On December 23 of this academic year, Travis Mathna, Audio-Visual Systems Integration & Support for Instructional Technology, and his wife, Peggy officially became parents of a beautiful 14 year old daughter. Their adopted daughter, April, moved into her new home near Gardners Station. This culminated a long process for Travis and Peggy. They began their efforts to adopt a child three years ago with an adoption agency in Chambersburg, but after two years of no results they had about given up their hopes for adoption. Then a stroke of luck happened. A woman who was an adoption counselor for Common Sense Adoption in Camp Hill met Travis and Peggy in their capacity as contacts for the Greyhound Rescue Program. During the greyhound adoption process, Travis and Peggy told the woman about their frustration with trying to adopt a child. The woman arranged a meeting with the couple and began work on their case. Originally, Travis and Peggy were planning to adopt a younger child. Their counselor told them about April who was living in a foster home with some good foster parents. Because of the nature of foster parenting, April was close to being assigned to an alternative group home with other former foster children. This option would not be a nurturing growth environment for a teenage child. She urged Travis and Peggy to at least meet with the foster family and meet April. Not wanting to put pressure on April or themselves, Travis and Peggy worked out an arrangement with April’s foster parents to meet in their home in Columbia for Friday night pizza under the guise of being “old friends”. April was relaxed, talkative, and very pleasant. That meeting and a subsequent meeting at Travis and Peggy’s home where April met one of their nieces and walked the dogs convinced them that April was just right to join their family. April agreed.
Subsequently, April spent one week in early December at the Mathna home on the farm getting to know Travis and Peggy and they also got to know her better. Finally she moved into her new parents home two days before Christmas. And what a Christmas it was! The only gift that April asked for was a doll baby, something she had never had in her life. As Travis points out, the emphasis of her life growing up in foster homes was on self-sufficiency, not being a child and enjoying being young and developing, as is the case with most children. Another gift that April received from her new parents was a Wii to help her with exercises for her scoliosis. She had been using a Wii for this purpose prior to her adoption. She could not believe that she had one that belonged to her alone. She enjoyed the rest of the Mathna family Christmas traditions, such as their progressive dinner that visited all of the local relatives’ homes. However, April told Travis and Peggy that her best Christmas present was having a family of her own.
Travis says that April is becoming a real “daddy’s girl”. Travis thinks that this is due to the fact that she never had a strong father figure in her life. He says that he, Peggy, and April share hugs every morning. He knows that he and Peggy have much to learn about being parents and, as in every family, there will be bumps on the road ahead. He is confident that the good and great times will dominate the future.
Travis and Peggy’s desire to adopt came not as a result of any biological problem, but arose from their work with the Greyhound Rescue Project. They are still very committed to that project, but they came to a realization that just as there is a need for good homes for the greyhounds, there are far too many children that are also in need of good, loving homes. This feeling became stronger and moved them to action. He and Peggy feel that they have been blessed. Travis advice to others seeking to adopt is that they not be reluctant to consider an older child. These children need a time when they can be relaxed and experience parental love and guidance. He says that older children have a lot of love to give and share.
April’s adoption will be finalized in the courts in late May or early June, five months after moving into her new home. In the meantime she is an 8-th grade student in the New Oxford School System and enjoying life at “Dad’s House,” and, of course, sharing “hugs every morning.”
Providing a safe and secure environment for students, faculty, staff, and administrators is a primary concern for everyone on campus. One tool that can aid in alleviating this concern is the development of a keying system that is tied to the college ID card issued to all members of the campus community. The use of this system can grant access on an individual basis to particular buildings or areas within buildings that are appropriate for that individual’s use. The Key Card Access System went live with its first phase, access to the Fitness Center turnstyles and the second phase, access to academic buildings and Musselman Library, in September. The third phase, access to First Year Residence Halls, is planned for this coming summer. These and other policy decisions are set by the Card Access Committee, consisting of members from across the functional areas and divisions of the college, and chaired by Bill Lafferty, Director of Public Safety. The heart of the system is the black strip on the back of everyone’s ID card. It was originally used for meal and vending machine purposes. The management software is Microsoft’s IAS (Internet Authentication System), set up in the Dining Offices System and managed by Matt Miller. The access software and security was produced by Sielox Software and managed by a third party vendor, Security International. The on-campus recordkeeping involves creating categories for certain levels of access, granting the level of access at the time a person joins the campus community, denying access at the time they leave the community, keeping records of all access data, and tying the dining and access systems together. Managing this software falls on the shoulders of Anthony Gianato, Data Systems Program/Analyst, and Sue Plank, Assistant Director of College Life Technology. Starting from a blank page, Sue and Tony designed and implemented the system within one year. They continue to be responsible for the database account maintenance as the system administrators.
