Staff Spotlight: Lisa Kaczmarczyk

Meet Lisa Kaczmarczyk, Sixth College's Chief Technology Officer (CTO).

Lisa Kaczmarczyk works in a large office surrounded not by monitors and servers, but by plants, a unique assortment of chairs, and artwork. Upon entering, the visitor is immediately invited to relax in an enormous, red Love Sak. "Some people want to sit in it during meetings," said Lisa with a chuckle. "I like to have choices for people." Hanging, there is a picture of a uniformed Grace Hopper. There is also a print of a portrait by the Italian painter Titian which Lisa picked up on a trip to the Louvre, and a large Gothic print - a period of art she likes very much.

I notice that you use a paper agenda.
Yeah, I can carry it with me, scribble in it, and take notes. I always have my paper planner with me. I see it as duplication. I've got a lot online, but there's a lot more information in my physical planner than just appointment times. It will be nice when we get to the point where we can have something where we can have all of that and it's electronic, but we're not quite there yet.

You are the only CTO in one of the undergraduate colleges at UCSD. How do you envision your role here at Sixth College?
There are several things. I work with each of the units, the senior managers, on their use of technology - what they're doing, what's working for them, what's not working for them, and what they would like to have improved. It's very individualized. Whether it's Academic Advising, the Practicum or the Core Sequence, they are using technology in different ways. Sometimes things are working great, so we leave them alone. If there are areas where their work processes aren't the way they'd like them to be, or if they have visions for making things better, we'll sit down and try to figure out exactly what can we do.

What do you think are some of the most interesting ways Sixth College is using technology now and how do you see us building on that?
I think that the biggest challenge is figuring out the most effective ways to communicate with students because students move at the speed of lightning these days with technology. They grow up being plugged in. One day it's e-mail, the next day it's a Web page, the next day it's Facebook. Who knows what it's going to be tomorrow? We need to figure out the best way to communicate with students so that we can be more effective with our educational goals. We have to be constantly on our toes, and I think that's part of what's exciting about what Sixth is trying to do - we've consciously acknowledged this so that's why we're the interdisciplinary college. That's why we are the culture, art, and technology college. That's why we have a digital literacy mission. We are aware of the complexities of this challenge and we are willing to take it on.

How does the interdisciplinary aspect tie into the way students are using technology?
Because technology undergirds everything in our global society. Even the students who don't think of themselves as technological, they're using it all the time. I suppose if I thought hard enough, there might be a major somewhere on campus where there is very little technology but that's hard for me to even imagine. You go to the theatre department and a lot of their systems run on technology. There's no way of separating out technology anymore. Technology is part of our culture. You have to acknowledge that it is part of everything we do and then figure out what that means. That's sort of the interdisciplinary aspect of it.

What was your major as an undergraduate student?
Theatre and Spanish. There wasn't much technology at that point. When I did theatre as an undergrad and I worked on, say, the lighting, there were these huge levers we pulled following a script during the play. Now they've got computerized systems they program ahead of time.

How did your interest in technology develop?
I'm an insatiably curious person. I started taking engineering classes when I was an undergrad just for fun. So, I got into it that way and decided I was going to try to do that for a living.

How does your undergraduate education in Spanish and theatre help you in your career in computer science?
The Spanish has been incredibly useful, and at the time I didn't expect it to be. I took it because I liked languages, and I found it was fairly easy. I've been in the computer industry either in academics or in high tech for my entire career, and I've used it over and over again. In the past, I've taught computer science classes in Spanish. I've developed curriculum in Spanish and interfaced with students who felt more comfortable because they could talk about their classes with me in their native language.
With theatre it's a little hard to say other than the fact that I had a lot of opportunities to be an outgoing, verbal person because it was both a behind the scenes techie degree and acting. My natural personality is to be verbal and outgoing anyway, but I got to express it.

You seem to be a great culture fit for Sixth College. How do you think your diverse background will complement our exploration of culture, art and technology?
Well, that is one of the reasons this position excited me so much. I looked at it and thought, oh my gosh, here are the things I'm interested in. Here are some people who recognize these intersections. Here are some people who appreciate all of these things and they want to help other people appreciate them. Even though my career has been very centered on computers and computer science, I've learned that it's not just computers. So here's an opportunity to be broad and work with people in the way that actually embraces the real interdisciplinary nature of technology.

For students who see that Sixth College has a CTO, and they want to meet you or work with you, what can you do for them?
If they have an interest in technology, or a crazy idea, or a concern, or anything, here I am and maybe I can help. I'm already working with a couple of students and a couple of student groups. I've visited the Sixth College Student Council and I've been talking with the Sixth College Technology Committee. The Tech Committee is running full steam but I look forward to being able to continue to work with them to any extent they want. One thing I can do is work within the university system. I know a lot about who to ask, where to go, and what resources are available.

Would you be open to advising students about career options in the field of computer science?
Absolutely! I would love to discuss career options because they are huge within computing. There is this big media thing that all the jobs are going overseas. Some jobs are going overseas but there are huge opportunities in companies who are dying for people who have the appropriate background.

Is there anything I haven't asked you that you feel would be important to share with the people who will be reading this?
Sixth College is the only college that has a CTO. I would love it if students took full advantage of my being here.

- By Beverly Gallagher

For more information, contact Lynne McMullin.