Dan Gieckel Named October Employee of the Month

Posted: October 1, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Nick Walker

Dan Gieckel with award
Dan Gieckel with his award.
Creative Services photo

Step into Dan Gieckel’s compact office in Innovation Hall, and the first thing you notice are the rows of computer monitors and video screens lining the walls.

Connected to a powerful array of high-tech gadgetry that doesn’t leave room for much else, the setup resembles a military command center or perhaps a video gamer’s dream come true.

In actuality, Gieckel’s office serves as the communications hub for Mason’s videoconferencing program, part of DoIT – Educational Media Services.

Even more impressive than this equipment is Gieckel’s ability to simultaneously coordinate conferences while speaking with visitors. This is just one reason among many that he was selected as Mason’s Employee of the Month for October.

As he spoke with a visitor, Gieckel effortlessly set up a videoconference between a transit and public policy class and the Virginia Department of Transportation, taking about two minutes for the entire process.

“Yeah, they’re all preprogrammed, all pretested,” Gieckel says casually. “Normally, you want to do a videoconference, you call us, we call the other end, set up a test. It’s a pretty simple process.”

Gieckel has a knack for making difficult tasks look easy.

“Some of my students have never used web conferencing tools,” says Shahron Williams van Rooij, an assistant professor in the Instructional Technology Program.

“When I schedule the start-of-term orientation sessions, which are always after 7 p.m. in the evening, Dan makes himself available and assists students who experience set-up challenges, even if it means setting up another date or time to help a student. Dan works with the student until technical issues are resolved.”

Though Gieckel has no difficulty explaining the most baffling technological terms in plain English, he is more reserved when it comes to his own award this month.

“Actually, I’m a little embarrassed,” Gieckel says. “I’m not too big on being the center of attention. Making public speeches is actually a phobia of mine.”

Being comfortable behind the scenes makes Gieckel well suited for his job of the past two years, coordinating videoconferencing at Mason. Previously, he worked with the front-end of videoconferencing at the Arlington Campus of Virginia Tech for five years.

Gieckel’s office sometimes provides services to students who may not be able to attend classes.

“We can record any of the graduate classes, so if someone misses a class, they can get a recording,” Gieckel says. “A student was in Egypt at one point and was able to pull up a webstream to watch what was going on and participate over the phone. We do this on an emergency basis, not all the time, due to our limited number of connections.”

Videoconferencing often takes place outside of the classroom environment. When Florida resident John Creuziger won Employee of the Month for September, Gieckel was on hand to set up a conference for the awards ceremony.

When he isn’t at Mason, you might find Gieckel in Pennsylvania.

“Recently, my sister had twins, so I’ve been spending every weekend going up to West Chester to help out with the kids. They also have a two-year-old, so I go up to lend a hand.”

Gieckel also enjoys golf, a sport he often plays with his brother-in-law.

“I love football, too, and watch a lot of college football,” Gieckel says. “I wish Mason had a team as well.”

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