Lee Hyde is the Program Director of ResNET, which is a unit within ITS Customer Experience & Engagement. At ResNET, he’s one of four full-time staff members, 46 student Residential Computing Consultants (RCCs) and 14 student Gaming Assistants. Hyde, who holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from North Carolina State University, has worked for UNC-Chapel Hill for 13 years, including eight with ResNET and five with Carolina Housing.
In this Q&A, Hyde talks about his job, working with student staff, and supporting the students who live in Carolina’s residence halls.What and who does ResNET support? ResNET provides onsite IT support, education and the technology infrastructure for the UNC-Chapel Hill residential communities. That includes support for 8,400 – 9,000 students living in University residence halls, more than 150 residence hall lounges, the Carmichael Hall Makerspace, and the Carolina Gaming Arena. Although they’re not our residents, in some ways we also support the 1,200 students who live in privately owned Granville Towers with our support of Housing staff members there. How do you keep track of all the students who work for you? We have a staff portal. It is a very large, web-based custom application. We’re able to assign them different types of work. We can see when they acknowledge their work, when they’re actively involved in the work, such as when they’re proactively checking technology in our lounges or knocking on every single residence hall door on campus during move-in each semester — that’s 4,000 knocks. We collect feedback from them on every piece of work that we have them do. Then all of that comes back up within the application to show and review with our students. It helps build a catalog for them to see what they did and to translate that into a resume-style description of their work. How do you recruit students? Christina Riegel, our Assistant Director for Student Services, is the expert and completely deserves credit for that. We do a lot of social media outreach and coordinate with Carolina Housing to be a part of their social media and newsletter to market directly to students who live here in the residence halls. Christina also reaches out to a lot of special student groups on campus. We do some diversity recruitment as well. We want a staff base that looks very much like the residents who live here on campus and sometimes that takes a little bit of targeted work.
Christina also goes over to the School of Science and Math every year to recruit. They have some residential experience living on a campus already. We hire five to seven School of Science and Math students each year.What type of person or qualifications do you look for when hiring for permanent or student positions? For the professional staff and the student staff, there are many similarities for what I consider most important. Strangely enough, I don’t believe that technology experience is the No. 1 qualification for our student staff. I believe anyone can learn technology. For students, we primarily look for the ability to communicate, troubleshoot and think critically. Your ability to work under pressure, to be creative, to help manage projects, products and people — all those things are incredibly important. We interview every single student who applies for us. We identify their strengths and weaknesses, and we give them a project to complete during their interview. What projects do you ask student applicants to complete? We’ve asked them to create videos introducing themselves on YouTube. We’ve asked them to tell us how they would solve a particular issue. That gets them to show us they can figure out a piece of technology for their presentation, whether PowerPoint or YouTube. It shows us how they communicate. How are the students you serve different from five years ago? Students have figured out how to troubleshoot technology a lot more on their own. Everyone has a $1,000 phone in their pocket now or, I should say, a $1,000 computer in their pocket. Students enter our space already feeling comfortable to do basic stuff on their own. That used to be our bread and butter. ResNET used to create educational videos because students needed help from the ground up — like how to use Word to write papers. That’s not something we need to do anymore.
Yes, about 20% of our students are underprivileged when they enter UNC, but for the most part we serve a very privileged group of students. They’ve already had access to a lot of things. We are filling the gaps for those who don’t — things like the Gaming Arena. Providing the best access to the best computer as possible is about filling in the gaps for people who haven’t had that experience. But for a lot of students, it’s become more difficult to find where their technology gaps are and to be able to keep up with that in a way that is affordable and doesn’t exhaust us.With students having a mix of in-person and online classes, how has that changed what they need from ResNET? Our work has doubled in the past 20 months and that workload will continue for the foreseeable future. Previously, the students we support used ResNET residential spaces at night for social reasons. During the day, we fixed things and worked on projects.
Now, our students on average have at least one class from their residence hall room. We’re supporting students who are actively engaged in classes from their residence halls during the day. We’re seeing more and more requests for network capacity for stable connections on Zoom classes. There’s a lot more support that we’re having to do during the day that we originally offloaded to our student staff at night.What sets Carolina’s ResNET apart from those at other universities? UNC ResNET is incredibly unique. Most ResNET groups focus on network support, which was our model when we were founded in the ‘90s. What really sets us apart is we try to do all the other things too. We support staff and the technology needs they use for residents, like for movie nights, things like that. We try to figure out the next best thing that we want to expose our students to, what technology we can acquire to showcase at pop-up events around campus. It comes down to being hyper aware of our clients and our customers and staying in front of what’s the next thing as opposed to being reactive. ResNET also has a distinctive relational model in that it is a division within ITS, but it reports to both ITS and Carolina Housing, which is part of Student Affairs. What’s it like working within such a model? There’s opportunity for challenges, but we’re very lucky. We work very well together and have great relationships and trust. We do have to coordinate a lot. Carolina Housing trusts us as a group to do what we feel is going to benefit residents. It’s why we were allowed to develop the Gaming Arena in collaboration with other partners. Carolina Housing knows we’re going to produce a great product and we’re going to be careful with the resources we have. How does ResNET’s close relationship with residents benefit all of ITS? We have an inward view of what’s happening. We’re well aware of what’s going to affect our residents. We’re also bringing that information back to ITS and giving a very close view of what the resident perspective is on services. I think we benefit both organizations. We’ve always been excited about having that direct connection and involvement. What do you like about your work? Nothing’s ever stale or old. You get to do something different all the time. We do not have the same job year to year. We get to be creative and are given the freedom to go and figure out how to make things happen.