Friday, August 1, 2014

Melissa Stange: Bb MVP Extreme

There are probably few people at SU that know Melissa Stange the way I do. Why? She's my boss, and I work with her everyday.

If the International Type-A Personality Society had a contest as to who would be their next spokesperson, Melissa would, at least, make it to their semi-final round (only to be beat by a power-attorney, a politician, and maybe a tiger mom or two).

Melissa does not hesitate to take on tasks that she knows are going to be arduous. Major projects need to get done, and that's where she thrives, chugging along between the barrier filled "no-man's" land between the vision of a project and the final product.

Like James Randall, Melissa took the opportunity to send me a document with her answers to my interview questions so that she could continue chipping away at a, seemingly, never ending list of projects. Here's what she had to say:

Q: Would you mind telling me a little about yourself?
A: I grew up in Winchester, and went to both James Wood and Handley (though I graduated from Handley). I got a Bachelor's Of Science from SU with a major in Computer Information Systems in 1994, after receiving an Associates degree from Alabama. At the time, the program was under the school of Arts and Science, but SU no longer has this degree. At my current job with SU, I try to always focus on what is best for the students and the university.  I've been involved with a lot of cool stuff since I started working here, and I care a lot about SU. It's a great place. 

Q: How long have you been working in Technology?

A: Actually, I started out in accounting and found it boring. Then I Switched to technology for three reasons: 

  • Acronyms made dyslexia stick out less 
  • Technology allowed me to graduate quickly
  • I fell in love with taking ideas and making them come to life in a way that helps somebody else's life be that much easier.  
I have been in technology since I graduated with my associates degree in 1989. 

Q: Do you have any cool hobbies?
A: I enjoy extreme sports, or anything that gets the heart racing and pushes my fears. If I had to pick my favorite hobby it would be free-fall skydiving. It's a real rush. Hanging out of the plane looking at the drop zone, picking the right time to walk out on the wing and then letting go and watching the plane get further away. When you do this, one really appreciates what's around you. You can see so much from 12,000ft.  My first jump was through sleet. After that, I decided to be a fair weather jumper. My other love is scuba diving, especially shark diving in the Bahamas. Though, cave diving isn't my thing.

Q: Would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or 1 horse-sized duck? 
A: I would take the 100 duck-sized horses. I like a good challenge. Plus, if you throw them a few sugar cubes, they would probably become your best friend.

Q: Are you an animal lover?
A:  Yes, If I had to choose, I would say that I prefer dogs over cats. Rescue dogs are the best! Though, after putting a few great dogs to sleep, I vowed not to go through the heart break again, but somehow I found myself with an Australian Shepard we rescued from the animal shelter.  I also enjoy horses. I actually won my first show ribbon when I was 8. My son loves pigs, and now we have those as well. I found out after having pings, they're actually amazingly smart animals.

Q: Most memorable experience at SU thus far?
A: Coordinating & Running the 1st Virginia Users Group conference! We held it here at SU, and shared our beautiful campus with the entire Virginia Bb community. More importantly, we showed them that SU may be small, but we are capable of doing some incredible things.

Q: What does a typical work day look like for you?
A: I wouldn't really say that there is a typical day. I always have things I plan to accomplish, but rarely do I actually get to stick to that plan. I do have a somewhat predictable routine though, here it is:  I start at 5:30a by checking email, and I generally get to IC by 8a. Once here, I answer some more email/work orders & get the caffeine drip going. Then I monitor & tweak the Blackboard system, attend Bb user community webinars, complete Bb MVP task, work on special projects, and update Bb tools as needed. It really depends what time of year it is and what is going on in IC. 

Q: What are the primary systems you support on a day-to-day basis?
A: Datatel/Bb Integration from the Bb Side, SU Mobile App, Bb Learn, Bb Connect, Bb Community, Bb Content, some web design, and currently working on a streaming server. 

Q: What do you do that directly impacts end users at SU?
A: Almost everything I do impacts end users in some capacity. If I don't know how my systems functions or how they interact with each other then it eventually something will break and an end user will be pretty inconvenienced. 

Q: If you disappeared into an extra-dimensional pocket for an extended period of time, and nobody took over your job responsibilities, what would happen after six months?
A: I like to think that it wouldn't be the biggest deal if something like that happened. I think Tristan would have a lot of additional responsibilities with Bb. Mobile Learn could potentially go to Eric. Jason could take over the streaming server, and all the other small stuff could be delegated. That's one of the best parts about IC, everybody is capable and tech savvy. Like most folks in IC, a lot of what I do is documented so that if something should happen, SU does not encounter any kind of hardship. 

Q: Do you have one quick pro-tip for end users?
A: Be respectful from those you ask help from. Always try to solve something for yourself first because, ultimately, that's a great way to commit a solution to memory. Oh, and don't forget to READ all SU communications!

There you have it folks, the smooth words of my boss. She's an extreme thrill seeker that can make Blackboard purr like a Siberian Tiger getting an epic belly-rub. Her work ethic, knowledge, and logical approach to challenges prove over and over again why she is such a valuable member to the IC department and an asset to this university. If you need to get in contact with Melissa, feel free to email her at or call her office at 665-5573.

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