Campus News

Campus Closeup: Matt Blankenship

Matt Blankenship

Director of Information Technology
College of Veterinary Medicine


JOB DESCRIPTION: “Mine is a new position created because the leadership in the College of Veterinary Medicine saw a need to formalize and improve IT services.

“I have 12 major initiatives-promises I need to keep-but the main one is creating a formal information technology organization to serve the college. That entails developing the staff, strategy, procedures and budget. I’d like to try to standardize operations so the staff doesn’t have to learn and work on so many different systems.

“Specifically, my team is responsible for all personal computers that serve faculty and staff and those that are used to teach students in computer laboratories. We’re responsible for all the servers, cables, routers and switches that network the college’s computers together.

“A huge item on my list is the unique information system that serves the teaching hospital, the diagnostic laboratories in Athens and Tifton, and the clinical pathology laboratory. It was developed by our faculty in the late 1990s to take care of admissions and fiscal office information-just about all information generated by the clinical staff and students.

“My department is also responsible for developing the college’s new Web site.”

A TYPICAL DAY: “I like to say good morning to everybody in my group, then check my e-mail to see what hot button items are the fare of the day-there usually are several.

“I have at least one meeting every day with a department or organization. I meet with the other IT directors on campus once a month to talk about common problems and opportunities for collaboration.

“And I like to do a walk-around to find at least one IT problem that people are experiencing and to hear first-hand if we’re helping them ­effectively.

“Of course there’s always a ­crisis-we’ve had a terrible rash of viruses and worms and an infiltration of spam e-mails lately, and almost every day we’re faced with server problems.”

MOST CHALLENGING PART OF MY JOB: “Limited resources, unlimited problems to solve!

“The veterinary college is definitely a complex operation. It consists of 12 buildings on the main campus plus the Poultry Diagnostic and Research Center and the Athens and Tifton diagnostic laboratories.

“There are at least 15 servers. Many are 4 to 8 years old and need upgrading. We have 5 to 10 different accounting systems and old budgeting/accounting software being rewritten from a DOS program to a more useful system.

“There are equally challenging IT jobs on campus, but one of the things that makes the veterinary college unique is that it operates 24/7. People in the hospital use the IT system at all hours of the day and night.”

OTHER WORK EXPERIENCES: “I grew up in Athens and worked my way through UGA on the swing shift at Dupont for seven years. After I earned my M.B.A. from the Terry College of Business, I worked for an international forest products business as manager of information systems and for IBM in the global business-consulting unit. My ­office was in an airplane for five years-I spent less than a month in IBM’s Atlanta office.

“Last year I moved back to Athens where most of my family lives.”

IF I WEREN’T DOING THIS JOB, I WOULD MOST LIKE TO: “Be a professional fisherman. I’ve seen a lot of people at fishing tournaments winning $75,000 for catching the biggest fish. I think that would be great and, if you didn’t catch the big one, two small fish could feed the family.”

OFF-THE-JOB INTERESTS: “Working with my wife to figure out how to raise our three children, since there’s no instruction book. We have an 11-, 8- and 6-year-old, and they’re very active. We spend most of our time at the swimming pool in the Ramsey Center. Each of the children is involved in a swim team. The 11-year-old is state champion in two different strokes.”

THE ISSUE THAT CONCERNS ME MOST ABOUT TODAY’S WORLD: “One of the biggest things that concerns me about where things are going in this country and around the world is people’s reluctance to openly discuss controversial topics without fear.”