Editor’s note: Duck of the Week is a section in Around the O Workplace that highlights UO employees and their work. Each story features an interview with one employee, in his or her own words, with light editing for clarity and length only.
How long have you worked at the UO?
I have been here for about six and a half years.
Tell us about your work:
As associate director of application services, I lead projects responsible for implementing and maintaining systems that impact students, faculty and staff. I supervise teams of software developers and designers, and currently lead the team that operates our learning management systems. That includes Canvas now since it transitioned from being managed by UO Libraries to Information Services.
We also build software systems for teaching and research faculty. Our approach is very user-centered because we want to make sure that user experiences guide our technology choices and not the other way around. Over the past few years, we’ve transformed our work around that aim by adding user experience (UX) designers to our team and refining our user engagement techniques to make sure that what we do is guided by how our systems are being used.
What does your typical day look like?
I don’t have a typical day, and there isn’t a dull moment. The scope of application services ranges from medium-sized software development projects to enterprise-scale applications like Canvas and Slate. Our applications form an “information ecosystem” that often shares data and processes across systems. It’s complex, and as associate director, I am involved in most aspects of the ecosystem.
COVID-19 has contributed to a dramatic rise in demand for e-learning services. Our three and a half positions on the Canvas support team went from methodically improving a transitioning service to managing the core system of our instructional continuity. The pandemic accelerated initiatives already in the works, such as adopting Zoom for remote instruction in Canvas courses and expanding access to Canvas data for analytics. The sudden need to deploy Canvas for critical events like IntroDUCKtion and school-specific new student orientations prompted our team to create community.uoregon.edu in record time.
All of this leads to relatively interesting days. I am proud of my team for the relatively consistent operations since the beginning of the pandemic, and look forward to the slight change of pace in the near future!
What do you like about working at the UO?
I like working in a dynamic and continually improving organization. The ideas and requests we receive reflect the broad creativity and innovation of the university community, and I enjoy working with diverse groups and individuals from all over campus. We see the result of our services reflected in the use of technology to enhance instruction, research, and campus services. Being able to make a broad positive impact is immensely satisfying. I also like and miss the energy of campus. I can’t wait to return!
What keeps you motivated?
I’m motivated by the deep sense of purpose I experience in every corner of the university, and by witnessing the effect that our work has on students, faculty and staff. We have the privilege of building websites and tools for faculty across the university, which often means getting to learn about fascinating areas of research or innovative modes of instruction.
One project I found especially motivating was an endeavor with the Cinema Studies department on a grant-funded project to build an interactive visual timeline of Oregon’s movie theaters, many of which are no longer standing. Students contribute content to the Oregon Theater Project as coursework. The project was a technical challenge for our group and being able contribute to such an innovative instructional tool was very rewarding.
What is something people may not know about you?
A couple years ago, I discovered trail running and it kind of became an obsession. I competed in a few races and found a new connection with Oregon nature, that I never had even growing up here. I put it on hold during the pandemic and am looking forward to getting back out there this season.
Loring Hummel is a part of Information Services.
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