Eleven years ago, when Chris Jones applied to Emily Griffith, the College was on Chris’ list of organizations where he was willing to work. “It was a very short list,” he said.
Having spent years in the corporate world working long hours in sales organizations, he booked after his company during a record-breaking profitable year decided not to fund employee 401ks. “My soul was a little bereft,” he said. “I decided if I was going to kill myself, it would be for a good cause instead of making someone rich.”
This wasn’t the first time Emily’s IT Manager had gotten fed up with corporate America. At 28, he quit his job and moved from Denver to Arizona, winding up in Sedona as a mountain bike guide. “I’ve never been one to put money at the top of everything,” he said. “Quality of life is so much more important to me.”
Today, Chris and his small Swiss-Army-knife of an IT team (he is quick to use their names and tout their awesomeness) are responsible for the networking infrastructure of all classrooms, the wireless server infrastructure, all database management, the admissions platform (Salesforce), the student information system (Jenzabar), the learning management system (Moodle), IT purchases, inventory tracking, keeping everything current and secure while also helping people learn to use the tools they need to do their jobs.
“We try to keep it as straightforward and intuitive as possible,” he said. “But there are a lot of complexities on the reporting side. We need to ensure the data is in order so Denise (Bender) can report to the state and the feds. That’s a big load. Every grant and every reporting agency want something different as far as data is concerned.”
Emily Griffith currently has a multitude of grants, which means there are a multitude of reporting standards for each grant plus student federal financial aid to track and account for. It’s not surprising that Chris is a vocal proponent of standardized reporting structures for CTE institutions “to simplify our lives.”
Though data wrangling is an ongoing challenge, the technological side of transitioning the College to online only instruction at the onset of the pandemic was less onerous, because the system was already in place. The biggest pandemic IT faced was getting students the necessary hardware. “We got donations from Microsoft and local foundations,” he said. “Then we created a standard image (install) for all the machines.”
Chris’ nurse practitioner wife Kate—a former Emily Griffith tutor he met during his second interview at the College, “She kinda blew me off”—was working in a COVID step-down unit, which meant he couldn’t be on campus because of virus exposure. So Chris turned his garage into a computer imaging station, and other IT team members handled imaging and the hardware distribution, as well. All in all, Chris estimated, Emily Griffith donated 300 to 500 computers to students as part of Emily’s COVID-19 response.
“If IT is doing its job,” Chris said, “then students won’t know who we are, and instructors won’t need to know who we are besides training,” he said. “Everything should just work. That’s my mission, to enable others to do their jobs as effectively as possible.”But does short-list Emily Griffith work for him? “At the end of the day,” he said, “I believe in the mission. The fact that I can sleep at night and not worry so much that I’m actually doing harm somewhere it’s a privilege to say that.”