January/February 2008

The Communicator :: January/February 2008

Sensitive Information

The Importance of Sensitive Information

Many MTSU personnel handle sensitive information as part of their regular job duties. This includes Social Security numbers, drivers license numbers, banking account information, and health information, to name a few. These examples are types of sensitive information known as Personally Identifiable Information (PII).

PII makes it easy to quickly identify an individual using a unique number and was originally used to tell one individual from another, even if two people have the same name. Unfortunately, criminals can use PII to steal another person's identity for fraudulent activities. These activities may include financial gain, academic gain or hiding the criminal's true identity.

One of the reasons for today's identity theft problem is that PII numbers are not only used for personal identification but also for authentication or proof of identity. Knowing PII numbers means being able to tell people apart and also to prove who they are, though the proof may be weak. For authentication to work, one piece of information is needed to tell one person from another (identifying information), and there must be a way to prove the individual is indeed that person. A username/password is a classic example. Usernames identify different people; passwords are used to prove that people are who they claim to be.

Because people have historically used PII to prove identity, institutions and businesses are in the position of having to protect such information to help prevent identity theft. Adding additional security to a network or a server does help some, but much of the protection of the PII data and all types of sensitive information needs to be done by individual employees who handle the data.

The simplest way of protecting the data is to not have it: if sensitive information is not needed it should not be kept on a computer or in hard copy. MTSU has been changing over from using Social Security numbers to using M Numbers to identify students. These numbers are localized to the campus and would not be of much use outside of the university.

If the data must be kept on a computer, it should be encrypted when transmitted and stored. Encrypting data means that any sensitive information is scrambled so that only people who need to see the data can unscramble it. Information that is transmitted via email is not encrypted; it may be possible for third parties to view the data while the email is being delivered. Because of this, sensitive information should never be sent via email. If a spreadsheet is stored unencrypted on a PC and contains sensitive information, anyone who has access to the PC (and any computer viruses which have access to the PC) could read the data. Encrypting the spreadsheet would make it harder for third-party individuals and viruses to access the information.

There have been a number of recent news stories about costly computer breaches where people have been notified that their information may have been accessed. These notifications are many times the result of laws mandating that customers must be notified when a computer with unencrypted information has been breached. If the data were encrypted then the computer would have been breached but not necessarily the data, and therefore the notifications may not be needed.

Users should look for any sensitive information and ask themselves if it is really needed. If not, it should be removed or destroyed. If the information is needed then it should be protected with encryption both while being transmitted and while being stored. No one should ever send an email with a Social Security number or other pieces of sensitive information in the message. The new M numbers on campus are not considered sensitive information at this point and may be emailed unencrypted.

These are a few of the best practices, but if you have a specific security-related question, please contact ITD. There are also several security-related workshops available each semester to MTSU faculty, staff, administration, and graduate assistants at no cost. Contact information and workshop schedules are available at the ITD Security Group Web site at http://www.mtsu.edu/~security .

Staff Laptop Checkout Program

The faculty/staff laptop checkout program is one of many services provided by the ITD Help Desk. This program provides laptops and projectors for full-time university employees attending conferences and special programs. Equipment is loaned for a maximum of seven days, with reservations accepted up to one month in advance. The equipment is for University use only. Department requestors are responsible for the repair or replacement of lost or damaged equipment. Interested employees may contact the Help Desk at 898-5345 or visit www.mtsu.edu/~itdsupp/helpdesk for additional information.

ERP Update

Banner Student

  • Access reporting views were reviewed and specific data fields were approved for removal from select views that will be placed in the General Campus folder. Data fields that were removed included sensitive as well as incomplete or misleading information. For example, SSN and disability information was removed to protect sensitive information while holds was removed to protect sensitive information while holds were removed because only five hold types could be identified for display, which would have resulted in incomplete information.
  • The team reviewed and approved the plan for reduced Parts of Term for summer, and the plan was submitted to Dr. Gebert for review and approval.
  • The status of census was discussed, and processes were reviewed related to the PR address type and residency codes.

Financial Aid

  • Financial Aid has been reporting Lottery Expenditures to TSAC for reimbursement.
  • Banner ROPROLL processes are being reviewed for the 2008-09 Award Year.
  • Scholarship awards for 2008-09 fiscal year are underway.
  • SAP monitoring for Spring Term 2008 is in progress.


