Reflections on the First Ever ITS Tech Fair

January 13, 2020
Brett Bean

A Tech Fair for Gonzaga

Building the Tech Fair

On Wednesday, October 2nd, Gonzaga Information Technology Services (ITS) Department held its first-ever Tech Fair in the Hemmingson Ballroom. The idea was simple: gather as many different groups involved in tech around Gonzaga into one fun, light event that students, faculty, and staff could attend and learn about all of the different technology aspects of Gonzaga, and even some around Spokane. Over the course of five hours, this vision was realized for the over five hundred people who attended, with lots of prizes, pizza, and fun demonstrations along the way.

The idea for a Tech Fair had been kicking around ITS for a few years before now, but it wasn’t until this past February that they finally decided to make the leap and organize the event. “We decided, ‘yep, we’ll do it,’ picked a date, and just ran with it,” said Julie Tibbs, the lead organizer of the event. “We wanted to expose students, staff, and faculty to all the different things out there, not only with external partners but internal partners within Gonzaga as well.”

The event saw representatives from a variety of different departments and companies, with tables for Amazon Web Services, Banner, Oracle, Xfinity, Zoom, the Engineering Department, and more.

Finding New Technology

With so many different vendors present in the ballroom at the same time, the event could easily have seemed intimidating after initially walking in. But, thanks to a well-thought out plan and a smooth entry process headed by some friendly ITS staff members, many visitors found the event to be a positive and beneficial experience. “It was probably the best organized department fair I’ve ever been to,” said one student who attended. “All the vendors were really helpful and open to explaining what exactly they did, which as someone without a lot of tech experience, I really appreciated.” ITS work-study Bri Barrick saw the benefit of the event in a similar way. “I think it’s a really great way for people who maybe don’t know about all of Gonzaga’s technology services to find out about it in a way that’s engaging,” she said.

Though students, staff, and faculty all seemed to enjoy the vendors and information once at the event, Tibbs knew they would have to get creative in order to entice even more people to head up to the third floor of Hemmingson for the event in the first place. “The best marketing element was definitely the five hours of free pizza,” Tibbs said with a laugh. The giveaway prizes—including things like Airpods, TVs, gaming consoles, and more—given out every ten minutes certainly didn’t hurt either. “I think if you get people there, then they’re just like ‘Oh!’ and they realize how much in their everyday work life or student life they touch all those things that are IT,” Tibbs said.

Understanding what was available, and what they were already using without realizing it seemed to be a recurring theme for many visitors. Chelsea Tau’a hosted a booth with Training Services, and got to interact with many students, faculty, and staff firsthand. “I asked them if they knew about Gonzaga’s subscription to a 24/7 e-learning service called Hoonuit,” Tau’a recalls. “Some of them remembered Atomic Learning and were surprised to know we still had access to that learning content. But many more people had not heard of it and were genuinely thrilled to know they had free access to thousands of videos.” Kara Hughes, another booth manager at the fair, had a similar experience. “I was surprised by the number of interested and informed questions about Microsoft apps offered within Office 365,” she says. “I made connections that I was able to follow up with after the event. I was able to run through quick SharePoint demos and trainings, garnering interest in the platform. It was a very productive day!”

What's Next for the Tech Fair?

If you’re feeling sad about missing out on this year’s Tech Fair, then despair no more: next year’s Tech Fair is already scheduled for October 7th, 2020, and Tibbs hopes to make the event even better the second time around. “I’d love to up attendance, up venders, get even more and better prizes.” Tibbs plans to make the event an annual occurrence, and the future of the Tech Fair is looking bright.