e-STARS shooting across university

Meredith Somers

For students at Quinnipiac, computer problems are as frequent and prevalent as the flocks of geese on the quad. Trivial problems from a printer not working to major crises such as the “unmoving neon blue screen” wreak havoc on students and computer assistants alike. But there is a developing solution to this, and no, it does not involve re-imaging.

Beginning its second Fall semester, the e-STAR program at Quinnipiac provides freshman students with the knowledge and assistance to obtaining and sustaining a healthy computer.

“The idea is that for each floor in a freshman dorm, there is an e-STAR: a student who is there to not only fix computers, but establish a connection with the residents,” said Frank Villa, Manager of Academic Computing at Quinnipiac.

“Last year we tried the program out in Irma and Dana, and after a survey at the end of the term, we saw overwhelming support for the work done during the pilot. This year, we expanded to all freshman floors. We went from 9 floors with a handful of STARS, to 34 floors and 42 STARS.”

Michael Migliaccio and Taylor Busch, both senior journalism majors, are the e-STAR program coordinators. They helped put the program into motion and continue it today. It is a branch of the STAR (Student Technology Academic Resource) program, begun in 2000, that provides computer assistance to faculty and students.

For a special program, this past move-in weekend, the e-STARS visited the upperclassmen dorms. They offered to check the status of computers, fix any small problems, and offered suggestions for more serious concerns.

Although serious concerns get the most attention, more often it is little problems that are the major cause of computer malfunctions.

“Taylor used to be an RA, as well as a STAR, and so he was always fixing minor computer issues for his residents,” Migliaccio said.

Seeing the large number of small problems with computers got Villa and others thinking.

“We look for things that are ‘under the radar.’ E-STARS try to catch stuff before there is an explosion,” Villa said. “The Help Desk gets lots of angry students because there really is only one solution with a 100 percent guarantee: re-imaging. When a student leaves with a re-imaged computer, it is working how it should, not necessarily filled with music or term papers. By catching problems before they get out of control, we can cut down on the amount of serious work that needs to be done on computers.”

But fixing the computer problem is not the only goal of the e-STAR program.

“We really want to make the STARS a primary point of contact,” Villa said. “We want students to feel comfortable coming to these people for help. The first thing [we] look for in the application and interview process is someone with good communication skills.”

“This year, the e-STARS were introduced the same day as the resident assistants were. They were there right from the beginning,” Busch said. E-STARS will be having hall programs, distributing materials and doing ‘walk-throughs’ of the dorms. Some are even giving out their cell-phone numbers in cases of emergency.”

Along with adjusting to a larger area in need of support, the program is putting into motion new objectives for the year.

“This year we have a project called ‘Healthy Computer Initiative,'” Migliaccio said. “We want to go through each dorm, asking if anyone as a problem with the computer and/or if everyone’s computer is in good shape. If there’s a problem, we’ll fix it.”

Fixing the problem may be the solution at the moment, but in the long run, there is another goal.

“We’re hoping that we can give students back their healthy computers, and teach them how to keep them that way,” Migliaccio said. “We never say ‘we don’t know.’ We’ll find someone who can help.”