From fixing paper jams to beating back virus outbreaks across campus, a group of UNC Pembroke student workers serve as a helping hand for 1,400 computer users on campus.
The three-year-old BraveTech program employs 12 part-time students to do installations and house calls on ailing computers across campus.
“The bottom line for the BraveTech program is we couldn’t operate without them,” said Dr. Maurice Mitchell Jr., associate vice chancellor for information resources and chief information officer for the Office of University Computer and Information Services (UCIS).
Two BraveTechs have been in the program since its first day. Both worked with computers since they were old enough to reach a keyboard, and both have information technology in their future.
“My father works for IBM,” said Alexander Asare, who is from New Jersey. “When I graduate, I want to work in the IT (information technology) department of a hospital.”
“I want to be a network administrator in my own business,” said Aviston Harris of Mooresville, N.C.
A sample of BraveTechs reveals an interesting cross section of the UNCP student population.
“Some of our BraveTechs are computer science majors, but, for others, it’s a hobby,” said Joey Locklear, who supervises the program.
Of the original BraveTechs, Harris is a computer science major, and Asare is a biology major with a minor in computer science.
BraveTech Letisha Hardin is from Pembroke and a political science major. She plans to go to law school, and the part-time job helps pay college expenses.
“It’s good pay, good hours and Joey is a great boss,” Hardin said. “I just played computer games before this, but I’ve learned so much.”
A computer science major from Raeford, N.C., Ernest Pruitt is 34, and also worked the past three years as a live-in house parent at the Baptist Student Union.
“I’m from a truck-driving family, and I drove a truck before going back to school,” Pruitt said. “I’ve always built, repaired and done troubleshooting of computers.”
One thing they all agree on is that being a BraveTech is challenging and rewarding.
“It’s a fun job. The hard part is when you think you know what you are doing, but it doesn’t work,” said Asare in an interview as he eliminated a virus from a computer at University Village Apartments. “This is called a Trojan virus that replicates itself onto all the files of the infected computer.”
During the 2004-05 academic year, BraveTechs played a major role in fighting several major outbreaks of viruses across campus.
“These viruses are not fun,” Harris said. “We had to fix every computer on campus last year. I like it more when something new comes up.”
BraveTechs are well trained and proficient in PC hardware and software, but the human element is sometimes the most challenging aspect of the job.
“The hardest part is probably working with people,” Hardin said. “Some people are a little skeptical because we are students, but we try to reassure them.”
Harris agreed, saying people are a major challenge and the most satisfying part of the job.
“We have to work hard to gain some people’s trust,” Harris said. “When you fix it, they are amazed. Later, when I see them on campus, they are real friendly.”
One key reason BraveTechs have gained acceptance on campus is the training and experience, Dr. Mitchell said.
“We put them all through a two-week boot camp before they start the job,” he said. “I want the best people, and I want this to be the most desirable job for students on campus.”
Besides the financial rewards, the job has other rewards for the BraveTechs, Dr. Mitchell said.
“It’s a chance for students to learn job skills and make themselves more marketable by learning technical and customer service skills,” he said. “Ideally, we would like to hire freshmen and keep them all four years.”
The program frees UCIS specialized staff to concentrate on other issues. It has grown and matured in three years, but Dr. Mitchell said there is more to do.
“It’s a work in progress. Every year, we step back and see what we can do to improve the program and improve our service to the University,” he said. “We have two students in software applications now, and we would like to move more students into more advanced areas.”