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CIS Sketches: Scott Valcourt

By Martin England, Computing and Information Services
April 16, 2008

For those immersed in the world of technology, the great outdoors often represent a welcome retreat from the clamor of spinning hard drives and humming network servers. For Scott Valcourt, newly appointed CIS director of Project Management and Consulting Services, the woods are a place he calls home.

“For me, the most peaceful time is when you’re winter camping, in the midst of a snowstorm, deep in the woods,” Valcourt said. “There’s nobody else nearby, and it’s two or three o’clock in the morning. What little existing light is magnified by the snow pack, and as snow falls, you can hear each and every little flake hit the trees as they come to the ground. There are no other sounds, no automobiles or airplanes, or even the sounds of other animals. It’s a very peaceful period of time. It’s furthest away from technology that you can get. No cell phones, no computers, no electricity.”

Valcourt learned his love of nature in his hometown of Auburn, the better half of Maine’s Twin Cities (the other being Lewiston), and a place equal parts urban, suburban, and rural. His family’s roots rest in Lewiston-Auburn’s cavernous brick mills, where his grandfather worked as a supervisor in textiles, and his father as a sewer of shoes and later an Auburn police officer. It was there he also honed his skills as a Boy Scout, ultimately resulting in his induction into the much-heralded rank of Eagle Scout.

October 2008 will mark Valcourt’s 30th year of involvement with the Boy Scouts of America, both as a participant and now as a leader. As former director of UNH’s InterOperability Laboratory, he often favored prospective student employees who had listed Eagle Scout on their resumes.

“I know that somebody who is an Eagle Scout has had a series of leadership opportunities in their background, as well as has experience dealing with teams, both as a member and a leader,” he said. “They understand how to recognize when something might not be right, and how to step in and find ways to help. Those are the people you want leading and solving the hard problems of the world, because they’ve been given some tools to put into their tool bag to help them deal with those hard decisions.”

While Valcourt took his leadership skills from his Scouting experiences, he finds strength and guidance from his wife of 14 years, Michelle. “Michelle has changed my life in multiple ways. I’m very fortunate that I was able to marry my best friend, and that has never changed. Any type of decision I’m struggling with, or success that I’ve had, all gets shared with Michelle. I’m an introvert by nature. I tend to not be very outward, whether it’s in a group, or a small setting. Michelle helps me overcome some of those things and to maintain some of those connections. That for me is very powerful.”

Valcourt and Michelle live in Berwick, Maine with their twins Gregory and Elizabeth. The family enjoys spending time working in the family vegetable garden, a passion Valcourt and Michelle introduced to their children at a formative age. As an added bonus, the couple single-handedly solved the problem of getting their kids to eat veggies.

“When I was a kid, I always wanted to have a backyard like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, in particular just before they enter into the Bubble Room where they lick the wallpaper: ‘Taste that, it tastes like a Snozberry’. That’s what I wanted to have. Pick something and eat it. We did that when our kids were just babies,” he says. “We’d send the kids out there, and they would eat their fill of cherry tomatoes and green beans. Today, it’s almost become very humorous, because they prefer vegetables to almost everything else. They’ll go to a party where there are chips and dips and cookies and cakes, and a vegetable platter, and my kids will load up on the vegetables.”

Valcourt hopes to define his newly-created position as CIS director of Project Management and Consulting Services by bringing his leadership skills and collaborative spirit to the mix. His responsibilities include managing large projects which require technology, and also to act as an internal consultant for the University.

“This position didn’t exist six months ago, so it’s exciting to be in the pioneer role,” he said. “We want to be able to give departments on campus a fair assessment of technology and lay out all of the possible options from an internal perspective, rather than requiring an outside consultant. We also want to be able to use the resources we already have here on campus. That falls within the parameters of the university’s academic mission. And what might be an interesting problem for one area of campus may have been a problem already discovered in another area, and that means we, as CIS, either already have a solution, or we need to consider looking at the problem and developing a solution. Maybe it isn’t something that needs technology, but what we want to be able to do is to lay out all of the possible options. Understanding the problem, in many cases, helps lead to a solution.”

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