Beyond the office: IT Services trade keyboards for community

by Dylan Connors and Elizabeth Parsons, IT Services

In IT Services, we’re about more than just 1s and 0s. We also like to spend time with one another, expanding our minds and engaging with the university community. Throughout the past month, we have had the opportunity to get out from behind the computer screen several times – with food, fun, and friendship being the major drivers and outcomes for these events.


Visiting an Art Education classroom to learn about radical hospitality

The IT Diversity Committee hosts quarterly events geared toward helping folks in IT Services to learn about various mindsets and experiences. This April, IT partnered with Dr. Stephanie Danker and her art education students for a gathering that celebrated the upcoming Electric Root Festival and the intersection of art and diversity.

The event started off with an introduction to the Electric Root Festival itself, with Gwenmarie Ewing telling the IT folks the inception for the festival – during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, when we were all at home with a great and urgent need for community. The (then virtual) Performing Arts Series focused on bringing in Black voices and shining a light on the concept of radical hospitality, and that led to the inaugural festival in 2022.

Reilly Powers, a senior art education major who has given presentations at national conferences about this very subject, gave us an introduction to radical hospitality. In simple terms, it means to treat everyone you interact with as though they are a celebrity – showing them love, kindness, grace, and excitement. The example Reilly used was that we should treat everyone as though they are Meryl Streep! It’s an incredible way to show our fellow humans – people who move through the world in similar and different ways, but who are all human at the root – that we want to be in community with them and appreciate their existence.


Reilly Powers, a femme-presenting person with long blonde hair and a purple shirt, stands at a classroom podium giving a presentation about radical hospitality
IT Services folks participate in art activities while directed by students
A student sits at a table waiting for staff to do their activity

This year’s festival is the third year running, and the lineup of entertainment and artistry is sure to delight all. The festival will include musical acts, dancing, and a community choir that will fill the uptown park, among other activities. Dr. Danker’s students created artistic activities to be enjoyed in a carnival-style lineup during the event, and IT folks got a taste of what was to come with the students last week!

Each table was hosted by one or two students from the class. Part of their big project for the course is to choose a children’s book (all of which are illustrated and written by Black artists) and design an activity around the story. One of the activities involved creating a paper star, one had folks making food-related items out of polymer clay, and a couple of them involved creating scenes out of construction paper.

Dr. Danker was excited to give her students the opportunity to do a “test run” of sorts for their activities.

“Thank you to our IT friends for your interest and for coming over to hang out in ART!” she said after the event.

The Electric Root Festival is May 4, 2024, in Oxford, Ohio. For more information, including about how to volunteer, visit their website!

Unit Presentations: Learning from each other

Over the last few weeks, each team within IT has given a unit presentation, demonstrating what everyone within our department does and what they are working on. Sometimes it can be easy to get lost within our own jobs and these presentations provide the opportunity to see what is going on with everyone else.

"It has been interesting to see faces and hear voices that I normally don't get to interact with," said one of our administrators, Emma Lester.

Additionally, with these presentations we have been able to build a community between the teams in our division. They show how we are working every day to build support, and this relationship building makes us stronger as a whole.

Chief Information Security Officer, John Virden echoed Emma, saying: "Huge credit to Tim Gruenhagen and the IT Managers for devising and putting this program in place. Seems so simple, yet so powerful to have an avenue to meet valued colleagues and share our roles and successes. I have not seen an effort even close to our Unit Presentations in my many years and many institutions. Each has been professionally done, entertaining, and sprinkled with humor and laughter."

Chili capers continued

In case you missed it, IT Services also participated in this year’s Fire & Ice Chili Challenge, a friendly competition between several university departments. This year was the biggest yet for the event, and it gave us the chance to get out of the office and see folks we usually only talk to on Zoom.

For a complete recap of the event, please visit our news article!


And beyond...

These are only a few of the ways we in IT Services have learned from or about each other over the past couple of months. We are happy to focus on our 1s and 0s most of the time, but it's also important to get out from behind the keyboard and into the community. On to the next event!