Pitt pandemic heroes: Law school IT running from home ‘command center’


If this were a normal year, one of the highlights for School of Law IT director Kim Getz would be heading downtown to the convention center with her dog Buster and a bagful of laptop power cords to support students taking the bar exam.

Buster the basset houndBuster, a basset hound mix, is one of several dogs that staffers bring to the school itself for de-stressing days — normally. But Buster won’t be doing his work any time soon, and of course Getz is working from home.

Recently, from what she has labeled her house’s “command center,” Getz sat watching a live class go out remotely to nearly 90 students online and a handful in a Barco Building classroom.

“The professor is not very tech-savvy, so I told him I’d be there,” she said. “Periodically his mic gets muted.” She had already talked him through switching from another microphone that didn’t have great sound quality, and is still watching for feedback in the Zoom breakout rooms, where students’ laptop mics and mics in the live room can sometimes clash.

“I couldn’t do it without my current staff,” Getz said. Starting in March, she recalled, “We had to scramble and find every laptop in our building and make sure every staff member went home with a laptop so they could do their jobs. We’ve had to teach a lot of faculty how to use a hybrid (the in-class equipment to run Flex@Pitt classes) because I don’t expect anybody to be an expert in computers.”

She also hired two law students, who were already going to be on campus, to help set up computers, “so all (faculty) would have to do was walk in the classroom. I’ve always directed my staff to talk in layman’s terms and be patient.”

Because Getz takes a medication that lowers her immunity, she can’t be on campus at all during the pandemic — hence the command center. Besides her regular staff, she says, early on she “deputized” law school Dean Amy J. Wildermuth as one of the people going through the law school to check on classroom setups.

“We’ve had a lot of faculty going from teaching in the Socratic method to a … hybrid model,” she said, but “faculty have risen to the occasion.”

Getz joined Pitt in 2007, first at the help desk for what is now Pitt IT, then as a consultant for various University departments that lacked their own IT person or enough IT expertise. She moved to her current position in 2014.

Normally, her office not only maintains the law school’s tech capabilities but also its audiovisual needs: taking videos of events or live-streaming them and maintaining the school’s YouTube channel.

That includes the “Vlawg,” a vlog featuring law student-led discussions of current law topics. In March, Vlawg ended its season with two alumni being interviewed by third-year law students about how students can help each other during the pandemic, whether they are still in school or preparing to take the bar exam.

“Those students really need the support of their families — it was really a support video,” she said. It’s not Buster — but it might help. Vlawg posted its first fall episode in September.

What does she find most rewarding about her work?

“I’m a people person,” she said. “If I can make somebody happy because they couldn’t do something before, and now they can teach and overcome a problem, that is most rewarding. It’s difficult but I think we have managed to keep most people moving forward.”

Marty Levine is a staff writer for the University Times. Reach him at martyl@pitt.edu or 412-758-4859.


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