have thirty pair, you become careless. Such is the case with IT security these days.  According to the Great Lakes IT Report, almost 40 percent of IT professionals have lost a handheld computer, zip disk, or memory stick. Half of the respondents copy secure data onto memory sticks and almost half appear not to have a basic understanding of basic security policies.

If each memory stick cost a couple of hundred dollars, I suspect we would be more circumspect about the information we transferred onto it and where we kept the little thing during the day. But if they are as easy to come across as a cheap pair of reading glasses, then there is little motivation to monitor them.

It’s interesting to me that part of the solution to IT security is so bound up with basic human traits and habits. In the IT world, where the “rubber hits the road” is where the “skin touches the metal.”

Bill Valmont: a remembrance September 11, 2007

Posted by Michael McVey in Colleagues.
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Valmont   Today I learned that my predecessor at the University of Arizona, Dr. Bill Valmont, passed away over the weekend. I had known him and worked indirectly with him in the Instructional Technology Facility while I was working on my Masters. In fact, Bill was my technology advisor and allowed me to do an independent study under his guidance.

When I learned about the position of Clinical Assistant Professor for Technology that was opening up at the College of Education, I immediately e-mailed Bill and asked if that was the sort of position that might be a fit for me. This was a radical departure for a fellow who had been a classroom teacher for almost two decades. Career teachers like me stayed in the classroom and retired from the classroom. We rarely left the school system entirely.

You can imagine how nervous I was before my first interview at the University. Bill was the one who met me at the door and brought me into the conference room. We joked about our mutual lack of hair and teased each other suggesting that a shiny head was required for the job. Bill was always ready for a laugh and we shared quite a few.

I served as a Clinical Assistant Professor for almost two years but when my term was nearly up Bill supported me for a position in the college. I believe he had the sense that I would be able to take over his position when he retired. Just over a year later, he made the move into retirement and I moved into his office.

We certainly came from different backgrounds and occasional we clashed over issues that were petty in hindsight, but his insights were profound and occasionally prophetic. One day, when I was talking about the possibility of going back into the classroom if things did not work out at the University, he simply said, “Those days are done for you. It’s time to move on.”

Two years later, I had my doctorate and three years after that I find myself in the position of Assistant Professor at Eastern Michigan University. Bill was right.

The office we occupied concurrently for over a decade is still empty but I hope the person they choose to fill that seat will remember the prime consideration for that job would have to be a bald head and an excellent sense of humor.