Enable continuity and innovation with software applications

Editor’s note: duck of the week is a section of Around the O Workplace that highlights UO employees and their work. Each story features an interview with an employee, in their own words, with light editing for clarity and length only.

Loring Hummel

Associate Director of Application Services, Information Services

How long have you worked at UO?

I’ve been here for about six and a half years.

Tell us about your work:

As Associate Director of Application Services, I lead projects responsible for implementing and maintaining systems that impact students, faculty, and staff. I oversee teams of software developers and designers and currently lead the team that operates our learning management systems. This now includes Canvas since it moved from managing UO libraries to information services.

We also build software systems for teaching and research professors. Our approach is very user-centric because we want to ensure that the user experience guides our technological choices and not the other way around. Over the past few years, we’ve transformed our work around this goal by adding user experience (UX) designers to our team and refining our user engagement techniques to ensure that what we do is guided by how our systems are used.

What does your typical day look like?

I don’t have a typical day and I’m not bored. The scope of application services ranges from medium-sized software development projects to enterprise-scale applications like Canvas and Slate. Our applications form an “information ecosystem” that often shares data and processes between systems. It’s complex, and as Associate Director I’m involved in most aspects of the ecosystem.

COVID-19 has contributed to a dramatic increase in demand for e-learning services. Our three and a half positions on the Canvas support team have grown from methodically improving a transition service to managing the core system of our educational continuity. The pandemic has accelerated initiatives already underway, such as adopting Zoom for distance learning in Canvas courses and expanding access to Canvas data for analytics. The sudden need to deploy Canvas for critical events like IntroDUCKtion and school-specific new student orientations prompted our team to build community.uoregon.edu in record time.

All of this leads to some relatively interesting days. I am proud of my team for the relatively consistent operations since the start of the pandemic, and look forward to the slight change of pace in the near future!

What do you like about working at UO?

I enjoy working in a dynamic and constantly improving organization. The ideas and requests we receive reflect the great creativity and innovation of the University community, and I enjoy working with diverse groups and individuals from across campus. We see the result of our services reflected in the use of technology to improve teaching, research and campus services. Being able to have a broad positive impact is extremely satisfying. I also love and miss the campus energy. I can not wait to return to !

What motivates you ?

I am motivated by the deep sense of purpose I feel in every corner of the university and witnessing the effect our work has on students, faculty and staff. We have the privilege of creating websites and tools for faculty across the university, which often means learning about fascinating areas of research or innovative ways of teaching.

One project I found particularly motivating was an attempt with the Department of Film Studies on a grant-funded project to create an interactive visual timeline of Oregon movie theaters, many of which no longer stand. Students contribute content to the Oregon Theater Project as a course. The project was a technical challenge for our group and being able to contribute to such an innovative educational tool was very rewarding.

What might people not know about you?

A few years ago, I discovered trail running and it became a kind of obsession. I participated in a few races and found a new connection to the nature of Oregon, which I had never even grown up here. I put it on hold during the pandemic and can’t wait to get back to it this season.

Loring Hummel is part of Information Services.

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