  • Advancement Services has trained staff to process receipts. They completed approximately one hundred in a one day time frame.


  • The annual budget was submitted to TBR using the Banner budget module. TBR is still testing using the extract file to produce their consolidated reports for the system.
  • The Grants Post-Award Office continues to add new grants to the Grants Billing module with great success. As new grant awards are received, these will be added to the billing module. Several existing grants will be added unless they are close to the end of the grant period.
  • Several months worth of work with Evisions and SunTrust Bank have finally paid off. Evisions designed a new payroll check template and testing is in progress.
  • The daily cleared check file we receive from SunTrust Bank for payroll checks is now feeding into Banner Finance daily. The process was setup in AppWorx and will assist greatly in the reconciliation of the payroll bank account.
  • FI Team members presented sessions at the Tennessee Summit conference.

Campus Loan Management (CLM)

  • The Campus Loan Management system implementation has completed two conversions from the Plus Loan Management System. Interfaces to Banner Financial Aid and Banner Finance systems are currently being tested. The Campus Loan Management system is scheduled for go live mid-February 2008.

Human Resources

  • TBR system improvements are in process.
  • The Web Time Entry project is underway. This will provide new time reporting options in the Banner Payroll system.


  • Vendor training took place this fall for Workflow, a software package that allows electronic form/process distribution and approval.
  • MTSU hosted the Workflow training and consulting sessions for multiple TBR school attendees. Identity change management was used for the conceptual model process designed during the hands-on consultant site visit. Once the model is completed it will be distributed to all attendant schools for use.

Profile - Dr. Debrah Sickler-Voigt

At first, Dr. Debrah Sickler-Voigt was skeptical about online teaching.

Like many of us, Dr. Sickler-Voigt had come from an educational environment shaped by black boards, textbooks, classrooms, and clouds of chalk dust.

However, the MTSU assistant professor of art education changed her mind about using instructional technology tools after witnessing the profound effect it had on her students.

"I was at a conference at the National Art Education Association and had gone to a workshop by some professors I know, and they were talking about the neat things they had done with online teaching,"; she recalled. "They mentioned that some students are shy in a classroom setting and don't raise their hands or talk. But they participate more online.";

After her interest in online teaching was stimulated by the workshop, Sickler-Voigt immersed herself in copious research on the matter.

"I started to learn more about it,"; she said. "My real goal was to create a quality class. Since I'm teaching people to be teachers, it's my role to lead by example.";

Last summer, instead of kicking back at the swimming pool or socializing at barbecues, Dr. Sickler-Voigt used her time to learn the ins and outs of the newly implemented Desire 2 Learn (D2L) course management system and learning environment.

She then set out to design a multimedia Web site to provide her online students with an abundance of innovative resources at the touch of their fingertips.

"Since I'm teaching art education, my work has to be very visual,"; she said. "It has to look good because we're carrying a message. We want people to see the examples of the quality that we want them to achieve.";

The course was created to appeal to the senses. Her students can browse pictures, listen to narrations, and view animated flash programs on their path to become art teachers.

"Our goal is not to turn students into professional artists because that's not what they're here for,"; Dr. Sickler-Voigt said. "Our goal is to make them comfortable with using the art materials, knowing the resources and then feeling comfortable enough to give it to kids and let the kids have that opportunity because some of the students will become successful for the arts. So it's a win-win situation.";

Taking an Internet class can be a lonely and solitary endeavor, Sickler-Voigt said, and she sought to eliminate that loneliness in her online course.

"I'm always emailing my students, and they've got a lot of support,"; she said. "We're here to help one another. Without that support, it might feel lonely for some people."; An online discussion board enables students to communicate with one another.

Dr. Sickler-Voigt's online art education courses have especially been beneficial to students who don't have the time or resources to commute daily to campus.

"What's nice about this is that we're providing a service,"; said Sicker-Voigt. "We have people who live far away. We have people with young children or some caring for elderly parents. It just makes it more accessible to them.";

Originally from the sunny beaches of Miami, Fla., Dr. Sickler-Voigt obtained a bachelor's degree in art history and studio art from Florida State University. After three-years in Germany, where she studied art history and the German language, she returned to the U.S. and earned a master's in art education from Florida International University and a doctorate in art education from Florida State University in 2002.

