Tell us about yourself.
I was raised in southern Alberta, just south of Lethbridge in a little place called Stirling. I started my post-secondary journey at the University of Lethbridge after high school. I initially thought I had a future in physics, but found out pretty quickly that wasn’t the right fit. I shifted toward pursuing a history degree before finally changing course and deciding to pursue web design. I used lots of GLERs. In the end, I decided to go the college route and completed a diploma in Multimedia Production from Lethbridge College in 2003.
My entire web design and development career has been in higher ed. Over the years I have work for various schools including Athabasca University and MacEwan University. I also ran a university and college web design community called eduStyle for several years, which gave me the opportunity to present at conferences, run an annual awards program for the best websites in higher ed, self-publish a few books and reports and get to know folks across the industry. This led to me running my own web design and consulting business for several years before I started working at the University of Lethbridge.
How long have you been at the U of L and what do you do here?
A little over five years ago, I started working at the University of Lethbridge as part of the Digital Services team in Information Technology Services. My background in higher ed web design had been almost exclusively working on public websites, but when the opportunity for a job at the U of L came up that was focused on building out an internet, the new challenge interested me. I had tinkered in intranets in my time at Athabasca and MacEwan, but here it is the primary focus of my job. Many people on campus know me as the 'SharePoint guy' and that is fair, my title is SharePoint Coordinator and SharePoint is the tool I most often use in my day-to-day work. That said, my skill set and experience are broad enough that I also get to be involved various projects around improving the user experience on our various websites on campus, regardless of the platform they are on.
What is the best part of your job?
I love working in an academic setting. I’m a lifelong learner and I love to take in the various presentations and performances on campus. Soon after I started working for uLethbridge I restarted that history degree from 20 years ago. I took a little time off over the last two years, but I am again doing about one course per semester. I’m now a third-year history student on track to graduate … sometime in the early 2030s. That isn’t really part of my job, but is a wonderful perk of working here.
In my day-to-day work, problem solving is actually a big part of my job. Sometimes it is tempting to skip right to trying to fix a problem, but I take great joy in working at really identifying and understanding the problems in front of me before moving to solutions. As many folks on campus might know from experience, there is a never-ending supply of problems to solve, especially working in information technology. My favourite projects involve working on websites or systems where the issues aren’t obvious but through observation, research and testing we are able to make the sites work better for users and improve the efficiency of them. There are lots of opportunities for that here and I really enjoy it.
Recently we have been promoting the HUB on UWeekly. Can you tell us about this process?
We’re making great progress on moving employee-facing content onto the Hub, our faculty and staff intranet. Information Technology Services, Research Services and Financial Services are all there. Portions of Campus Safety have also made it in. We’re working on the Human Resources sections of the site right now. There is a lot of activity and progress being made there. Microsoft has rolled out some tools that will make integrating our Hub into things like Teams possible, which is really cool. We did quite a lot of work before launching the Hub homepage to ensure it actually made it easier for faculty and staff to get to content for them on the website. I’m excited to continue to refine and improve that experience and help more faculty and staff integrate the Hub into the workday.
What’s one thing most people don’t know about you? Or, alternatively, what do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I live out in Raymond and I don’t think a lot of people on campus knew that I was an elected town councillor for the last three years until my term ended in October. I have always loved volunteering, but serving as an elected official gave me a great opportunity to learn more about governance and working with various levels of government and community groups to try to solve problems in my community. This experience led to my favourite volunteer project. Raymond doesn’t have a food bank, so last year I worked with several people who were also concerned about food security in my community to establish some free pantries. We took inspiration from the free pantries on the U of L campus; they were a great model to emulate in our small town. We have built out a network of partners and donors that are helping tackle hunger in my town. I have had the privilege of serving as the first president of this new society and I get to serve on that board with my wife, Clarissa Foss. We have four kids, so that also keeps us busy outside of work. She is a social worker. We love to camp as a family and try to get out a few times each a year. If you’ve ever been on a Teams call with me, you’ll have seen my electric guitar in the background of my home office and know that I love music and playing the guitar too, even if it is mostly just three chord punk. I got carried away, you only asked for one thing.