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Merit Network Announces Two Locations for Fall MJTS

ANN ARBOR, MI – Merit Network announces that for the first time Merit Members will have two options to attend the fall meeting of the Merit Joint Technical Staff (MJTS). The meeting, to be held on September 29, will feature an interactive video connection between two locations, East Lansing and Gaylord.

The interactive video connection will enable individuals from Merit Member organizations in the Northern Lower and Upper Peninsulas to engage with their peers from like organizations located in Southern Michigan. The two centrally located meeting sites provide all of Merit’s Membership the opportunity to participate in the beneficial professional community of MJTS without having to travel great distances.

MJTS meetings are day-long gatherings held semi-annually. The majority of speakers present from the East Lansing MJTS location, the Michigan State University Union. Meetings are open to individuals from Merit Member organizations, and are typically attended by people who specialize in networking, system administration and other areas of information technology.

A typical MJTS meeting features several presentations by technical staff from Merit Member organizations. Talks cover a wide range of topics including emerging technologies, data security, best practices in networking and IT, and case studies of recent projects. Merit managers and engineers also attend MJTS meetings to discuss technical issues and report on advances in Merit’s network and services. The day also includes significant time during breaks and lunch for attendees to learn from each other in informal interactions.

For several years, Merit has offered a live webcast of MJTS meetings. While that tradition will continue, Andy Rosenzweig, manager of professional learning at Merit, says that two MJTS locations adds a new dimension for distance learning and interaction.

“A significant part of MJTS’s value is in gathering with other IT staff to form relationships, connect with peers and establish collaborations. You don’t get that from a webcast, and we hope that people will take advantage of the opportunity to gather in one of these two locations. Both locations will get all the content, and at the same time be able to get together with their neighbors and colleagues.”

Rosenzweig adds that this initiative is part of a larger goal to expand the number of training, events, and professional learning offerings made available in multiple locations around the state.

“Michigan is a very large state, and we know that budgets and staffing are stretched. If we can find ways to allow people to achieve their professional development goals without the cost of travel, that will be a great benefit for our Members and for Michigan.”

Offering MJTS in Gaylord integrates well with Merit Network’s mission to better serve Member organizations that are located all over Michigan. In 2010, Merit has been awarded two substantial grants from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The grants will help accelerate Merit’s long-held plans to deploy its facilities-based network in areas of the state that lack access to high-capacity fiber.

Funding from the two awards will allow Merit to construct nearly 2,300 miles of fiber optic infrastructure in underserved areas of Michigan’s Lower and Upper Peninsulas. The overall project, called REACH-3MC, will directly connect over 100 Member institutions as the network is built, and is designed to offer over 900 other similar organizations the same option over time.

“As the REACH-3MC project infrastructure is completed, more individuals from Merit Member organizations will have increased options to attend MJTS and other Professional Learning events at their convenience,” says Elwood Downing, vice president of member relations, communications and services for Merit. “The new infrastructure will improve the quality of videoconferences and webcasts we broadcast as well as allow for more people to participate from multiple locations throughout Michigan.”

“This is part of Merit’s effort to extend the resources of a leading-edge research and education network and share the benefits of the Merit Community with organizations across Michigan,” Downing adds.