Sharing the Benefits of Technology

schmitt shoots!!
In a new book, Andrew B. Covell shares what he's learned as director of information technology for the School of Management.

Since 1992, Andrew B. Covell ’81, director of information technology for the School of Management, has explored ways the school could use computers, the Internet, and related technologies to benefit research, academics, administration, and alumni outreach. Now he’s sharing what he’s learned with a larger audience. Covell’s 1999 book, Digital Convergence: How the Merging of Computers, Communications, and Multimedia Is Transforming Our Lives, is a primer for those eager to use such technologies to improve their personal and professional lives. “Historically, a lot of technology has been unavailable to individuals,” he says. “Look at television—you can’t participate. But you can get on the web and conduct business through an auction site or by creating your own web presence. There are various ways you can leverage this technology to achieve personal or career goals. To do that effectively and be at the forefront, you need a framework to understand how the technology is evolving.”
      After earning a bachelor of science degree from the School of Information Studies, Covell worked for the University’s Computing and Media Services department as a mainframe computer programmer for SU’s library system. He held a variety of research computing positions over the next 10 years, before leaving to work as manager of research and development at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Central New York. Nine months later he was back at SU as manager of faculty computing services for the School of Management. He became director of information technology in 1996. “This position has grown quite a bit,” he says. “Technology has changed, as has what it means to the University and our lives. The use of computers, the Internet, and related technologies in the School of Management is incredible—it cuts across all our activities.”
      Covell and his staff of five identify strategic technology initiatives that can help the school achieve its goals. The school’s web-based alumni directory offers graduates a place to share personal information and network professionally. Management students working on collaborative projects need e-mail and web services that go beyond the University’s standard offerings, Covell says, “so we offer our students some special services.” Covell’s staff helps professors set up and maintain computers, put course materials on the web, and bring outside experts and professionals into the classroom via videoconferencing.
      Covell shared his experiences in articles for Network Computing and other publications. “After a while I decided I wanted to write more than just what the magazines wanted,” he says. He wrote four chapters of what would become Digital Convergence and tried to sell it, but could not find an interested publisher. “Finally I decided I’d just finish it off and put it up on the web,” he says. “If somebody bought it along the way, that would be fine. If not, I would still be sharing these ideas.” Luckily for him, Aegis Publishing Group Ltd. of Newport, Rhode Island, eventually bought the book.
      “The book is not for the person with a passive, wait-and-see type of attitude,” he says. “It’s not for the typical consumer, and it’s not a corporate perspective either. I believe there’s a new class of consumer who can be empowered with this technology to create new resources and services and benefit directly. These are people who are taking a more aggressive posture about how they want to benefit from the technology, personally and professionally.” One example cited in the book is William LaRue G’81, television critic for The Syracuse Newspapers, who maintains a web site, Collecting Simpsons, that focuses on memorabilia from the popular animated television program.
      Aside from the income it provides, the book has created opportunities for Covell to expand his own horizons. He’s exploring offers to become an online columnist, and is now teaching a technology course at the School of Management. While he enjoys his job, he’s also excited about the opportunity to explore new areas. “In this era, knowledge is power,” he says. “The kind of stuff I know about, people want to know about. I can help people understand technology and make it somewhat manageable.”
                                                                                                                                                          —GARY PALLASSINO

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