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Q&A with Darren McCullough, RU's Academic Technology Administrator

Updated: Oct 17, 2020

By Catherine Bennett

Staff Writer

Darren McCullough is the academic technology administrator for Rochester University. He started this position in August 2020.

What brought you to Rochester University and why do you choose to work here?

“I was first here as a student, and I graduated in 2005. Then, I immediately started working with IT in Fall 2005. Five years later, I took another job. Then Eric Campbell, my boss here at RU, gave me a call; he thought I would do well in this new position. It’s great to be back. Ironically, I am working with almost the same team that I left with. It's kind of a strange surreal feeling to be back, but it's pretty neat. Our paths have taken us to different places but they’ve all led us back.”

What’s the easiest and hardest part of your job?

“The hardest part would be the rapid change in tech. Having to keep up with how things work and function, and how to help people utilize those tools and understand them. Being able to feel confident in all of that is hard. You’re teaching someone a different way of thinking and that's a hard thing since technology is rapidly changing all of the time. And here we are in the middle of a pandemic being forced to use tools very quickly, putting it at hyper speed. It’s hard. The easiest part of my job would be that it is an enjoyable place to work. The attitudes and the flexibility of the people here and the willingness to want to learn works as a balance.”

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

“I really think the most rewarding part is seeing a problem or something that is being done inefficiently. Then finding a way to do a task better or to do things easier. The efficiency is always just so satisfying for us as a department. That’s what we’re here to do, we’re here to help.”

What do you do outside your job to keep you sane, relieve stress, etc.?

"Well, my wife and I have three boys who are 7, 9 and 11, and they keep us quite busy! I have two older brothers and my parents live close, so family time is at the top of my list. We work on our house, we’re active in our church, and obviously some technology tinkering.”

Where did you grow up?

“I grew up in Midland, Michigan, which is about an hour and 40 minutes north of here. Interestingly, my parents also went to RU (Michigan Christian College) and that's where they met and both of my brothers also attended here. I graduated from Rochester in 2005.”

What is your favorite thing to do in Rochester? In Michigan?

“Yates Cider Mill and obviously Knapp’s Donuts. Then the duck pond at the Rochester Municipal Park and taking the kids there. In Michigan, we love Sleeping Bear Dunes, Mackinac Island, and Midland is a really neat town. There’s a lot of community things and an art center and gardens and it's one of my favorite places to take the boys.”

What is your most prized possession?

“I am a very sentimental person with the things that I grew up with. My grandfather was a woodcarver. He has now passed away, but I have several of his carvings. I remember when I was a kid and I would go to his house and he’d have these small animal carvings, from dogs to deer to pigs and hummingbirds. It brings me good memories of my childhood of watching him.”

What is your most embarrassing moment?

“The last time I worked here, we had a person who had created a documentary that was premiering on PBS. For whatever reason, we were going to show that documentary in the RAC theater as a pre-showing. I was running the sound booth when the person came in, brought the DVD and we put it in to test. I always test everything beforehand. From what we saw, the video was running and we were good to go. The presentation starts and the person introduces the show, we turn the lights to dim and press start. It starts playing and before we know it, the producer was waving his arms at the booth and he pointed to the microphone. We turn the microphone on and he says: ‘You’re starting the video at the wrong part. This is like halfway through. This isn’t right. We need to start at the beginning!’ So I went over and pushed the backtrack and it kept starting over at that same midpoint. At this point, everyone is staring, the producer is yelling at us saying, ‘No this is not right. No!’ and I’m ejecting the disk, trying to go to the menu to restart it and basically he gave us a dysfunctional disk. This was a big deal and I’m standing in the booth like, ‘This is all I got.’ The producer was mad and had us start from that point. It was one of those moments where you have a pit in your stomach and you’re like ‘I wanna be anywhere else in the world than right here right now.’ We tried to explain to the producer, but he wasn’t having it. I still look back and kind of cringe by how awful that was.”

What is the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?

“This isn’t necessarily my biggest obstacle but a major decision point. One of them that has determined my professional career was when I graduated from Rochester in 2005, I took a PR job with a minor league hockey team and did that for a few months. Then I got a call offering me a job at the school. At that point, I was going to do broadcasting or PR and it was at that point that I had to make a decision. Was this what I wanted to do? After a lot of thought and discussion and prayer, it was a good opportunity. In doing this, it has created a passion for higher education and technology at Rochester for me. It was definitely a defining time for me.”

Who is your biggest influence?

“I think my biggest would be my parents. I’ve always looked up to my brothers too, so I would say them. Outside of my inner circle of family, John Barton [former RU professor]. John married my wife and me and he has always been a mentor and someone I’ve always looked up to.”



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