Office of Information Technology September 2020 Newsletter

Office of Information Technology September 2020 Newsletter


Dear Team,

 I am so grateful for the privilege of working together at Utah Valley University. While I have only been here a few weeks, there are few observations that I have made that I’d like to share.  First, everyone that I have met seems to be 100% committed and “all-in” to the institution and specifically to serving our students and faculty.  Second, everyone appears willing to work across organizational boundaries and come together as one team to accomplish a goal.  And third, we have a lot of work to do! Let me provide more context for each of these observations.

Call it “school spirit”, dedication, or commitment, but everyone that I have met so far seems to care deeply about providing excellent customer service and delivering products that thrill our end users. I won’t name names, because I’d surely miss someone, but let me just highlight the effort to come together as one team to help install, program, and test over 300 classrooms for the fall semester.  I was humbled to see so many of you selflessly answer the call to volunteer your time and help test and configure classroom systems you’ve probably never used before and probably don’t want to see again.  (I may have had a particularly bad dream about NUCs melting and filling the podiums with smoke.)  I echo Kelly’s note to some of you that you “inspire him.” Amen! 

I know there are many things we’d all like to change and improve over the coming months.  And, I know that we are all expected to help deliver on President Tuminez’ “Vision 2030” mission here.  But, for now, let’s continue to focus on getting through the first few weeks of school and make sure that we are ready to pivot, like we all did last March, to 100% online if the occasion requires.  Regardless of where we work, I want to emphasize three words:  simplify, sharpen, and scale.  As you go through your daily tasks, please consider looking at those tasks through the lens of those three words.  Find ways to simplify processes, user interfaces, and daily work. Look for opportunities to improve, or sharpen, processes and systems to make them more reliable and efficient.  And, lastly, make sure that everything we do is scalable. UVU is growing, even during a pandemic, and we need to make our processes and systems equal to the demands that will be made in the future. 

As we work together in the coming months to align our efforts to the 2030 Vision and to enabling Digital Transformation please take time to identify ways to simplify, sharpen, and scale. Together, we will build exciting new systems that will deliver on President Tuminez’ vision and help improve the Student Experience.

There is lots of fun, hard work to come.  Thank you for allowing me to be a part of it.

Troy Martin 
Associate Vice President of IT /  CIO 



Since the start of fall 2020 semester on Monday, August 24, a number of changes have been implemented on campus to protect everyone from COVID-19. To find the most updated information regarding the return to campus and new safety guidelines, be sure to regularly check



Have you seen a UVU staff member offering exceptional service or giving an exemplary performance? Remember to nominate them for the Wolverine Sighting Employee Recognition Award! 



A sun setting over a mountain.

Labor Day 

This year, Labor Day falls on Monday, September 7, and is a holiday for UVU students, faculty, and staff. The first Labor Day was celebrated on September 5, 1882, to commemorate the social and economic achievements of American workers. Want to learn more about the origins of this holiday? Read more about it here

Patriot Day

Friday, September 11 is Patriot Day, officially known as the National Day of Service and Remembrance. On this day, we remember the people who died in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.  For those interested in reviewing the history of Patriot Day, check this article.      

Rosh Hashanah 
9/18/2020 - 9/20/2020 

Rosh Hashanah is an autumnal festival celebrating the start of the Jewish New Year, and this year it begins September 18. Interested in the history of Rosh Hashanah? Read more about it here

Autumnal Equinox 

In 2020, the autumnal equinox coincides with September 22. It marks the beginning of fall in the Northern Hemisphere and spring in the Southern Hemisphere. To learn more about the autumnal equinox, be sure to read this article

Yom Kippur Begins 

This year, Yom Kippur falls on September 27. This unique Jewish holiday has been celebrated for thousands of years.  If you're curious about the history of this holiday, check this article


The Service Desk is in need of great people with excellent customer service skills. They have two positions available for part-time Service Desk Specialists. One position is for the afternoon, and the other is for the evening. If you can think of anyone interested in applying, please send them the following links: 


In my 27 years at UVU, starting the fall semester has always been a busy and somewhat stressful time of year. Over time, most of the fall semesters have melded together in my memory. However, a couple of years stand out in my mind as particularly challenging and rewarding. For example, I will remember fall 1996 for the rest of my life. 2020 will be another year that is forever etched in my memory because of the way that everyone joined together to help students and faculty use the new technologies we've put in place.

It took thousands of hours spread over several months to prepare for this year's unique semester start. Late nights, early mornings, equipment delivery and functionality challenges, and failures of vendors to provide what was promised have all been handled by an army of people dedicated to making sure this fall semester could be successful. Now that the semester has begun, work continues to make sure students and faculty receive the benefits of all the prep work that was done. While so many people have been involved in the visible classroom project, I think it's important to also recognize the many individuals who have been working outside the spotlight on things that are equally critical to students and faculty.

