Web Building at UMW or, Why Shannon Hauser is #4life

It’s been a while since I blogged about the goings on at University of Mary Washington (UMW). This past September marked seven years since I last worked there, which is crazy to even think about. I very much thought I was UMW edtech #4life, but then I met Tim Owens and everything changed. This June Reclaim Hosting will host its 4th bi-annual conference, Reclaim Open, at UMW, which is just in time for our 10th birthday celebration. It’s a welcome return to where it all began, and where my roots still run very deep.

Image of Rebels with a Cause at UMW

UMW homepage during the heady days of ds106!

And those roots are deeply personal, the thing about the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies (DTLT) at UMW was we were fortunate enough to have a core that stuck together for over a decade. And I miss their company almost daily. We were colleagues, of course, but we also liked each other a lot. And like any close relations cultivated over time, it wasn’t always easy and far from perfect, but DTLT was family to me and together we did things I’m still ridiculously proud of. There was a grittiness and idealism to that work that remains a gold standard for me. And the DTLT core not only had full-time employees like Jerry Slezak, Martha Burtis, Andy Rush, and Patrick Murray-John—assembled and inspired by Gardner Campbell—but there were student aides that had a big impact on the group’s work: Serena Epstein, Joe McMahon, Joe Calpin, Leigh Ellis (pictured above!), and, of course, Shannon Hauser.


Shannon in Italy

Forgive me, I am tearing up over here, but Shannon came to DTLT still a teenager seemingly determined to think differently about teaching and learning. She was not there to party for 4 years, she was on an intellectual and personal journey that highlights the best side of a 4-year degree. I think she saw something in DTLT that we couldn’t fully see given how close we were to it: a tight, fun team using the available technology to irreverently push back against the prevailing assumptions around teaching and learning, and she was there for that! In fact, Shannon quickly became a fixture in our ramshackle outpost of a bullpen. She was there so much I never knew if she was on or off the clock as a student worker. One of the things I quickly learned about her is she is as reliable as they come—and her commitment to the work and the group was absolute. She brought us together in ways that are hard to fully articulate, but we all came to rely on her for different things in our own lives, and she was always there for us. She was a mensch in the truest sense of that word. Shannon—unlike self-congratulating jack-asses like myself—was not interested in promoting the crucial role she played, she just wanted to be a good colleague and teammate—and that she was and no doubt still is for those lucky enough to work with her at UMW.

Image of new UMW Domains homepage

A house or apartment? Each has their benefits and drawbacks 🙂

But 15 years later (at least 10 of those as a full-time employee at UMW between the library and more recently DTLT*), Shannon’s rise as an edtech in the tradition of the very best (cue self-congratulating jack-ass :)) hit me like a diamond through the forehead when Lauren showed me the work Shannon has done to integrate UMW’s Domain of One’s Own with a new WPMS instance UMW Sites. This new design gives folks a choice of where they create their online spaces, and brilliantly articulates the benefits and drawbacks in a clean, concise one-sheeter site. More over, this project allows her group to gracefully retire and archive UMW Blogs, a publishing platform she very much helped to build and promote since 2007. I am really excited about the work Shannon continues to do as an edtech at UMW, and it’s a beautiful thing to witness her stepping out of the shadows to claim her UMW Edtech #4life mantle! The real question for me now is, what would Shannon Hauser do? (WWSHD). I am a big fan, shauser, and there ain’t no love like the bava blog love!


*I know it has a different acronym now, but it’s always DTLT to me.

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11 Responses to Web Building at UMW or, Why Shannon Hauser is #4life

  1. Cartland says:

    Can confirm. Shannon is a rockstar. Double award-winning!

  2. A love letter from the Bava, what could be better? Of course I will say I can’t take all the credit for the new landing page. My current partners in crime Jerry Slezak and Cartland Berge are an important part of the magic sauce. I feel fortunate my current working situation is not dissimilar to those DTLT days. We are generative, imaginative, and love spending time making cool things. We argue but it almost always leads to a better version of what we are doing. This new landing page was many, many hashing it out sessions and we are all really proud of how it turned out. Maybe I should blog about this…

    I’m glad I continue to get the chance to build cool things for the web and help others do it as well. I just wish there was more time to spend on cool projects!

    PS You are now finally redeemed for the fact you wrote a blog post for Serena when she graduated but didn’t write me one. You know a shauser never forgets 😉

    • Reverend says:

      How can I write a leaving post for you when you never left? You’ve always been the DTLT caretaker, Shannon Hauser!

      I have no question it takes a village, but I have to say seeing you lead up an edtech project and take the idea of web building (and buildings) to the next level is pretty awesome. I love the way you are playing with the house/apartment metaphor as well, not to mention the minimal, yet powerful, design. I don’t think the umw.domains homepage ever looked so good, and I also like it because it moves away from polarizing WPMS versus cPanel and understand the whole thing on a spectrum of responsibility and needs. Have I told you I’m a big fan lately?

  3. Gene Roche says:

    >> And those roots are deeply personal, the thing about the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies (DTLT) at UMW was we were fortunate enough to have a core that stuck together for over a decade.

    I think of those 10 years as the *Golden Age of Academic Computing*–at least for me personally. I had the good fortune of being involved with so many fascinating projects collectively and individually with folks at Mary Washington. It became an extension of my work at William & Mary and a constant source of new ideas. (And commiseration for the many ideas that seemed great at the time, but really weren’t. There wer more than a few of those.)

    Shannon was always a source of inspiration when our paths crossed.

    • Reverend says:

      Hi Gene,

      How awesome to see you posting here, and we are having a Reclaim open conference at UMW in June, and given techfoot was a big part of the inspiration for Gardner and Chip to go down the cPanel path, it would be fun to have you as part of it. We are also doing a documentary, so doubly fun and would love to get an interview. Will reach out offline, but thanks for the comment and pitching in to the well-deserved Shannon celebration!

  4. Jerry says:

    Shannon always was, and still is, the secret sauce. Glad to have her and Cartland leading these efforts in the Digital Knowledge Center. I’m glad that despite all your influence Jim, she has somehow managed to do great things here at UMW! 🙂

    Looking forward to seeing many old friends at the Reclaim Conference in June.

    • Reverend says:

      Now she is the Reverend and I am sleeping at my desk, oh how the tables have turned these last 15 years. Neo-Rev #4life!

      Couldn’t be more excited about June, and you now have quite a tenure at what was DTLT, maybe longest running tenure (even if disrupted by your journey to the support desk IT desert 🙂 ).

  5. Debra Schleef says:

    Great post! Go Shannon! :>

  6. Chris L says:

    They don’t get any better than Shannon!

  7. Martha says:

    HOW DID I MISS THIS? Shannon is my superhero. <3

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