Brian Phillip, an IT specialist in the College of Education’s Learning Resources Center (LRC), was named by the Auburn University Office of Human Resources as the December 2019 winner of the Spirit of Excellence award in recognition of his years of outstanding service to students, faculty, and staff.
Phillip, whose father was in the United States Air Force, moved around as a child but considers Montana his “growing up” home. With many relatives and friends in Big Sky Country, his father was assigned to Redstone Arsenal in 1993 and his family moved to Huntsville, where Phillip graduated from S.R. Butler High School.
“As a senior, I made a visit to Auburn, and I just walked around the campus and pretty much fell in love with the place,” he said. “I applied and was accepted as a freshman in 1994, and have been here ever since.”
As a mass communications major, Phillip interned on campus at the Educational Television studio and ended up being hired there full time in March of 1999.
“We would work across campus with different units, recording and editing videos for educational purposes,” he said. “Eventually our unit was tasked with streaming graduations, and I was able to get experience streaming video content, an area not many people knew very much about. A couple of years later my supervisor Larry Shaw gave me a job posting for a College of Education IT specialist in distance education. I interviewed with Dr. (Susan) Bannon, director of the LRC, was offered the position, and began working there in the Fall of 2004.”
While Phillip has many stories about his experiences in the LRC, one stands out.
“I was assisting a former faculty member, Amy Sue Reilly, with her distance ed course, and for a couple of months, she kept saying she had a former student I should meet,” Phillip recalled. “On July 26, 2005, I came in to shut down the equipment after her class, and was introduced to Andrea. It was somewhat embarrassing for both of us, but we decided to go have dinner at Mellow Mushroom that evening. We really hit it off and exchanged numbers. A little over a year later, we were married.”
They now have four children, Haggin, Montana, Madison and Mary. Each of the children’s names has a reference to Montana. With their ages between four and 11, they take up most of Phillip’s time and attention when he is not at work.
“We’re pretty busy with the kids and their activities and Andrea works as a teacher in Valley, Alabama. But we still try to make time on July 26 to go to Mellow Mushroom and order what we ordered that night all those years ago: a calzone for me and a Greek salad for her. It’s funny the way things worked out. Growing up, I never imagined I’d be settled down and have an incredible family and a great job in Alabama, but everything just fell into place.”
Change is the constant in the LRC
Coming on board in 2004, the LRC was using the same streaming platform as the television studio, so Phillip’s initial transition was smooth.
“A lot of the early days involved recording classes directly to the Realmedia server or converting videos to be hosted on the server. My previous job provided me with enough familiarity and understanding of the equipment and software that I was able to hit the ground running,” Phillip said. “How all the technology is set up to record content, then upload and share it with people, can be very confusing. Of course, now the technology has advanced to where almost anyone can do all of this with their phone. Accordingly, it keeps me on my toes and I have to keep adapting to new technologies and determine how it can be used by faculty, staff, and students.”
“A big change came when we moved away from Realmedia to using Panopto. That was a challenge for me. I needed to demonstrate and convince that Panopto would work for our faculty and their programs, who were so invested in using Realmedia. Auburn University licensing Panopto gave everyone on campus a great tool that can be used for any course – distance or on-campus. Such software benefits everyone. We were able to install equipment into multiple classrooms which allowed for more recording capability for a class. The constraints of scheduling a specialized room were gone. It also provided faculty and students flexibility. They could now install the software on their computer and record content in their office or at home. Zoom is another software platform that Auburn University has licensed across campus and is used in the College of Education. It’s nice that units across campus have come together to find technology that everyone at Auburn can utilize. Everyone benefits.”
“A lot of my job now includes making sure technology in rooms is functional for classes. I also try to assist instructors with how to utilize the technology and feel comfortable when using during class,” Phillip continued. “How does an instructor go into a classroom and teach effectively, and have that captured so online students feel they are getting the same information as if they were sitting in the classroom? That’s the challenge. Everyone teaches in his or her own unique way, so I try to understand how they’ll be teaching and make them feel like the technology is a normal part of the class.”
Aside from his actual job duties, Phillip has enjoyed seeing the growth of the LRC and how it is used more and more by students in a variety of ways.
“The LRC has always been a place for patrons, but after some renovations a couple of years ago, it has become more like a commons with an inviting, student-friendly feel. Students can come use a computer, print out documents for class, study, work collaboratively, or maybe just lounge around and talk with friends or classmates. A lot of people frequent the LRC and most are looking for help. I enjoy the challenge of seeing who is going to walk in with a question – any question – and see if I or someone in the LRC can help them in a way that when they leave, they feel like they have really been helped. Rising to the challenge is fulfilling. Coming to work and knowing that you have a new and unique opportunity to help every day is exciting.”
“Dr. Bannon has always looked at the Learning Resources Center and asked, ‘What can we do to better help our students and faculty?’ Technology and support have always been a big part of the LRC. Meeting the current needs of faculty and students requires adjustment and growth. With our growth, we enable the college to do more and offer more. It’s been great to be a part of that.”
Phillip said there has always been a close-knit group of people who work there.
“Collaboration is the key,” he said. “If one person needs help, there is always someone they can turn to for assistance. It’s a model of teamwork. Dr. Bannon has been a big part of fostering this within the LRC.”
“In my time here, she has been very supportive in how I’ve grown in this job. She’s always encouraged and provided me with the tools I need to support our faculty, staff, and students. She is very forward-looking and an adaptable leader.”
Bannon said Phillip has brought a great deal to the LRC and its positive evolution over the years.
“To me, Brian is the unsung hero of our work here in the LRC,” she said. “He provides outstanding service to our faculty and staff. No one ever wonders how the instructional technology will work in our classrooms, they just know it is always there and always working. That happens largely because of Brian’s attention to detail and doing things ahead of time. He is meticulous in his work, but also in his attention to schedules and solving problems before they arise. He has been a great staff member from day one, and I just consider him the unsung hero of our organization.”
Phillip has lots of memories of colleagues who have come and gone in his time in the LRC.
“I was one of three new hires that Fall. We were newbies, but we joined a team of great people,” he said. “These included Yvonne Chamblee, Byron Tolbert, Thomas Flowers, Altamese Stroud-Hill, Harriet Huggins, and Mike Dement. Even when these coworkers left, the LRC has continued to add great people to our team. New hires bring new ideas and it’s nice to know that as much as I’ve learned from everyone, I’m not the one with all the answers. It’s a team spirit here. I think it will always be that way.”