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Associate director of IT works to improves learning

Alan Flurry

Information Technology operations are an immense endeavor across every sector of society and no less so in higher education. Our students, faculty, and staff rely on an expansive, readily-available infrastructure to support, broaden, and enhance the UGA learning environment and maintain its vibrancy amidst myriad challenges and constraints, not to mention constant technological changes and requirements. That is one reason why it's great to see our associate director of IT Deborah Tonks receive the star treatment in Columns:

With her team, Tonks provides support for eLC for Franklin College, helping faculty and staff members if they have issues with the system. She also uses funding from the student technology fee to update the equipment in about 300 classrooms across campus.

“The most important part of the instructional technology team is keeping the classrooms up and running,” Tonks said. “People have a plan for what they’re going to do and when they go in the classroom, it needs to work.”

While maintaining the systems in place, Tonks also looks for places to improve upon. Before becoming the associate director for Franklin College, Tonks worked as a technology provider for the English department. By the time she’d shifted roles, the department was changed drastically.

“When I first got to the English department there were no projectors, speakers or computers in the classrooms,” she said. “By the time I left, all but two of the classrooms had technology in them.”

Her drive to innovate was crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic. None of the classrooms for Franklin College had cameras or microphones prior to the fall semester of 2020. Within two months, she and her team installed the necessary equipment. Even after the pandemic, professors in Franklin College are now able to virtually bring in guest speakers to enhance their lessons.

“We’ve been doing online learning, but it really helped people understand what could be done,” Tonks said.

For Tonks, the best way to be innovative is by listening.

“Anything innovative that we do is really just from listening to what people need and trying to figure out the best way to get it done,” Tonks said. “There are all these different ideas out there, and some of them we can’t do because we can’t afford it. We listen then go back and figure out what we can do.”

Tonks’ passion for innovation goes hand in hand with her willingness to help others. From helping students to collaborating with co-workers, Tonks enjoys working with people.

Read the whole article. Congratulations to Tonks and our entire IT team. We value your work!

Image: Debbie Tonks, associate director of information technology for the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. (Photo by Dorothy Kozlowski/UGA)

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