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GPN CyberTeam Uses Mentoring Program to Grow Their Network

The Great Plains region was settled by pioneers. Spread out homesteads fostered a feeling of community and camaraderie that persists to this day. This heritage continued when Great Plains Network (GPN) members submitted a grant proposal for and were awarded the Campus Cyberinfrastructure Team: Great Plains Regional CyberTeam (NSF award #1925681) in 2019.

The CyberTeam leverages expertise and a willingness to help others. Many universities have only a few research computing staff. There are few well-developed training programs, and new staff often learn on the job. Experienced system administrators, network engineers and educators, learn a wide variety of software and skills over the years. One CyberTeam goal is to collect this expertise and create a best practice guide to share with new staff. The CyberTeam does this by connecting experienced Mentor Institutions with newer Mentee Institutions and then growing a network of institutions who share expertise and support.

The CyberTeam operates via one-on-one engagements. Each engagement is tailored to the Mentee university to serve their unique needs. A future Mentee contacts one of the CyberTeam members and answers a few questions. Then the CyberTeam sends more detailed questions to match expertise with desire. The Mentors and Mentees meet online for a few weeks and then determine a site visit and long-term goals which may include activities such as the hosted Software Carpentries Workshop, which teaches researchers basic programming skills.

The team’s initial engagement was at the University of South Dakota. The tangible outcomes from the weekly, on-line meeting and site visit included streamlined workflows for two research labs and a Software Carpentry Workshop held two weeks later. The most important outcome was intangible; the quick development of personal relationships. The team’s activities created connections that allowed Mentees to feel comfortable asking Mentors questions at any time.

What does the CyberTeam do for regional research and education networks? It provides opportunities to develop relationships at universities beyond the CIOs. It also provides insight into the research occurring on the campuses and a better understanding of the significance of the bits that flow over their networks. As R&E networks facilitate more use of both commercial and research cloud resources, these relationships and understandings are invaluable. When and where do bits go? What new projects may begin? What new interconnects should be explored? All these can be answered with CyberTeam interaction.

If you would like more information about the Great Plains Regional CyberTeam or are interested in applying for an engagement, feel free to contact one of the leadership team: Timothy Middelkoop (PI) (middelkoopt at missouri.edu), University of Missouri; Daniel Andresen (Co-PI) (dan at ksu.edu), Kansas State University; Carrie Brown (Co-PI) (carrie.brown at unl.edu), University of Nebraska-Lincoln; James Deaton (Co-PI) (jed at greatplains.net), Great Plains Network; George R Louthan IV (Co-PI), University of Oklahoma; Kevin Brandt (SP) (kevin.brandt at sdstate.edu), South Dakota State University; Ryan Johnson (SP) (ryan.johnson at usd.edu), University of South Dakota.