Larry Peng Zhang
Senior Software Engineer, Computing and Technology Services (CTS)
Recipient of the 2019 Duquesne University Innovation Award
As part of Duquesne's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Computing and Technology Services (CTS) has been working even more closely with students, faculty, staff and senior management to support the transition to and continuation of remote instruction and employee work-from-home since mid-March. This also includes loaner laptops, VPN access, virtual labs and much more. Larry Peng Zhang has been important in helping that transition go as smoothly as possible.
Originally from Shanxi province China, Zhang has worked at Duquesne for the last eight years and supports the University's most high-priority application systems such as Banner Self-Service, Blackboard, DORI, in-house JAVA and ColdFusion applications, the Duquesne U mobile app, the Single-Sign-On systems and other web-based assets. "It's a very challenging but rewarding position," he said. Larry is well placed to serve the technology needs of students, staff and faculty in both front and backend web application development and remarked that, "on a daily basis my success is largely based on innovation, self-motivation and collaboration with others."
Larry has academic degrees in information science, software engineering and management information systems. He received his MBA from Duquesne in 2018. "It's a great program," he remarked. He pursued his degree attending evening classes while balancing his busy CTS schedule and the responsibilities of being a new father. "I'm just very thankful that God blessed me and enabled me to have the hope, confidence and joy and even just to stretch out my ability during those moments," he said looking back on the experience.
His award-winning idea, recognized by President Gormley at the 2019 Staff Awards, was born out of the University's Freshman Advisement Summer Transition (FAST) program. FAST aims to provide students with important information and guidance around their first-year experience. While on campus in July, students provide the University with information about their address, phone numbers, financial aid details and more during the FAST Lab. It allows the University to assist students and their families with accessing campus services and to communicate with families efficiently should the need arise. The process by which new students were filling out this information was a bit tedious so Larry developed a way in which to streamline this for them. "I just thought this could make the process and experience a little easier for students and their families," he said. "The feedback has been incredible. It was very encouraging (to be able to help students)." This past year he was also recognized with the Isadore R. Lenglet Service Excellence Award from the Division of Finance and Business.
Larry is an active member of his church, Agapé Life Church in Squirrel Hill, where he is involved with campus ministry at CMU and Pitt. Zhang was introduced to the church while a graduate student at Pitt. Having not grown up religious, he was struck by how the church members genuinely cared about him, never asking for anything in return and created a sense of community for him. "The word of God really spoke to me." He now uses his energy and commitment to live a better, more purposeful life with his family, his church, and at Duquesne.
Thinking back about the transition to remote learning, Larry remarked how important his coworkers were to making it successful. "I want to express my gratitude and praise to my colleagues in the IT Infrastructure Division at CTS as they especially made tremendous contributions and sacrifice during the transition."