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Table of Contents

Technical Work

What's New About the New Economy?

Brave New Economy

The Idea Factory

Networking: Anytime, Anyplace...

Alumni Accomplishments

Magazine Cover


Technical Work
By Mark Mende
Coordinator of Electronic Communications

Information Technology Student Worker Peter Mitchell

The needs and requirements that the ever-expanding role of technology present in the day-to-day academic and administrative life at St. Lawrence have helped to create new opportunities for students to gain valuable real-world experience by working in technology-related campus jobs.

Information technology employs anywhere from 25 to 35 students who serve in myriad roles across campus, including staffing the help desk, working in the repair shop, performing desktop repair and installation, and even doing some programming. University communications also hires students (seven in Spring 2001) who perform Web page design services for academic and administrative departments.

These jobs, many of which are highly specialized and require at times an advanced level of competence, serve two very important functions. They help the University keep up with the technological needs across campus, and they provide excellent experience for the students.

René Murphy, student services coordinator and PC technician in information technology, supervises the students in "IT." She helps coordinate training, which includes customer service and work on basic computer skills. While there are specific tasks they need to accomplish, Murphy tries to create opportunities for students with special talents.


Information Technology Student Worker Aleks Portnova

"We don't just try to fit students into positions; we try to adapt positions to students' strengths," Murphy says. "If we don't have a position, we make one."

One of those students is Aleksandra Portnova '03, from Riga, Latvia. A mathematics and computer science major, she staffs the Help Desk, but may eventually do some desktop support work. She tentatively plans to attend graduate school to study mathematics or computer programming after she finishes her degree at St. Lawrence.

"I like the teamwork and working atmosphere in IT," says Portnova, who also has Web design and programming skills. "It's a job with real responsibility. It's rewarding, meaningful and exciting."

One of her colleagues is Peter Mitchell '01, from Canaan, N.H. A computer science major, he is new to IT, but already has some significant experience in Web design and programming through summer internships. He has also worked on the Help Desk and done some repair and installation work.

"Help Desk is interesting. It's actually kind of difficult to diagnose problems away from the machine. It's a good skill to know," he says. "I like working with a team and interacting with other people."

While the IT students work to make sure the computers across campus work well and are properly equipped, the Web design student workers in University communications are helping to enhance St. Lawrence's presence on the World Wide Web. They work with faculty and staff to help design or redesign departmental Web sites, and also train personnel to maintain the sites on a day-to-day basis after the design work is done. The program is in its fourth semester and has resulted in new or updated sites for departments such as history, global studies, counseling services, student life, environmental studies and special needs, to name just a few.

These students are expected to work independently, setting up a working relationship with a representative in the department they are designing for. So in addition to honing their Web design skills, they are learning valuable lessons in time management, meeting deadlines and working in a collaborative atmosphere with a diverse group of people. Dan Braz '01, North Yarmouth, Maine, and Ray Marcero '03, Weatherly, Pa., each came to St. Lawrence with Web design skills and has been fortunate enough to find jobs that allowed them to put their talents to use.

"It's been good to have something you're responsible for. It's taught me responsibility, how to solve problems and listen," says Braz, who taught himself Web design in high school. "I'd had a computer since I was a kid. I'd been interested in the Web since it started."

Braz, a psychology major with an economics minor, recently completed an internship with an e-commerce company, and plans on pursuing a career in e-commerce or investment. "Having this experience just completely sets you apart from others heading into the job market. Not many students are coming out of liberal arts schools with this kind of Web design experience," he notes.


Student Web designers Ray Marcero, left, and Dan Braz

Marcero, who is majoring in government with a minor in Native American studies, also began designing Web sites in high school. It was an outlet for artistic expression he had been missing.

"I don't have a very good hand for art. Through Web design, I found that I had a way to show my creativity," Marcero said. "This is a job that requires great responsibility. Every Web design job demands something different."

The experience of working with different members of the faculty and staff has also been something that Marcero has enjoyed. He is planning a career in public life, possibly as a politician.

"I don't want to sit behind a desk. I want to get out and consult with people in different situations," he says. Working in Web design gives him precisely those opportunities.