For instance, the dedicated staff of the Service Desk have been answering thousands (probably tens of thousands) of calls, chats, and emails from students, faculty, and staff. Their "rush" period began weeks before school started and continues for weeks after. Not only is the call volume higher than a normal fall Semester, but thanks to hiring delays due to COVID-19 economic concerns, the Service Desk is also making ends meet despite having seven fewer trained employees than they've had in previous years. Thanks also to IT Ops who have manned the LA Desk to help with wireless issues. 

With the classroom project ongoing, Networking has also been very busy. Not only have they enhanced the wireless capabilities and bandwidth in critical areas around campus to handle the expected increase in load, but they have also accomplished this on top of other COVID-19 related work, replacing a huge number of edge switches and increasing the backbone speed for the whole campus. Their deadline is the end of December, but their work will make our network more robust for everyone as they move through the various areas of campus.

A lesser-known but critical part of the classroom project has been the setup and automation of lecture capture, using some of the devices other groups have installed and configured. AIS team members, along with some dedicated others including folks from IT Ops and AVSE, have visited each classroom setup multiple times to ensure everything was ready for lecture capture. They were on campus continuing this work on the weekend before the start of school, after the visible part of the classroom project that many of us helped with was deemed complete. It's a relatively small team with a hugely important responsibility to perform. Their work continues even now to ensure audio levels are right and automation properly captures each class.

Many of us have also signed up to support these classrooms all over campus, often just figuratively holding the hands of faculty as they sign in and begin streaming. What a gratifying effort to see all our work benefiting the students and faculty!

I want to briefly share some estimates of what was completed. Keep in mind these are approximations, not hard statistics. For perspective, UVU has about 370 classrooms and labs spanning the breadth of UVU's locations. That's the scale across which all the following was done: 

  • Dozens of different classroom, audio, video, and other configurations exist across those classrooms, with which the new equipment, hardware, and software needed to work.
  • Miles and miles of network, audio, and other cables were installed in these rooms. 
  • Cameras, microphones, computers, adapters, and more cables were also installed. 
  • Custom and third-party software were developed, tested, and deployed on computers and other equipment.
  • Fine-tuning of audio, video, screen, and whiteboard configurations were completed.
  • While all this was being done, a promised API was not delivered from the vendor, making it necessary to change the entire configuration with only three weeks to go, complicating the requirements upon not just our team but also on our faculty.
  • Days before classes were to start, an integration component from the vendor providing it failed, requiring UVU to develop, test, and deploy an entirely new way of generating the thousands of teams needed to support all the class sections.
  • Dozens of untrained volunteers, under the capable guidance and direction of the professionals, helped to make all of this happen.
  • In the end, due to administrative, construction, scheduling, or other issues, the total number of rooms we were expected to complete was 298. And we DID IT!

I want to say thank you to every single person who has helped and will help to get this fall semester off to a great start. We can all remember this year's fall semester start proudly. I am so proud to be a member of our UVU IT family. I hope you feel that way too! Go Wolverines!



We all face conflict in our lives, and the way we handle that conflict determines how successful we can be.

Our normal instinct in the face of conflict is to defend ourselves and prove our point. When we force our opinions and others force theirs, everyone feels unheard and conflict escalates. However, by sincerely listening before we weigh in, we extend respect to the other side which calms heated emotions. To resolve conflict, aim to create an open dialogue where everyone can calmly share how they feel, ask questions of each other, and find a solution. 

How do we create a dialogue when emotions are heated?

  1. Be aware that we have been provoked.
  2. Pause to notice how we feel before lashing out reactively.
  3. Take a few deep breaths, noticing the soothing inhales and exhales.

Taking these steps helps to re-establish a sense of calm and clarity. Now instead of escalating intense emotions, we can think, listen, and navigate the situation with a level head. Our anger will soften, we'll gain clarity, and we'll be able to find solutions.

In the book The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, Stephen Covey presents habit five: "Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood." See the article in this month's newsletter on that topic to further explore the concept described above. 

Remember the words of Nelson Mandela, who said, "Peace is not just the absence of conflict; peace is the creation of an environment where all can flourish."

Brett McKeachnie
Director of Portfolio/ Project Management Office


In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey teaches this principle: "Seek first to understand, then to be understood." Why? 

Most of us can speak, read, and write well. However, those skills alone don't necessarily make us great communicators. Understanding others is a critical part of effective communication that often gets overlooked. Without understanding, communications can break down, resulting in toxic relationships and work cultures. 

Communication is critical to the success of any organization, but especially to UVU IT. How can we communicate more effectively within IT as well as with our customers and stakeholders? What actions can we take to understand each other more deeply? We hope to explore these questions in this article. 

Be aware of the theory of mind.

