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Reprinted from Fall 2012 InterCom
Story and graphics by Austin Price, a visual communications student

They can't fly, they don't have super strength and they're not quite as fast as a speeding bullet.

But to many of the students and staff at the College of Mass Communications and Information Studies, the IT team are superheroes.

Jill Chappell-Fail, senior information resources consultant at the college, says that there are no typical days at work, and that it's a good thing.

Chappell-Fail is the leader of a fearless team that battles technology woes that threaten to derail the college's operations daily. To fix these problems, the IT specialists do everything from pushing a button to diagnosing complicated issues with the college's servers and networking, depending on the issue.

A large part of each day is spent "putting out fires," as Chappell-Fail says, along with working on maintenance and long-term issues. These "fires" are spontaneous technical problems ranging from software issues to hardware and network issues. If it sounds like this would make for a full schedule, it's because it does.

A look through Chappell-Fail's iPhone calendar shows how busy her days can be. As she lists appointments, software maintenance and other duties, the list gets longer and one begins to wonder when, or if, Chappell-Fail ever has a break. On top of leading the college's IT team, she manages to find time to teach a class. Not every day is full of "fires," however.

"Sometimes it's quiet, sometimes it's putting out whatever fires spring up," Pierre d'Autel, information resources consultant, said.

D'Autel joined the college in 2005 and works primarily with computer hardware and software and network issues. He says though the job can be challenging, it also comes with rewards.

"Helping people is probably the most rewarding part of my job," d'Autel said. When he can, d'Autel tries to teach faculty members about the college's technology so they understand how to fix future problems.

Watching over the technology of the School of Library and Information Science is Jeff Salter. Though his main duty is maintaining the computer systems for the college, Salter's favorite part of his job is working on special projects.

"The most satisfying part are the special projects I get to work on," Salter says. "The web sites and things that fall outside the realm of fixing computers and updating software."

Completing the team is Lewis Zeigler, who protects the desktops of the college. Zeigler also provides technical support for Newsplex and software and broadcast equipment training for participants of Newsplex.

"I like working with the professors," Zeigler said. "Whenever they have a problem, it's nice to be there for them."

For now, the IT team is focused on moving the School of Journalism and Mass Communications into its new home in the coming years.

"A lot of it's challenging because it's brand new," d'Autel said. "A lot of it's really cool because it's starting from the ground up and building it from scratch."

When the school makes the move, d'Autel says the technology will be top-of-the-line. Some of the equipment will transfer to the new building, but most of it will be brand new. This will help prevent many of the "fires" Chappell-Fail and her team spend much of their time dealing with.

Until then, the IT team will continue to keep watch over the college, fending off any threats to the technology.

Chappell-Fail and her team are aware of the murmurs around the college suggesting they have superpowers. And though they appear normal enough in the hallways, she didn't rule the possibility out.

"Sometimes you do kind of have to wonder."

All superheroes have an alternate identity, and while Chappell-Fail and her team are never seen wearing capes or masks, she didn't say whether or not they actually have superpowers.

 
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