Campus News

IT director helps support College of Engineering students, faculty

Forrest Bridges

For Forrest Bridges, the year 2000 didn’t just mark the change on the calendar, it also marked a change in his career path.

Bridges had been working at a forestry company leading up to Y2K and “got stuck doing information technology stuff” despite his background in forestry and business.

“It all just kind of spun from there,” said Bridges, who now is IT director in the College of Engineering. “I just kept going with IT. I was always interested in IT anyway, but my job changed then to become fully IT.”

Now, the Auburn native is responsible for handling anything and everything computer related in the College of Engineering. He supervises three full-time staff members in addition to four student workers.

“What I do depends on the day,” Bridges said. “One of the main things is that we have to make sure all our classrooms are up and running and that our faculty are able to conduct their research.”

To ensure that teaching and research are performed without any IT issues, Bridges works with firewalls and networks, manages the virtual computer lab and coordinates technology efforts for a college that is spread out in various places around campus.

“It’s always something different going on,” Bridges said. “I’m just trying to make the best user experience for our students.”

Bridges has been working with engineering students since before the college was formed. He said he’s seen “a heck of a lot of growth during the years.” During that growth, he’s launched the college’s virtual computer labs to give students easier access to the programs they need. He’s also put in place more automation for computer maintenance to avoid interfering with teaching and research.

“When I started here, we were fewer than 200 students. Now we’ve got a lot more,” he said. “It’s been challenging but we put things in place six years ago to prepare for the growth we’re having.”

For Bridges, the troubleshooting part of IT is the best part. He said he loves the challenges that come with working with technology to determine what’s gone wrong.

Outside of the office, Bridges leaves technology behind for long runs. A frequent half marathon participant, he loves to run around campus and on the Oconee River Greenway in town.

“It’s a good time to get away and have no phone, email or whatever,” he said. “It’s just me and Mother Nature.”

Bridges also has a passion for British cars. He enjoys driving a 1976 Triumph Spitfire that he did a total restoration on.

Just like the car, Bridges knows that keeping the technology in the College of Engineering running requires constant attention. He is keeping an eye on class size growth to determine better ways to serve both current and future engineering students.

“That’s my No. 1 priority: our students and their labs,” he said. “They have to be working because we’re here to educate our students, and if our labs are not working, then it’s hampering their educational experience.”