When we interact with others, we construct a theory of what’s going through their heads. Cognitive scientists call this ability “theory of mind.” The ability to imagine what another person is thinking and feeling is useful but imperfect. It is prone to innate bias, which can lead us to create misunderstandings and breakdowns in communication. Be aware of the theory of mind you construct about others. Leaving behind biases and assumptions will aid you in becoming a better listener. 

Don’t try to solve the problem before you understand the problem.  

Sometimes, instead of seeking to understand someone's problem or perspective, we immediately try to fix their unique issues by applying our experiences or solutions to them. While this is a well-intentioned instinct, remember to have patience. Listen to the problem first, then tailor your approach accordingly. 

Don’t listen with the intent to reply. 

While others are talking, we may be selectively listening. We decide prematurely what the other person means before they finish speaking so that we can formulate a reply based on our assumptions. Instead of listening with the intent to reply, listen with the intent to understand. Wait until they have finished speaking to formulate a reply. 

Have an open mind. 

Sometimes, we falsely believe that others’ minds are less complex than our own. This attitude is the death of productive, effective dialogue. Begin conversations with the assumption that the person you are speaking to has something valuable to share with you. 

Find common ground.

Instead of focusing on your differences, focus on what you have in common. Begin conversations with the intent to find common ground. Be open to hearing alternative points of view.  

Try to see the world from their perspective. 

Because most of our thoughts are about ourselves, we tend to assume that other people perceive and process the world the same way that we do. Instead of assuming that others think as you do, assume that they see the world from a unique perspective. 

Ask the right questions. 

An important part of listening is asking questions to get to a deeper level of understanding. Focus on questions that begin with who, what, when, where, and how. As a general rule, avoid questions that start with “why,” since they can make people feel defensive. 

Ponder and apply.  

Understanding each other takes patience and effort, but doing so makes us stronger and more unified. Let us each choose a few habits that we can individually work on to improve communications across IT.


Here is an update on the status of the POB to Jira Service Desk (JSD) transition project. As a reminder, May’s IT newsletter provided background on this initiative in the article “IT SERVICE MANAGEMENT: A Path Forward.” This project is being undertaken in three phases.

Phase 1: Feasibility 

During this phase, a listening tour was conducted to collect feedback. In particular, three questions regarding feasibility came up repeatedly.

  1. Is JSD functionally and technically capable of meeting our needs?
  2. What are the licensing costs, and can we afford the initial and full implantation of JSD?
  3. Have we allocated the necessary resources to support, maintain, and improve JSD?

The POB to JSD transition team feels that these questions have been successfully answered and have moved forward setting up a JSD instance.

Within the next few weeks, this instance will have a basic configuration designed to handle incident and service requests. By the end of September, the POB to JSD team will schedule show-and-listen meetings (as a follow-up to the listening tour meetings) to demonstrate this JSD instance and allow for testing.

Phase 2: Initial Implementation

Based on the input received in these meetings, we will iterate on the initial implementation while at the same time moving the Service Desk, Desktop Support, and Web Development Services from POB to JSD. The goal is to complete this phase of the project by the end of November. 

Phase 3: Rolling Implementation and Improvement

Once we have successfully migrated the existing POB users into JSD, we will roll JSD out to other departments and continue to iterate and improve it.


True Inclusion  

"At Disney we defined our approach to inclusion with the acronym RAVE: respect, appreciate, and value everyone."
From Creating Magic by Lee Cockerell. 
If we can adopt this practice, word will get out.
Joe Belnap 
Senior Director of Special Projects for IT


An employee desk.

Open Job Positions

The following positions in IT are available. If you know someone who might be an appropriate candidate, be sure to recommend them:

Be sure to watch for more opportunities in IT. 

Is there an opening in your division or department that needs to be filled? Be sure to get it approved according to the Temporary Human Resources Guidelines. Once the position is open, get the word out by submitting it to Caitlin Tobler for next month’s newsletter. 

Chuck Colborne's Retirement

As many of you may know, Chuck Colborne will be retiring this month after 16 years of service to Utah Valley University. His last official day will be 30 September, 2020. He has worked in several capacities and has always put his energy, skills, research, insights, and solid common sense to improving the systems at UVU. He has provided poetic insight and comic relief through his fractured haikus, his dry humor, and his insightful input (which will be genuinely missed). I would like to thank Chuck for all his wise counsel and patience these past few years and wish him the best on his next chapter of adventures in life. May he realize the impact he has had on so many at UVU and the love and admiration we have for him.

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, Chuck won’t be available for face-to-face farewells. Therefore, we have created a farewell channel in OIT-Public Team and invite you all to take a few minutes to post your well-wishes. Maybe Chuck will favor us with a few comments and an occasional fractured haiku before he departs.

Thank you for everything Chuck, and best wishes.

New Employees

No new individuals have been recently hired by OIT, transferred to a new department, or given a promotion at this time.