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CIS Project Manager in Pioneer Role

By Martin England, Computing and Information Services
October 1, 2008

Scott Valcourt

In 2007, the position of CIS director of project management and consulting services was created and advertised. Scott Valcourt was intrigued by its definition. The job description stated that this position “will propose alternative technology solutions and manage large-scale CIS-wide, university-wide and University System-wide information technology projects.” Scott was excited about the possibilities of defining this position and working with a wide variety of people throughout the University System. He loves a great challenge and threw his hat into the ring and, after a national search, was hired into the position fulltime in January 2008.

Valcourt began his career at UNH as a graduate student in 1992 in the computer science department, studying artificial intelligence (AI) while working at the Saint Anselm College Academic Computer Center in Manchester. Soon he found himself working at UNH as a student engineer in the Research Computing Center’s (RCC) InterOperability Laboratory (IOL) and then spent the 1993-1994 year working as a data information assistant on the finance and administrative support team (FAST) in the USNH controller’s office.

In 1994, Valcourt took a chance on a full-time hourly position back in the IOL as a consortium manager of the newly-formed 100VG-AnyLAN Consortium. He was charged with creating this consortium by meeting with technologists and industry leaders and helping this community to create a testing program, testing tools, software and hardware that would aid in bringing the 100VG-AnyLAN technology to mass market.
While the technology is no longer around today, this intense interaction with people from all over the worldwide communications marketplace helped to steer Valcourt’s research interests from AI to computer networking. Before long he found himself working with new challenges and technologies such as Token Ring, Network Management, ATM, ADSL, SHDSL, HDSL2, LINUX and iWARP.

In 2000, Valcourt was accepted into the UNH Ph.D. program in engineering systems design and became the second director in the IOL’s history. With new technologies putting pressure on the IOL to expand, Valcourt led the effort to bring the IOL from the five locations around campus to the single, professional facility that houses 32,000 square feet of high technology research at the aptly-named 121 Technology Drive. In 2005,
Valcourt moved into a new role in the computer science department in the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences. He always maintains a love for teaching and this new position offered the chance to spend more time in the classroom while continuing his research and grant work.

Eighteen years after joining the UNH community, Valcourt finds himself again facing challenges and new possibilities. He hopes to define this position by bringing his leadership skills and collaborative spirit to the mix. His responsibilities include managing large projects which require technology, and also acting as an internal consultant for the University.
“This position didn’t exist a year 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 to support the University’s academic mission. 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.”

Outside of these challenges, Valcourt finds solace in the great outdoors.
“For me, the most peaceful time is winter camping in the midst of a snowstorm, deep in the woods,” he 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 snowpack, and as snow falls, you can hear each and every little flake hit the trees as they come to the ground. It’s a very peaceful period of time. It’s the 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 French 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.

Auburn was where he also honed his outdoor skills as a Boy Scout. October 2008 will mark Valcourt’s thirtieth year of involvement with the Boy Scouts of America, both as a participant and now as a leader. He is still proud of his involvement in Boy Scouting and his achievement of Eagle Scout rank.
“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,” Valcourt said. “They understand how to recognize when something might not be right, and how to step in and find ways to help. For me, it is personally gratifying to help young people develop those lifelong skills.”

Valcourt and his wife, Michelle, live in Berwick, Maine with their twins Gregory and Elizabeth.

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