Whether it’s reading a syllabus on Canvas, going to office hours on Zoom or writing an essay on Microsoft Word, UNC-Chapel Hill students use technology every day. They have many questions and need troubleshooting help for all that technology. Providing that crucial technical support — to students and the rest of the campus community — is what the ITS Service Desk is all about. And to keep the Walk-in operation running smoothly, the Service Desk relies heavily on student workers to provide that support.
How students help
Service Desk student workers often assist with handling issues like Wi-Fi connection, software installation and printing. During Fall Rush, when students are first on campus, those student workers help students set up their CCI laptops and connect to eduroam.
“Having the student workers allows us to stay in touch with our primary customer base — students,” said Patrick Kiernan, the Service Desk’s Team Lead for Walk-in Services. “They know what’s going on in all their departments and clubs and what students want or don’t like about campus IT. I am constantly looking to them for feedback on ITS projects, and we utilize them for user testing on everything, like ConnectCarolina revamps or testing updates for TIM.”
When the pandemic hit in 2020, the Service Desk lost all student workers. Returning to campus meant that the Service Desk had to completely rebuild and reimagine its student team.
“It’s still an ongoing process to build our student team back up to what it was pre-pandemic,” Kiernan said. “We tried to ease back in by hiring a small group of students to work with us before we re-opened fully. These students were our leads and we utilized them to help clean and re-organize the Walk-in, as well as train the next batch of student hires.”
Now, the Service Desk boasts a team of roughly 30 student workers and four to five full-time employees.
Leading the team
Phil Vo, student lead at the Service Desk, started as a student worker in August 2021, when UNC-Chapel Hill was resuming in-person classes. He was looking for technology service experience and a way to meet people and make connections.
“I’ve gained more insight on technology,” Vo said. “But that wasn’t my true intent. It was more to engage with the community and help the University.”
As a student lead, Vo has more responsibilities at the Service Desk. The Service Desk provides student leads with more training on policies and troubleshooting so that they can serve as resources to the other student workers. They’re usually students who have worked with the Service Desk for at least a year and have excelled in their role.
Adam Doyle became a student lead in summer 2021. He was drawn to the job because it doesn’t require a commute and it has a flexible schedule.
“I’ve had the opportunity to meet a ton of new employees,” Doyle said. “Not only helping train them but getting to know them.”
Open to all
When clients come to the Service Desk, they often assume that the student team members are exclusively computer science majors. While Doyle is a computer science major, Vo studies health policy and management.
Kiernan recognizes the importance of hiring students with different educational pursuits.
“Being the person who hires all the students for the Walk-in, I think it is important that the Service Desk reflects the Carolina student body,” he said. “I’ve always said you can teach most of the technical stuff to them, but the soft skills are harder to impart. Having students from all departments provides perspective to the ins and outs of the University.”
Opportunities past and present
Kiernan started at the Service Desk as a student in 2007, while he was studying exercise and sport science at UNC-Chapel Hill. He understands the opportunities that the Service Desk offers to students because of what it has offered to him.
“I feel the Service Desk provides real work experience in an easy-to-access location, with the chance to have an impact on the people they interact with every day,” he said. “For some, this might be their first job after high school, so getting experience while getting an education sets them off into the world prepared.”
“I think the students we have are one of the best parts of the Service Desk,” Kiernan said. “They are a constant reminder of how special Carolina is and why I never left.”