CALS IT Director Phil Barak will return to soils faculty, interim co-directors named

Phil Barak has announced that he will step down from the role of CALS Director of Computing and Information Technology, effective April 30th. Dean Kate VandenBosch has named two interim co-directors for the position: Charlene Krembs, manager of CALS Administrative Computing Services, and Jason Pursian, assistant IT director for CALS.

Barak was named interim IT director in March 2010, the first such CALS-wide IT administrator in the history of the college, serving a 50% appointment in CALS administration and 50% as a faculty member in soils. The appointment was made permanent by VandenBosch two years later, one of her first acts as dean. Barak had previously served for four years as chair of campus’ Information Technology Committee (ITC), appointed by the University Committee as part of shared governance.

“The arc of my IT career started as a disgruntled computer user, experiencing difficulties obtaining the services required for my research and teaching. By a twist of fate, I was moved to an administrative position where I could do something about it for my faculty and staff colleagues and for CALS departments,” says Barak. “This chapter ends here, with the entire staff of CALS IT either hired or retasked during my tenure. They are a lean and cohesive team, and I am confident in the ability of the IT unit to help CALS address its missions in the future.”

In his seven years as IT director, Barak used the platform of CALS administrative IT services to address CALS mission-related needs in research and teaching, including file-sharing, storage, specialty applications run on virtual machines, research software licensing, instructional technology, web hosting, shared desktop support, information security and more. He worked closely with departmental IT staff to reduce duplication and aggregate services where it made sense, with the goal of releasing resources that could help free up time for higher-priority tasks. Considerable effort was made to constructively engage with central campus IT and with IT peers in other colleges and schools.

“While this work has been extremely gratifying, the time and attention required by my faculty appointment—both teaching and research—became too great to hold a split appointment any longer, and so I happily return to my day job,” says Barak. “I extend my heartfelt thanks to all who travelled this journey with me.”

Barak’s current research focuses on nutrient recovery from wastewater, and he teaches courses in general soil science, soil fertility and fertilizers, and mineral nutrition of plants.

“I am thankful to Phil for his dedication to the college’s computing and IT activities and for assembling and cultivating such a great staff. He has also contributed an important voice at the campus level, and I know this was appreciated by campus leaders,” says VandenBosch.

A plan is being developed for an IT director search and will be shared with the college community in due course.

“I look forward to working with Charlene and Jason in this interim period as we develop a strategy for the next phase of CALS IT,” says VandenBosch.