Sickler-Voigt is writing a college textbook with Dr. Bonnie Rushlow titled Teaching Art: Methods for the Real World of Elementary and Middle School Art Education.

ITD Staff News

James Foster has joined ITD as director of database administration services and will be tasked with the installation, maintenance, and support for Oracle and SQL Server relational database systems including Banner ERP, LUMINIS, CORE, Resource25, Content Management, BlueInfo Data Warehouse, and Banner@BlueInfo.

Before joining ITD, James worked for Arnold Air Force Base as the team lead for the Database Administration Group. He also administered and maintained content for the Peoplesoft Portal system. James has an MBA from MTSU and a BBA from MTSU with a major in computer information systems. In addition, James is an Oracle Certified Professional and has CompTIA Security+ certification.

James resides in Murfreesboro with his 2-year-old daughter, Ella Grace. In his new position, James will endeavor to strengthen ITD's ability to support relational databases and their associated applications. He also seeks to help further expand and enhance MTSU's entrance into the data warehouse venture.

Tana McDonald is the Learning, Teaching, and Innovative Technology Center's new information research technician. Tana will oversee the day-to-day operations of the LT&ITC Web site, promote services, and arrange year-long events.

Originally from the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Ill., Tana moved to Nashville a few years ago to be closer to her son and grandchildren, who live in Murfreesboro.

After obtaining a master's degree in English from NYU, McDonald has worked within an educational setting for almost three decades and fully understands the challenges of helping students learn and prepare for an increasingly technological world. Tana has worked for nearly 30 years in academic publishing, primarily as an editor and marking manager. Since relocating to Nashville, McDonald has taught undergraduate level English and speech courses at Draughons Junior College. McDonald said the LT&ITC has much to offer the faculty at MTSU and hopes to support them in making each course an exciting experience.

Dan Copp has joined the Information Technology Division as an editorial assistant. Dan will edit ITD publications and information such as The Communicator, Tech Xpress, student handbooks, faculty/staff handbooks, numerous conference materials, brochures, and varied miscellaneous publications as the need arises.

Dan's other responsibilities include writing stories and gathering information for publications, organizing meetings, and layout and design. Before coming to MTSU, Dan worked in the newspaper industry for several years as a reporter covering local government, high school sports and community news.

A native Hoosier, Dan moved to Nashville in 2002 after graduating from Indiana State University with a B.A. in English. He moved to Murfreesboro in 2007.

Daniel Owen has come aboard ITD as an LAN administrator

Daniel will be responsible for the design, installation, purchase consulting, and maintenance of servers and local area networks for ITD and other departments within MTSU. He will also manage the Enterprise Microsoft Active Directory.

Daniel comes to ITD from the Country Music Association where he served as the senior manager of information technology.

Daniel earned a bachelor's degree in Computer Information Systems from Murray State University and a master's degree in Information Systems from MTSU. He is a Microsoft-certified systems engineer, GIAC-certified Windows security administrator, GIAC-certified intrusion analyst, and a GIAC-certified incident handler.

Daniel's other certifications include: GIAC Assessing and Auditing Wireless Networks, Security + (Comptia), Network+ (Comptia) and A+ (Comptia).

As an ITD and LAN administrator, Daniel plans to be proactive in managing and supporting systems in his care as well as assuring that the highest level of customer service is provided. Furthermore, he hopes to be able to assist his clients in getting the most of out their system resources.

Daniel lives in Antioch with his wife, Vanessa.

Eric Niemiller recently joined ITD as a Web specialist.

In this position, Eric will be tasked with providing consulting and support to the faculty and staff members who build departmental Web sites. Eric will also assist with HTML, FTP, content development, graphic design, style sheets, common gateway interface (CGI), providing information on the latest technologies, or resolving browser incompatibility issues.

Eric will act as one of MTSU's Web managers. He will design, build, and update the University's main pages, maintain the links between MTSU's main pages and subordinate pages, provide guidance in the application of MTSU's Web Page Policies and Procedures, and index the university's site for search engines.

