Faculty of Science IT team wins Staff Achievement Award for keeping us all connected

May 14, 2021
The IT team in the Faculty of Science take part in a Zoom call in April. The team was awarded an SFU Staff Achievement Team Award for their contributions moving the faculty and other SFU units online during the pandemic.

More than a year into a worldwide pandemic and it’s not hard to imagine how differently the situation would have played out without the work of those in health care, food services, trucking and information technology.

In what might be considered SFU’s version of the 7 p.m. cheer, the IT team in the Faculty of Science has been awarded a Staff Achievement Team Award for their contributions transitioning the faculty, and other SFU units, to a virtual platform for the first time in its 56-year history.

The team is comprised of Dave Carmean, King Chao, Fred Chin, James Lang, Duncan Napier (on leave) and Steve Obadia. Together, they oversee the operational delivery of computing and technical services, the implementation of data security systems and the development of web architecture to support the teaching, research and administrative operations in the Faculty of Science.

Their normal workday is busy enough just supporting the 350 faculty and staff and hundreds of labs and classrooms in SFU’s second largest faculty. Throw in an abrupt move to online learning and teaching and they were suddenly responsible for supporting virtual learning for the faculty’s 4,400 students and facilitating work-from-home solutions for staff and faculty.

Faculty of Science Associate Dean, Academic, David Hik says the team has basically been “on-call” for the past eight months supporting the faculty’s needs.

“Our IT team are truly unsung heroes of the past few months,” Hik says. “It’s no overstatement to say that we would have never accomplished this pandemic transition to almost full functionality (teaching, research, administration) without their support and dedication.”

The team was tasked with sourcing tablets, cameras and headsets for faculty, setting up remote desktop hardware and software, familiarizing instructors with videoconferencing software and ensuring compatibility with Blackboard and Canvas portals, providing support and equipment for videotaping lectures and lab demos and ensuring off-campus connections were accessible, secure and FIPPA (Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act) compliant.

They also carved out time to support other SFU units looking to piggyback on their work.  

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Dean Jane Pulkingham says that she is grateful to the science team for adapting their custom-made solution for in-person access during the campus closure to accommodate her faculty’s needs.

“By generously sharing and adapting their own system for FASS use, we were able to quickly and seamlessly provide faculty, students and staff approval to work in-person, including safe access to campus spaces and resources.”

She says that the team worked long hours but with enthusiasm and good humour and have remained in a supportive role ever since.

Ellen Balka, associate dean, research in the Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology was delighted when the team agreed to share the COVID-19 safety management system they had developed for science.

“Practically speaking, this meant their team had to deal with an additional set of clients, troubleshoot with additional users and respond to new sets of needs.”

She adds, “I cannot think of an occasion when a group of people I had literally never met worked so hard to support the mission of the university, in a way that had such a significant impact on so many people beyond those they were hired to support.”

Director of Facilities and Technical Operations, Ruth Appanah oversees the IT team and is pleased that they not only supported the needs of their own faculty, but generously shared their expertise with other faculties.

“You often discover things about people when you’re in a crisis situation and I’m proud, but not surprised, that this group not only met their challenges, but also improved and supported relationships across SFU with respect, dedication, integrity, empathy, hard work and resilience.”