When a new student is registered or a new employee is hired they are entered into the IAS system. The students’ data is listed in the Registrar’s data table in PeopleSoft. After employees are hired and have completed their paper work at the HR Office, their data is entered into the employee database in PeopleSoft. Each night this data is compared to the information in IAS, new accounts are added to the database and ID cards issued. The students’ cards are included in their registration packets and the new employees must pick up their cards at the ID Office. All students and employees are given access to the Fitness Center. Students, of course, have access to their residence hall. Employees, staff, and administrators have access to the buildings where they work. When a student leaves the college or an employee is terminated or leaves, IAS is notified within the hour and they no longer have access to their building or the Fitness Center.
There are also other cases individuals are issued ID cards for limited time spans or by virtue of their status. Employees’ family members may get ID’s granting access to the Fitness Center. Some alumni may also be given access to the Fitness Center. If a member of the college community wishes to take a guest to the Fitness Center, they need to tell the person at the Fitness Center desk who checks the ID and notes that guest came in under that member’s ID number. This information is included in the PeopleSoft database. The training of those working at the Fitness Center desk is the responsibility of Cindy Wright, Director of the Center for Athletics, Recreation & Fitness & Campus Recreation. A transaction log is kept that includes the use of the card and the number of guests who have been admitted under a particular ID number.
As card access expands across campus and more experience is gained, policy and usage issues will evolve. This means that maintenance of the system is a campus wide responsibility. Suggested changes need to be acted upon by the campus Card Access Committee. As a result, the PeopleSoft system will expand and be modified to accommodate the necessary changes.
Email is generally the first application that a person installs on a new computer or communications device. It has transformed personal communications. However, with this blessing come some curses in the form of unwanted communications such as advertisements, solicitations, scams, and other undesirable messages. The sheer volume of email that the average person receives each day can quickly jam an inbox and lead to missed messages, or overlooked messages that were intended to be answered later, but missed amid the flood of messages. Recently In Touch With IT sat down with Vice President for IT, Rodney Tosten, to discuss the problem of crowded, messy mailboxes and how to keep SPAM under control, how to organize one’s mailboxes into folders to keep desired messages grouped, creating rules to block undesirable messages and sort others.
The first suggestion from Rod was that if you are receiving emails from companies advertising specials that you are not interested in seeing, most of these email messages have an “unsubscribe” link at the bottom. Clicking that link usually, although not always, brings up a confirmation page where you confirm that you intentionally clicked the link. In either case, you are removed from that company’s or organization’s mailing list. For unwanted email from individuals, there are rules to block emails with certain words in the subject line of the email. You can arrange to have these emails sent to the “deleted” items mailbox or to have them permanently deleted. This latter practice can be dangerous since an email that you may want to see may contain the word or group of words that trigger the deletion. On the other hand, there may be emails that you want to read later when you have more free time or a time dedicated to research activities. These emails should be saved in special folders dedicated for that activity. Mail can be manually moved to these folders or, just as in the case of deleting items, rules can be created to redirect mail from particular senders, or containing particular words in the subject line to be redirected to the appropriate folder. Rod noted that it is unusual that one rule or set of rules will catch all items intended for a folder and some manual sorting may be necessary. However, a good rule will catch a large percentage of the messages. These practices will remove a great deal of clutter in one’s inbox, where daily email traffic is received.
The conversation then expanded to cover the topic of email etiquette or best practices in handling email. The first rule is: whenever possible, answer all important email quickly after reading it. In that way, the email will not get lost among other emails and the answer delayed or not given. If this is not possible, the message should be moved to a folder with a title such as “Important” or “Needs Attention” and time should be reserved each day to look at this file. The previous suggestion does not imply that email should be thoughtlessly answered. It is important for one to remember that once something is sent in an email, it no longer under their control as to who sees it. Emails that were regarded as confidential or personal can suddenly become public knowledge or shared with others for whom the content was not intended. A good rule is to pretend that everyone has access to the emails that are sent. It is not possible to convincingly deny that something sent by email was not as it was originally written. This rule should also extend to email attachments such as photos or documents.
Finally, Rod points out that email should never be used as a substitute for face-to-face conversations. Inflection and tone are an important point of a conversation that can only be inferred by the reader of the email. Something that might be intended as a joke can be totally misinterpreted. Rod says that if an email where someone disagrees with him on a certain subject he never lets it go to a second round of emails. He picks up the phone and talks with the person directly or sets up a meeting. A good source of email rules and how to implement them in Outlook can be found at www.microsoft.com/atwork/productivity/email.aspx.