When Chris Clough first met Fred Westermann, he sometimes found it a little hard to get a word in edgewise.
“We walked around campus for about an hour, and I answered a lot of questions,” Clough says. “Fred is so enthusiastic about IT. I was constantly impressed by his knowledge of technology, new and old.”
Clough is an IT manager with ITS Enterprise Services, working with colleagues in the Division of Student Life. Westermann is recent graduate from Liberty High School. They met thanks to Judy Warth, a program manager for the Center for Disabilities and Development (CDD) at the Stead Family Children’s Hospital who works with the Iowa City Community School District to match area high schoolers with career-oriented opportunities.
“Our work experience programs help students with disabilities build skills and transition to employment after high school,” Warth says. “They’re based on the understanding that the earlier students explore potential careers, the more likely they are to land jobs, go to college, or reach other goals.”
What started as a February campus walkabout has become an ongoing job-shadow experience for Westermann, a potential opportunity for other area high school students, and a newfound passion for Clough.
“I’m enthusiastic about this partnership because it hits close to home,” he says. “My niece has Down Syndrome and uses CDD services. I want her to grow up with the same opportunities as everyone else, and I’m committed to making that possible, personally and professionally.”
After meeting Westermann, Clough registered a program called OneIT High School Job Shadow (all initiatives inviting minors to campus need university review). He and colleagues set about planning an experience to match Westermann’s interests.
Since April, Westermann has regularly returned to campus to spend a few hours a week with the team. Given his technical proficiency and historical interests, projects with the History of Technology Lab (HOTLab) are a natural fit.
Developed by Jenna Supp-Montgomerie, associate professor of religious studies and communication studies, HOTLab offers a space where students, faculty, and researchers can explore old media and deepen their experience with technology. Clough learned about the lab while researching potential campus opportunities that matched Westermann’s interests.
“One project involved researching and repairing an RCA Victor TV from 1954,” Clough says. “Fred came up with the great idea of chaining together some additional components and turning that classic black and white TV into a digital sign.”
Clough has put Westermann to work on other tasks, too, including reimaging Swipe stations for University Housing and Dining and consulting on queries to Student Life’s support team.
“Fred’s been a terrific resource for just about any hardware question—he’s certainly taught me a few things,” Clough says. “I’d like to get him involved with our Learning Spaces Technology Group, as they plan and set up equipment like projectors, sound systems, and control racks. It’s a great fit with Fred’s hardware knowledge.”
Going forward, Clough would like to explore opportunities for other high school students, especially those with disabilities. He imagines all kinds of intersections between technology and career goals, or even a framework that other units could adopt.
“Fred just happened to have an interest in IT. Other job-shadow volunteers might want to explore a trade career, create content, teach, etc.,” he says. “Experiences like this serve our inclusion and equity goals, and showing potential students and staff all the exciting things happening on campus is the cherry on top.”