Making computer labs accessible for remote, online operations

Peter Verrey is the Enterprise Device Management Lab Manager

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.

Peter Verrey
Enterprise Device Management Lab Manager

How long have you worked at the UO?

I’ve been working at the UO for over 15 years now. I went to school here and graduated in 1999 as a computer programmer. After coming back for a second degree sometime after 2000, I started working as a lab student at the library and eventually got a permanent position there working in IT. I started working in my current position as a computer lab manager last year.

Tell us about your work:

My position is part of User Support Services, the new department in Information Services. Our department goal is to provide a responsive level of service to all faculty, staff and students who need IT assistance with their computers or software. In my case, I help maintain the computer labs that students use to do their classwork.

My work consists of keeping the computer labs running along with my three-person team. We also monitor open computer labs in the libraries where students can use Microsoft Office, conduct research, print out documents and get work done. Our goal is to keep all those services running nice and smoothly for students.

Our job descriptions have changed a little bit in the COVID-19 environment, of course. Most of the computer labs on campus have been closed since I started this position. Right now, we run a virtual computer lab that all the students can access. Students can log into a web browser and get a Windows desktop with all the software that you would see in a traditional computer lab. As long as they have a stable internet connection, the software streams almost like a TV channel. Students can control it with their mouse and keyboard to complete all the classwork they wouldn’t be able to access otherwise.

What does your typical day look like?

Since my job started in the middle of the pandemic, I’m still learning what a typical day is. I usually start my mornings with a department meeting where we talk about what we did the previous day and what we plan to do today. I typically end up in meetings with various groups throughout the day. For instance, sometimes faculty or professors want to discuss a software that they would like to run in our labs. I’ll then spend some time trying to fix a number of technical problems with one or more of our labs.

This year has been a year of migration in terms of this new department, virtual labs and to a new set of management tools that we’re learning how to use so we can be even more responsive. Before my department was created, the computer labs were run by individual units. This was confusing for people who wanted to use the labs because the software would work differently from one lab to another. I have taken a lot of extra time to get things running on the IT end because we needed to reinvent the wheel for each of these labs. Consolidation of these tools allows us to offer even more services for the labs than before.

What do you like about working at the UO?

I love working on campus and miss it tremendously. It’s such a gorgeous place to work. There’s always something new and exciting happening on campus that you can just be a part of, and I can’t wait to get back. I enjoy working in Eugene as well, and like all the people that I work with. A lot of people on campus have been working here a long time, and in many ways it’s like a second family.

What keeps you motivated?

I am definitely inspired by my teammates. I love my current team, and they make me want to show up to work every day so I can hang out and solve problems with them.

I also like being with my family at home. I have a family of five, so it’s nice to be able to check in with them several times a day and just say hi. I've been able to build stronger relationships with them, and I appreciate how much closer we’ve become during these challenging times.

What is something people may not know about you?

I created a popular convention a number of years ago called Kumoricon. Not many people know that it’s based in Portland but came out of the University of Oregon back in 2003. It’s still going strong today, and there’s probably about 9,000 or 10,000 people that go to the convention every year. I’m not involved in it currently, but I’m still proud of it.

Peter Verrey is part of the Information Services.

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