Bullock Named Outstanding Staff Member of the Year

Portrait of man.
Aaron Bullock, Outstanding Staff Member of the Year

Every year, the Arkansas Association of Community Colleges holds a recognition ceremony for staff, faculty, students, and alumni, among the state's two-year colleges.

Aaron Bullock, formerly a member of the college's I.T. department, recently the faculty as a computer information systems instructor. Before he transitioned, staff at UACCM voted him as staff member of the year. 
 
Below, Aaron describes his journey to UACCM, his previous job duties in the I.T. department, and his role at aiding the college during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tell me about where you are from—your hometown and what it was like growing up there.

I am from Prescott, Arkansas. I grew up on a cattle farm there, and I learned to appreciate the outdoors and my work ethic on the farm. It’s a small town, but it'll always be my home. I still enjoy going home and working on the farm with my parents.

 

Tell me what led you into the information technology field?

Growing up I thought I was either going to be a farmer or going to work in a factory, because that's just that's the only thing that's available. I went to college at Central Baptist because my brother went there, and that's when I got out of Prescott. I enjoyed it. I had a work-study job as a computer lab overseer. So I stayed in there and just kept the doors unlocked. I played games on the computer until it was time to lock them back.

I’ve had several jobs throughout the years, and it just so happened I was working at a janitorial job at a church in Russellville. When we had our second child and I wasn't getting paid enough to take care of both of them in daycare. Daycare was eating every single cent of my check, so I decided to quit my job and raise my children myself, so I stayed at home with my kids for two years. My wife and I were talking about what my dream job would be, and the number one thing that came to my mind was I would like to go home and not have to immediately take a shower. I've always liked technology.

I decided I want to learn about computers. Because I would go to Best Buy to get one of my computers fixed and they said they would charge me a $100. I said I'm going to learn how to do it myself.

 

What led you to attend UACCM as a student?

I looked around, and the CIS department is here. We live close to Russellville, so it's not a very hard drive for me. It's also less expensive than some of these four-year schools. So I thought I'd get my two years here and if I go further I'll go somewhere else.

 

What are your job responsibilities?

The list is forever morphing. I've been trying to learn from Jason, and I picked up quite a few things for him. So the things that I can understand, I take care and just take a little more off of his shoulders.

But as far as my responsibilities I answer the phone and the emails for the help desk until we got our part-time helpers. I take care of right now the all the multi-factor authentication work that we're doing. But I'm always learning how to do new stuff around here. It never stops.

 

What do you like most about your job?

It's fun for me to go in help someone solve a problem and make their day better when I leave. That's part of my motivation: to see that smile at the end of every ticket. I also enjoy the problem solving. I've always loved puzzles and just figuring stuff out. That's what drew me to I.T. What I like about the job, it's there's always something different it's never the same problem, and if it is there's more to learn about how to solve that problem faster.

 

The pandemic put such a big emphasis on technology. What role did I.T. play to get everyone to learn and work remotely?

Well the first thing we had to do was make sure that people could still work. So we gathered together a bunch of laptops that the library had. We ordered new laptops. We had some Surface Pros. We worked on getting faculty and staff able to remote into their office computer, so it's like they're working from their office.

We put cameras in all the classes for synchronous learning to where the teachers can talk to both students there and students at home. I.T. is getting all the wireless capabilities beefed up around campus. Beforehand you can only really access our Wi-Fi from inside the buildings. Now we're trying to get to where you can just park in the parking lot get on your laptop and go to classes there. So for those students who don't have Wi-Fi at home, they can come to our campus parking lot and be able to access it.

 

What is something your campus colleagues would be surprised to know about you?

I have been horseback riding in Ireland. I had no idea what I wanted to do until I actually started taking classes here.

I'm a huge closet nerd. I would watch cartoons over some movies just because the storyline is more interesting to me. But I put that part of me away when I come to work. I'm professional and I do my job, but if you ever start talking comic books with me or superheroes, I could get sidetracked pretty easily. My favorite cartoon depends on what I'm watching at the time. I'm more of a fan of like the 90s, like the Spider-Man, X-Men, and the Gargoyles cartoons.

 

What personal and/or professional accomplishment are you most proud of?

Definitely my family. I have boy number four on the way and they're amazing like you if you ever walked into Walmart and a kid didn't get his chocolate bar, they would just throw fits. My kids would ask me, ‘Hey can I have a chocolate bar?’ And I'm like, ‘No not right now.’ And they're just like, ‘Okay.’ They’re not fighting me. I feel like my wife and I have done an awesome job with our kids.

The amount of knowledge I learned at I.T. in the short time is an accomplishment for me. I learned my work ethic on the farm, but I've been able to carry it with me. Because you know on a farm you can't halfway feed the cows and then go home. You got to see the job through to the end. That's helped me along.

 

Tell me about your reaction about being voted as staff member of the year by your colleagues.

It was pretty nice to see my name on that list when I got nominated because that validated my hard work. Honestly I didn't know how to react to when I got the news. I was on top of a 14-foot ladder with my head stuck in a ceiling. [laughing] I didn't have the ability to jump and shout and everything. My phone dinged, I picked it up looked, and it said congratulations to Aaron for staff of the year. I thought, ‘That’s awesome’ and I had to put my phone back in my pocket and keep running the cable. I was very flattered.

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