Tuesday, January 3, 2012 - 3:29pm

The University of Iowa honored several Information Technology Services staff members with Improving Our Workplace Awards this fall. IOWA Awards recognize UI employees who demonstrate initiative and innovation that has a positive impact in their workplace.

Chris Pruess won an individual award for her work developing campus IT communities at the UI. The Bus on the Go (Bongo) project led to a team award for ITS staff members Mark Ahrens, Romy Bolton, Steve Tomblin, Brad O’Meara, Steve Troester, Mike Jenn, and Lance Bolton (now with CLAS IT); Parking and Transportation staff members Brian McClatchey, Janelle Beswick, and Pat Smith; and University Communication and Marketing staff members George McCrory and Christopher Clair. Additional project partners for Bongo were the City of Coralville’s Vicky Robrock and Jenn Coleman, and the City of Iowa City’s Chris O’Brien and Scott Amlong.ITS recognized the recipients at a reception Dec. 13.


“We’re very proud of the ITS staff and our campus and community partners involved with these efforts,” said Associate Vice President and CIO Steve Fleagle. “This honor is well deserved. Their hard work and accomplishments have benefitted many people.”

ITS Senior Systems Architect Guy Falsetti nominated Pruess, noting that she developed a foundation for campus IT community that few universities have achieved. In 2002, the UI began deployment of its Active Directory. As the university moved away from Novell NDS, a significant amount of information needed to be shared with campus. Pruess took the initiative to form a group called the “OUADmins,” developed a regimen for the group, and provided constructive feedback to presenters during preparation sessions. The assemblage evolved to the group that’s now called ITADmins.

“Chris took a small group, gave it focus, and challenged them every month. Excellence in presentation was the standard. Covering timely IT events to campus was the hallmark,” Falsetti said. “Her leadership has grown the group from a few dozen people in 2002 to a packed seminar room with over 80 people at each meeting in 2011.”

Bongo is a mobile smart phone application that uses GPS to locate buses and to predict arrival times at bus stops. In an average week this fall, 30,000 users accessed the website, half from mobile devices. The project resulted in a 67 percent reduction in phone calls to transit agencies, along with increased or record ridership for all three of the transit agencies. You would be hard pressed to find a bus rider that doesn’t use Bongo on a regular basis.

Tim Evans, senior director for ITS Enterprise Services, nominated the Bongo team for the IOWA Award. He said the real innovation and uniqueness of the Bongo project was not in the technology. It was in the team that was able to get together and make this happen.

“They realized early on that to add the most value, this project could not be isolated to the University of Iowa, but had to include the whole community,” Evans said. “The team was able to bring together Cambus and the Coralville and Iowa City transit systems, along with UI folks from ITS, Office of Sustainability, and University Communication and Marketing to complete this project. This is quite an extraordinary accomplishment.”

The awards are given out each fall and spring. A committee of staff members from across the university reviews the nominations. Many excellent people and projects are nominated for IOWA Awards, and the nomination process is rigorous.

This fall, ITS performed exceptionally well. Across the entire university, only eight awards were given. ITS earned two of the eight. Fleagle noted that five of the eight IOWA Awards given out this fall went to IT-related projects.

“I believe this is a testament to the value of technology in the workplace, the university, and the community,” he said.