Full-Time Student Meets Full-Time Employee

Brian Kelleher at work at the Lakeside Building on Feb. 18, 2016. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)
Brian Kelleher '17 (SFA) successfully combines dual roles as a student and a web developer for University Communications. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

SHARELINES

When the question is: “Apple or PC?” Brian Kelleher ’17 (SFA), answers with a rueful admission.

“I’ve loved PCs all my life, but I’ve recently become a fan of Apple because of all the tools they give me,” he says, then adds with a smile, “It’s something I argue about with people all the time.”

While Kelleher can handle either operating system with ease, his reasons for choosing one or the other relate directly to his dual responsibilities as full-time student and full-time web developer in University Communications. While he says he does occasionally feel sleep-deprived, this hard-working undergraduate still manages to thrive while balancing the demands of two important roles.

In fact, his skills can clearly be seen on the latest iteration of the University’s primary news source, UConn Today. Working alongside seasoned web pros, graphic designers, writers, and editors, his first ‘real job’ after being hired was helping to get the newly redesigned site up and running on a tight schedule.

A native of Newington, Conn., Kelleher was like a lot of other high school juniors and seniors when he was thinking about college. He admits that the lure of getting away from familiar surroundings was pretty attractive, and UConn wasn’t terribly high on his list of schools.

“All that changed after I finally decided to come for a tour,” he says, “because I immediately felt at home, and I knew I could take advantage of all the things UConn offered.”

As it turns out, one of the things he was offered before he’d even officially started classes was a job as a student employee in the Graduate School, and that’s where he got his first taste of web design. He’d taken several courses in computer programming while he was in high school, and was initially hired to do some basic IT tasks and provide departmental support for various computer issues that invariably pop up in busy offices. But then the Graduate School decided to redo its website, and Kelleher was asked if he’d like to help out.

“I was hooked,” he says. “I’d never touched a web code before but I loved it, and that’s when I decided to switch from a computer engineering track to the Digital Media Department, where I’m concentrating on web design and development.”

One of the things that he loves about his academic department is its emphasis on independent thinking and project development as a way of measuring student success. In fact, it was while he was taking a course in advanced web design that Kelleher found out about the job opening in University Communications.

“I decided to go for it,” he says, “knowing that I would be competing for a position against a lot of other qualified applicants. But by the middle of my sophomore year, I was pretty confident that this was a career path I wanted to take, and when I looked at the requirements for the job I knew that I would at least be competitive.”

The search committee agreed, and at the end of May 2015 he was hired as a full-time employee with the immediate assignment of helping on the redesign of UConn Today.

So how does the ‘new kid in the department’ react to immediately jumping in on a high-profile project?

He’s diplomatic in answering questions about the challenges of working in a pivotal role – where he often encountered multiple different suggestions on how to make a strong product even better. “Trying to translate the sometimes chaotic world of web development to those who produce great content has been a new experience,” he says. “I like to think of it as providing ‘technical translations’ to people who may not fully understand what I do, but who are so appreciative when they see the end result. It’s been a great experience learning to work with this team.”

A critical part of the development of any website is knowing how everyone interacts with the site – from the content producers to the users.

“There was a point in the process when I realized that Brian had learned so much about the news business and the collaboration between all of the contributors – writers, editors, photographers, videographers, and social media folks –  that he became an honorary member of the news team,” says Kristen Cole, director of news and editorial communications. “Of course, it would be great if we could make him an official member of the news team so that he would only be dedicated to our site.”

But after launching the subscription service for the news site this month, he will be moving on to other web development projects. Already on his ‘to do’ list are assignments for the admissions office in Storrs and UConn Health in Farmington.

With such heavy commitments to work and school, Kelleher doesn’t have a lot of free time for outside activities, but he does make an exception for some things. He admits to being a huge sports fan. When asked “Red Sox or Yankees?” he says “Yankees.” When asked “Pats or Giants?” he says “Giants.” But when asked, “UConn Huskies or … ?” he quickly replies, “There is no ‘or’ – I’m a huge UConn sports fan, and I bleed blue all the time.”