Some things never go out of style. Saint Mary’s IT staff is using old-fashioned customer service to teach new technology to busy students, faculty and staff. Programs like Tech Tip Thursday and Galileo Hall’s Tech Bar offer on-demand learning without ever making an appointment or attending a class.

Tech Tip Thursday is the brainchild of Instructional Technology staff members Carl Thelen, Rae Peralta, James Thompson and Carmel Crane. Rather than waiting for people to come to them, they’re setting up shop in the Faculty Staff Dining Hall on Thursdays from 12:30–1 p.m. The spring semester rollout of Moodle 2 is their current focus, but they take any and all technology questions.

An even more cutting-edge concept is Galileo Hall’s Tech Bar, staffed by tech-savvy students Monday through Friday from 9-5 p.m. Tech Bar manager Rita Pearson calls it a cross between the Apple Genius Bar and a hotel concierge and says it evolved out of a need to offer more than just classes. “People would sit through a class and then politely ask us 10 million questions. Attendance was going down because people felt ‘I can just stop in and learn,’” she says.

Stop in and learn is the new norm. Student techies like Chase Ahrens Feldman stand ready to help with anything from Apple TV to iMovie. “A while ago we had a professor who hadn’t upgraded his computer since the mid 80s,” says Feldman. He showed him how to work with iphone, ipad and Mac Book Pro.

Pearson has seen a three-fold increase in customers at the Tech Bar this year, and loves being able to offer a walk-up service for the Saint Mary’s community. “I also get to employ some of the best student workers on campus,” she says. “We have a retreat—I call it training—three days before school starts. We go over customer service training, what’s new in technology, and team building.” 

What does she say when customers ‘belly up to the bar’ and ask for a Margarita? “I say, ‘I wish there were Margaritas, but there aren’t.”’ Still, people leave her bar smiling.

The Tech Bar is open M-F from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m, except during holiday breaks. 

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