Before coming to ITD, Eric worked as a computer/network support technician at the Lewisburg Printing Company in Lewisburg, where he assisted all employees and customers with computer/network questions and concerns.

Eric holds a bachelor's degree in marketing from the University of Evansville and earned an MBA in business administration from MTSU in 2003.

Eric said he would like to see the MTSU Web site adhere to the strictest of Web standards and serve as an example of what higher educational Web sites and Web applications should be.

Eric has called Murfreesboro home for nearly seven years and enjoys playing golf.

ITD system analyst JoAnn Batson was honored at the 13th Annual Distance Learning Appreciation Luncheon on Dec. 11 for her support of the College of Continuing Education and Distance Learning. JoAnn was lauded for her knowledge, experience, and dedication to providing excellent customer service to the MTSU community and was one of the six MTSU staff members nominated for this award. Before coming to MTSU in January 2001, JoAnn worked for the State of Tennessee for 18 years in Nashville.

Ronda Vaughter , Buddy Peaster, Tom Tozer, Gene Fitch, and Laura Sosh-Lightsy attended the Rave Wireless First Annual Users Conference at Montclair State University in Montclair, N.J., on November 13-14. The conference included training, presentations, and panel discussions on a variety of topics including emergency communication, Rave alert feature and best practices, how mobile technology is impacting higher education, embedding smartphones into the curriculum and Rave's software development strategies.

ITD Staff - Mike Parks

Keeping Up With Technology

Keeping up with the rapidly evolving world of technology is no easy feat.

First and foremost, one must be willing to embrace change as further technology develops.

Information Technology Department email communications specialist Mike Parks realized this a long time ago.

"Change is a common denominator of ITD,"; said Parks, who began his career at MTSU back in 1998 after serving more than 22 years in the U.S. Army. "You've got to be willing to change if you want to be successful in this job.";

As an email communications specialist, Parks researches the latest desktop programs and learns how to implement such technology on campus for the benefit of the university.

"I consider myself a 'super-user,'"; Parks said. "Everything I do involves researching the practical use of computers and technology.";

The technology at MTSU has undergone a metamorphosis since Parks came aboard IDT as a microcomputer specialist nearly a decade ago.

"Our network has definitely improved, both bandwidth and fiber,"; he remarked. "Plus, PDAs didn't exist back then. But no matter how much I try to learn, there's always something new. It's challenging keeping on top of all the technology.";

The wireless network implemented by MTSU didn't exist when Parks first stepped foot on campus nine years ago.

Parks, who is an aficionado of military history and active outdoorsman, attributes his technological savvy to the years he spent in uniform. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in 1975 through the ROTC program, Parks entered the military, where he acquired valuable skills in the areas of public relations, administration, personal relations, and computers.

Nearly 30 years after graduating with his bachelor's degree, Parks furthered his education by earning a master's degree in computer information systems online using the G.I. Bill.

Parks, a Dell-certified technician, sometimes calls himself a jack-of-all-trades. He recently finished serving as the acting classroom technology director following the retirement of Steve Brooks last January. Mike's duties also include assisting the president's office with technological issues.

"ITD is certainly an important division of MTSU,"; Parks said. "Certainly, as technology develops, it becomes more and more important for day-to-day classroom and other University operations. Everybody relies on it more and more. So I'm glad the university continues to support the idea of technology.";

Parks lives in Cannon County with his wife Deborah, who graduated MTSU with a master's degree in special education and is one of four behavioral specialists working in the Rutherford County school system.

ITD Spring Workshops

ITD Workshops Available for Faculty and Staff

Be sure to sign up for the ITD workshops available in spring 2008

Get started with computer graphic programs such as Illustrator; edit and enhance pictures with Photoshop; get familiar with Word 2007, Excel 2007, and Access; learn to design Web pages with Dreamweaver; get trained in D2L; and more!

Registration is required (except where noted)

  • Register on the Web or call ITD at ext. 5345
  • Most workshops are offered at the ITD Training Center in the Telecommunication Building
  • Classes are filled on a first-come, first-served basis
  • If you register for a class but are unable to attend, please call ITD at ext. 5345 at least 24 hours before the workshop to give others a chance to register

Individual consultation for instructional technology needs can be requested by calling ext. 8189. Other workshops are available upon request. See our Web site for more information.