Matt Ross: From Eager College Student to Technology Leader and Father

Matt Ross stands among the servers that help power the Neag School of Education's technology. Photo credit: Shawn Kornegay
Matt Ross stands among the servers that help power the Neag School of Education’s technology. Photo credit: Shawn Kornegay

After working for the Neag School of Education at UConn for almost half of his life, Matt Ross, ’01, ’07, recently announced that he’s leaving the world of technology in higher education to direct technology for the Farmington School District. A resident of Farmington for almost 10 years, he will be responsible for technology design, implementation and evaluation throughout the school district.

“Matt has had an integral role in the implementation and support of technologies available to Neag School of Education faculty, staff and students,” said Dean Thomas C. DeFranco. “Most, if not all, of us have benefitted from his knowledge, skills and dedication. The Neag School has also provided Matt with countless personal and professional opportunities for growth and experience.”

Ross, in fact, literally grew up here. Hired as a student employee in 1998 when he was sophomore, Ross’ first job was in the Dean’s Office, where he was responsible for designing and executing the conversion of student files from a card catalogue to a computer database, and eliminating unnecessary paperwork.

“We’ve been his second home and family for more than a decade,” DeFranco said. “Many of us have watched him grow from an energetic college student to his present role as a professional colleague and dad to his two young children, Nate and Ella.”

He originally chose UConn to study computer science and engineering, which was the right fit for his career aspirations. Although he wasn’t sure exactly where his studies would take him, he knew his long-term goals included providing technical advice and knowledge designed to improve others’ work effectiveness and overall work days.

Recalling the early days of technology at the Neag School, Ross said he well-remembers when “desktops were the norm and file sharing was new to everyone.”

“Y2K preparation was in full swing,” he continued, “and under the direction of a PhD student, the school’s technology included one server that was the file server, print server, web server, and database server. Today, we’ve grown to 15+ servers, laptops for every faculty member, video conferencing at the desktop and more,” he said. “It’s no longer what you have, but what you can get to as more data is stored in data clouds.”

Although over the past decade Ross left UConn to venture out into “the real world” for short stints at a bank and insurance company, he said he was drawn back to the Neag School by his love of the academic atmosphere, the beautiful campus and the many people he’s enjoyed working with.

Like family members, colleagues nurtured, encouraged and, when needed, critiqued Ross’ skills and abilities to help him learn and grow. “The environment has always been focused on learning,” he said. “It’s OK to make a mistake now and than, as it’s part of the learning process.”

When thinking of all the people he’s worked with over the years, he noted there are “too many to name without forgetting someone, but if I had to pick one, I’d recognize Rich Schwab (who was dean from 1997 to 2009).”

“Rich provided me with advice—personal and professional—as well as opportunities to grow. I have watched and been a product of his vision for the Neag School and the field of education,” he reflected. “Rich has a way of knowing what seeds to plant, and buttons to push, to bring out the best in an individual. He helped push me to get my MA.”

“Matt is an outstanding professional and even more important a wonderful person,” said Dr. Schwab, dean emeritus of the Neag School. “I have had the great pleasure of watching him grow from a freshman work study student in the Neag School through his degree program, to meeting his wife – also a Neag Alum — to working with him as a professional and watching him grow as a Dad. He is a special person who will be greatly missed.”

“I am proud of his accomplishments and wish him great luck in this new, exciting venture at the Farmington Public Schools. They are fortunate to have hired Matt as their Director of Technology,” he continued.

Because Ross wanted to understand the business of the environment he worked in and to successfully bridge the gap between technology and education, graduate school—as Schwab recommended—was Ross’  next step. Along the way and after graduating with a master’s in educational technology, Ross’ hard work earned him numerous promotions, and he ventured into becoming an adjunct instructor for the Neag School’s Teacher Certification Program for College Graduates (TCPCG). He’s taught two sections of “Enhancing Classroom Curriculum with Media and Technology” and will continue as a TCPCG instructor.

A resident of Farmington since 2004, he owns a house that has passed from his great-grandparents, to his grandparents and now to him. “My children are the fifth generation to run up and down the stairs,” he said.

He added that he’s excited  for the opportunity to work in his hometown and with the Farmington School District, which has proven its commitment to providing “an excellent intersection of technology and application to education.” It will also allow him to spend more time with his family.

A part of his heart, however, will always remain with UConn and the Neag School of Education. “I look at this life event not as the end of a relationship, but as the beginning of a new chapter in the relationship between the Neag School and myself. I hope to continue working with all my colleagues at UConn in this new capacity far into the future,” he said. “Thanks to everyone for their support.”

Thank you, Matt Ross, for all you’ve done for the Neag School of Education.