From humble beginnings, the Computer Consultants Association (CCA) has grown into one of UCD's largest special interest groups. What started out as a small coffee group in 1988 has evolved into an organization that boasts a mailing list over 900 strong.
According to Paul Rivette, the association's president, the CCA provides a forum for the campus community to learn about all aspects of computers. "As a group, we're driven by whatever the campus wants to see. If a number of people have a problem connecting to the campus network, for example, we'll have a meeting to explain that. We also showcase the latest hardware and software that's coming out," Rivette said.
By drawing on the specialties of almost all the UCD departments, the CCA brings a wide range of information to its members. "The association tries to get specialized information from each department out to the computing public. The meetings are a great way to keep up on the latest technology," said Jennifer Koester, the manager of the Center for Information Technology, who has served as the association's vice president in the past.
The CCA serves as the umbrella group for several smaller special interest groups (SIGs), such as the Geography Information Systems SIG and the Database SIG. Darby Rivette, the secretary of the CCA, chairs the Desktop Publishing SIG. She feels her involvement in this SIG complements her role as a computer research specialist for the department of Chemical Engineering and Material Science. "The SIG enables me to keep up with the ever-changing world of desktop publishing. My experience as chair of the SIG is invaluable to me as a computer professional."
Given the obvious overlap in subject matter of the CCA and Information Technology, a casual observer might assume the CCA is part of IT. Actually the CCA and IT fill independent but complimentary roles on campus.
While acknowledging the important contribution IT has made to the CCA, Paul Rivette emphasized the CCA's own distinct identity: "IT has been very generous in its support of the CCA providing both funding and equipment. But the CCA is a campus special interest group. It's run by volunteers, and our whole purpose is to serve the campus community."
Katie Stevens, who works within IT as a network systems programmer, explained why the CCA needs to remain autonomous. "The separation between the CCA and IT guarantees that the CCA gets the clients' perspective rather than IT's perspective. The organization has a lot to offer the campus. And we look forward to a productive and continuing relationship with them," Stevens said.
Taking into account the busy schedules of UCD employees, the CCA organizes meetings carefully. "We structure our meetings around the lunch hour. Everyone is welcome, not just those people typically thought of as computer people. If someone is willing to give up their lunch hour for a CCA meeting, we're glad to see them," Paul Rivette said.
The CCA has among four to ten meetings a month. Anyone interested in attending a CCA event should look out for the CCA flyers that are sent regularly to each campus department.