SOP’s McLean Named University Employee of the Month

Multimedia manager recognized for his leadership and quick problem-solving skills during the School’s ongoing A/V upgrade.

By Chris Zang
February 21, 2017

Problem solving is all in a day’s work for William McLean, multimedia manager at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy. When asked to visit the President’s Conference Room on Feb. 9 to offer advice on upgrading the audiovisual service there, he thought nothing about it. In the room, Jay A. Perman, MD, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) listened to McLean’s suggestions for several moments before changing the subject to let McLean know that he had been chosen as the University’s Employee of the Month for February.

“I understand there was a big crisis at the School of Pharmacy,” said Perman. “The vendor that you’d been using couldn’t handle the problem, but you saved the day.”

To which McLean humbly responded, “Well, I don’t know about that. I just did my job.”

“More than your job,” emphasized Perman, who present McLean with a letter and plaque, and assured him that there would be an extra $250 in his next paycheck.

“Well, that was unexpected,” said a smiling McLean to three colleagues from the School of Pharmacy after Perman left the room.

The “big crisis” that Perman alluded to occurred in Summer 2016, when the School of Pharmacy began to upgrade its $3 million audiovisual (A/V) system and contracted with a company to take out the old analog technology and replace it with full digital technology before the start of the fall semester.

“The project went out to bid, and we don’t have a lot of control over that process,” said McLean, who oversees A/V systems for the School, which maintains a satellite campus at the Universities at Shady Grove in Rockville, Md., and does a lot of videoconferencing, lecture recordings, and interactive applications.

Although the contractor was awarded the upgrading project in May, the company did not begin work until the end of June. By late July, its team had only completed the demolition, leaving the nearly 50 lines that run throughout Pharmacy Hall and carry A/V signals — content, video, audio, control — still not working.

“Classes begin in mid-August,” said McLean. “As someone who has worked in this field for nearly 20 years, it quickly became apparent to me that the company wasn’t going to be able to complete the project.”

The original contract was terminated with the lines still not functioning, but McLean learned the day before students returned that the integrated system also was not working. “It was interesting,” he recalls.

Beginning classes for students enrolled in the School’s Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program the next day without A/V services was not an option, as the School’s satellite campus is fully dependent on distance-learning technology. Had classes started in Baltimore and not at Shady Grove, there would have been an equity issue, so McLean and his three-person team jumped in with both feet.

Fortunately, his team were not strangers to such disasters. A flood in 2011 almost took out the A/V control room at the School, while a ruptured pipe in 2015 flooded the north end of Pharmacy Hall and took out A/V service to several of the main lecture halls.

“We had ‘disaster carts’ that we had developed for the old system,” says McLean. “We modified them in such a way that they could handle videoconferencing and lecture recordings without an integrated system. I built a series of videoconferencing carts and Mediasite recording carts that I then tied into the existing systems in the rooms to get us up and running.”

After some long days and sleepless nights, the crisis passed with the next-in-line bidder coming aboard to help with the task, which is still ongoing.

“Bill was up to the challenge and fashioned an improvised A/V infrastructure to allow us to deliver our PharmD courses, keeping the curriculum on track at both the Baltimore and Shady Grove campuses,” said Tim Munn, assistant dean for information technology, and Shannon Tucker, MS, assistant dean for instructional design and technology, who nominated McLean for the award. “His creativity and leadership of the School’s A/V group ensured that coursework continued on schedule, eliminating any need to consider alternate facilities, compressed course schedules, or an extended semester. The School is indebted to his leadership and technical skills during this trying time.”

William J. Cooper, senior associate dean for administration and finance at the School, adds, “Bill has overcome significant obstacles time and again since he joined the staff at the School of Pharmacy, including our expansion to the Shady Grove campus, the construction of the Pharmacy Hall addition, and now this critical A/V upgrade. He rose to meet the challenge each time, and the School greatly appreciates and values his efforts.”

McLean said he was honored to be named UMB’s Employee of the Month.

“In a position like mine, you tend to hear a lot of bad news and you don’t very often hear the good news, so this is just very nice,” said McLean. “I thank my team for their hard work, as well as for making me look good. I also thank Tim and Shannon for nominating me, and of course, Natalie D. Eddington, PhD, FCP, FAAPS, dean and professor of the School, and Bill Cooper for agreeing to finance the upgrade and support our advanced programs.”

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