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Eric McCloy: The Man Behind The Emails

      “Did you see Eric McCloy’s latest email?” If you hear EU students and faculty discussing the latest campus-wide email from Chief Information Officer Eric McCloy,  it is not because they are bemoaning a Wi-fi shortage or shocked at a recent phishing scam. Rather, Eric McCloy’s emails are eagerly anticipated for two reasons: firstly, he is able to explain the technological state of EU in simple, easy-to-understand language,  and secondly, he is hilarious. From sentient trash trucks to the romantic relationship between Colleague and MyEastern, you can never quite anticipate what delightful combination of information and humor awaits you when you see you have an email from Mr. McCloy. So, I decided to embark on an a quest to Ott Hall to meet the mysterious man behind the emails, and I am extremely glad I did.

      I felt rather like a video game heroine as I made my way across campus on a rainy day, armed with an umbrella, my computer,  and an absurd amount of enthusiasm. This feeling was even intensified upon my arriving at McCloy’s office (decorated with polar exploration memorabilia, an apparent passion of McCloy’s), as the EU chief information officer jollily greeted me and offered me cookies and coffee.

      After we sat down with our cookies and coffee, McCloy explained to me how the chief information officer (or CIO) position came to be: the EU administration realized that the technology infrastructure on campus needed to be improved significantly (something I’m sure we all can agree on) and thus they began advertising for someone who was familiar with the specific technological issues that face a college campus, and could thus help bring EU up to speed.  Enter Eric McCloy, who has worked in Information Technology (or IT) for about 30 years, including experience working with IT for higher education since 2000. McCloy has worked with programs and databases for many years, generally working in leadership roles as project manager.

      Now that McCloy is at Eastern, all of EU IT staff reports to him, and they have been exceptionally busy upgrading networks on campus. Bringing EU’s tech into the 21st century is an extensive task — McCloy says that they started with the university’s core processor, which “most students don’t care about,” but acts as the “traffic cop for the entire network.” According to the CIO, the old core processor was so fragile that consultants were afraid to touch it, but fortunately for us it was finally updated in March of this year.

      The IT team (comprised of 11 people, including McCloy) then updated the university’s firewall, which acts as a foundation for our network and prevents cyber attacks. After that, the IT team began battling the internet access points throughout campus. They began this process by changing EU’s internet providers, and doubling our amount of megabits (which controls the speed of the internet, for technologically-inept people such as myself). McCloy also made sure to install two different providers on different sides of campus, as he explained in his beloved sentient trash truck email, so that if one provider is damaged then the internet will still operate properly.

      McCloy and his coworkers, Philip E. Mugridge, Richard White, Mark Hoffman, Andrew Whitmore, Paul Thorpe, Daniel Edwards, Joseph Spedding, Matthew Lyke, Jennifer Moore, and J. Robert West, are working to prevent any wi-fi drop-off around campus, and the grand IT plan involves 388 new access points, with 35 access points in Walton Hall alone. McCloy says his goal is to have a wifi access point in every other room on campus, however the plan is contingent on available funds: “[the dream is for] someone to airdrop hundreds of dollars onto campus which could fix everything.” However until the money miraculously appears, EU IT department has to “be smart with the resources that we have” and work on one project at a time.

      This gradual process is part of why McCloy is so enthusiastic about receiving emails and suggestions. Feedback informs the IT team what areas need the most urgent upgrading. “We go in based off help-desk tickets. What gets the most complaints gets the quickest help.” A large part of McCloy’s job is responding emails — but he says that fortunately if something goes wrong then “out of 100 emails, 99 are about the same problem.” The rest of McCloy’s time is generally spent planning different projects. The wireless upgrade, for example, went through four different iterations, and necessitated the IT team taking inventory of what technology was on campus and what needed upgrading. Beyond that, McCloy says he spends most of his time checking up on the rest of the IT team and assisting them in their endeavors. Recently these endeavors have included hooking up the laundry rooms to the internet to allow for the new card-based payment systems. McCloy has spent “an inordinate amount of time in the laundry rooms of Kea and Guffin.”

      While the McCloy and the rest of his team certainly have their hands full with the current internet upgrade project, McCloy still has a lot of plans for the future: “I’d love for the dorms to be completely wireless…to redo how people reset their passwords. All the buildings need new switching and access points…What I want to do is plan it out — all the things we’re installing have a known lifespan…Here’s my theory: we live in a world where things break down; you carry a spare tire because you could run over a nail. People are always surprised when tech breaks down but it’s literally like everything else; even new cars break down and get flat [tires]…the funny thing is a lot of people want IT to be like electricity, you just switch it on all the time. [But] it takes work and investment and all that kind of stuff” Thus, the IT team is trying their hardest to upgrade all of the technology on campus as quickly and effectively as possible, and then maintain it.

      While McCloy understands internet and processors (a lot of things that I usually just turn off and back on again in times of crisis), he does not quite understand the reputation he’s earned on campus: “When people meet me they say, ‘you’re THE Eric McCloy?’ and I just don’t know what that means.” The real irony, McCloy says, is that his two college-aged children do not find him funny at all. The only explanation McCloy gives is that in Eastern he “found an entire campus who loves dad jokes.” Perhaps McCloy simply feels at home around young people, given that he worked in youth ministry for 11 years before switching to IT, and he actually majored in Urban Studies at Temple University, with the initial plan of becoming an inner-city pastor. His extensive education did not stop there; McCloy went on to attend Westminster Theological Seminary for his Masters of Divinity with a focus on counseling, and then to Arcadia University for his Masters of Business Administration. While McCloy is certainly qualified to work in ministry, he found that his being a youth pastor continuously clashed with his being a dad, and he “wanted hours that would let [him] see [his] kids a little.”

      This is all just a glimpse into “the” Eric McCloy, the man behind the emails. To learn more about Eastern’s CIO, or to help the IT department track down any technological issues on campus, email eric@eastern.edu, or follow him on Twitter at @eu_CIO. Or, if you are feeling particularly adventurous, journey over to Ott Hall to have some cookies and chat with Mr. McCloy about core processors, cookies, or his obsession with polar exploration.

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