This column is devoted to highlighting staff members that play a huge role in the everyday experiences of the Lawrence community. The goal is to focus on the “Hidden Figures” of Lawrence University and their interests both within, and outside of Lawrence.
Remember the chain email incident that happened a couple weeks ago? I decided to interview the man that was responsible for ending the chain and clearing up students’ inboxes: Steven Armstrong. He has been the Director of Technology Services at Lawrence for twenty years, and received a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration at St. Norbert College.
“My degree served me well in my role now,” Armstrong said. “There is business in management, budgeting, purchasing and staff.”
Armstrong has always had an interest in technology services. Computers and technology were new when he was in school. Prior to Lawrence, he worked at a software company in Madison, Wis. and Green Bay, Wis. He started working at the Seeley G. Mudd Library in a lower position and worked his way up to where he is now.
Armstrong enjoys his job because of the variety of tasks he would not otherwise have in a traditional information technology (IT) office setting. His responsibilities can range from troubleshooting an email or fixing some equipment in a classroom to working with a faculty member on some scientific instrument. Sometimes he will help students with research questions.
When asked about the email chain, Armstrong responded, “Many of [the] students’ emails were funny, I have to admit. Yet I had to stop it because it was getting annoying.”
It took Armstrong and a team of IT professionals about one and a half hours to clean up the emails. “In my twenty years, this has never happened and I hope it doesn’t again. Sometimes unexpected things in IT happen, but the nice part was no one said anything bad. It was a good laugh and an easy fix,” added Armstrong.
In his spare time, Armstrong enjoys reading a good book and going camping, but he has four children to keep him busy. He has three children in elementary school and one son who is currently taking a break from college. In between baseball season, boy scouts and dance recitals, he tries to take weekend trips with his family. “Other than that, I do not get out much,” laughed Armstrong.
“The Lawrence Difference” according to Armstrong, is when students, faculty and staff look out for one another.
“There are excellent student workers, and some of them still keep in touch after they graduate. It is interesting to see what they are up to five years later. At other schools, students are just a number, but here we really interact with students,” Armstrong stated.
Armstrong believes that since most students live on campus, Lawrence is like a second home to them. “They need to be able to use the computer for relaxation, whether it be Netflix or online gaming.”
It is easy to get caught up in the job, but it is important to make things work for faculty, staff and students. Armstrong has to protect the entire student body if someone breaks the rules. Armstrong is dedicated to making the lives of students better, and making sure they have internet access. He wants to make sure Technology Services is user-friendly, transparent and focuses on security. He believes it is a high priority to make things work and work well.
“When things are not working well, that’s when I hear from students,” he joked.
His greatest inspiration is family, but more specifically, his mother. Armstrong is one of seven children, and his mother made sure they spent time together and received a good education.
“Most of us graduated in a four-year college and if they didn’t, are in a good place in life. Most of us have leadership roles in our perspective jobs. [My mom] must have done something right,” said Armstrong.
When asked where he sees himself five years from now, Armstrong responded, “In five years I honestly still see myself in this job. I do not see myself moving into a higher up position or in a larger school. It is because Lawrence has such a tight community that I have never seen in other schools, and I am pretty lucky to be working here.”
Armstrong is a Hidden Figure because he genuinely supports the wellbeing of students. His contributions in Technology Services is something that should not be taken for granted.