On the first day of classes after an unexpectedly long summer break, students and faculty were set to start a new fall semester. Laptops at the ready, students joined their classrooms, but behind the scenes in a distant server room disaster has struck. Zoom and Canvas are down. Professors who’ve been alive longer than the internet scrambled to get their classes together while students sat in their rooms calmly drinking iced coffees. But only one man can save Zoom: interim director of Educational Technology Services (ETS), Cal Murgu. A two-person team, Murgu, along with audio-visual specialist Scott Swanson, was in charge of making sure online classes go smoothly, a job he acquired during the summer. Frantic messages have already alerted Murgu. but unfortunately for him and everyone else involved, the situation is out of his control. There is nothing to do but wait and tweet.
However, after two years at New College, Murgu will have his last day this Friday, Oct. 2. Murgu will be heading home to Canada to begin a new job opportunity at Brock University in St. Catherines, Ontario.
“I was looking for a new kind of experience, training, getting skills and working at a scale with more students and faculty,” Murgu said. “Larger institutions sometimes have more resources available, so that was one implication. At the same time, Brock is also very focused on undergraduate instruction and making sure that undergraduate students have a good experience. It’s not solely about research, so in some ways, it’s a lot like New College.”
Brock is much larger than New College with 20,000 students. Another big plus was Brock’s location. A mere 10 miles from Niagara Falls, Murgu will be able to enjoy the Niagra mist while remaining close enough to the states to come visit when Canadian politeness is no longer bearable. At Brock University, Murgu will be joining as an instructional design librarian to work with new technology and media in order to better integrate the university’s library in instruction and student learning.
“It’s a new position, so I get the chance to kind of build it,” Murgu said. “That’s also similar to this position that I’m leaving. I had two years of essentially setting up a program and trying to sort of build a frame for something, which is really cool—and that’s the digital scholarship studio. I have that opportunity again.”
Originally from Romania, Murgu’s family immigrated to Canada when he was seven years old. He grew up in the border town of Windsor, Ontario, Canada, just a ferry ride away from Detroit, Michigan. In the past, Murgu tried to go back to Canada around every two to four months to visit his family, friends and his partner who occasionally came down to visit him. Murgu will have to quarantine for two weeks, but he says he is looking forward to returning home for the first time since June.
“COVID really emphasized just how difficult it is to live away from family and partners and places where you’re from,” Murgu explained. “It’s not easy to travel, and it’s not easy to communicate with those people. So it really kind of emphasized the importance of being home for me.”
Murgu first came to New College in the fall of 2018 as a research, instruction and digital humanities librarian. Murgu was a fresh graduate of Western University with a master’s degree in library and information science (LIS). Murgu also has a master’s in history from McGill University and a bachelor’s in history with a minor in literature from Windsor University. A lack of jobs in Canada in his field led Murgu to look abroad. Eventually, he applied to an open position at a small liberal arts college in Sarasota, Florida. He didn’t expect to get a call back, but as Murgu put it: “it really worked out.”
“I have to admit, I didn’t know much about liberal arts colleges and I didn’t know much about New College of Florida,” Murgu said. “I just knew it was a unique place that trained really good students. That’s all I knew. So I kind of proceeded with that sort of understanding of this place and then over the last two years it sort of concretized that.”
Murgu has been a constant presence in the library for the past two years and has worked on numerous projects during his time at New College. Murgu developed New College’s Digital Scholarship Studio (DSS) to collaborate with students, faculty and staff to design, implement and preserve works of digital scholarship. Projects featured on the DSS website include the Selbyana research journal, ThesisLink and the New College Digital Collections.
“I can’t speak to all the other units on campus,” Murgu said, “I’m sure they’re nice too, but I’m biased. I think the library is a really great place to work and that we have a mix of staff and faculty that respects the work that each other does, and we also support that work.”
“In my work with digital scholarship, I felt like the entire library was pulling for it to succeed,” Murgu continued. “That’s a really special feeling, to have a group of people really rooting for you to succeed. I hope I have the same kind of experience in my next job.”
The feelings are mutual from Murgu’s colleagues in the library. Dean of the library Brian Doherty said he’s enjoyed watching Murgu develop as a librarian and everyone in the library has “enjoyed having him as a colleague and friend.”
Systems, metadata, and assessment librarian Tammera Race has worked closely with Murgu and told him she would miss his “way of seeing.” Race appreciated the analytical and creative perspective Murgu brought to the library which helped increase their understanding of digital scholarship. For Race, Murgu’s work leaves behind “a solid foundation for the future.”
“I will also miss Cal’s very funny side, including his impressions of a cockroach restoring itself after being swatted, and the spaceship control panel.” Race wrote in an email interview.
Across from Murgu’s office in the library, Research, Instruction and iInformation Literacy Librarian Helene Gold shared similar praise for her office neighbor. Gold expressed that Murgu was one of “the best early-career librarians” she’s worked with.
“Not only is he a talented teacher and librarian, he’s just a great person with so much creativity and good humor,” Gold wrote in an email interview. “I’ll miss his espresso—he had a machine in his office and those perfectly pulled shots got me through many tough afternoons—and I’ll miss his laugh. We’re all going to miss him.”
Outside of the library Murgu formed a close working relationship and friendship with professor of religion, Manuel Lopez-Zafra. The pair are teaching a course together this semester: “COVID-19: An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Pandemic.”. During his time at New College, Murgu and Lopez had long talks about the digital humanities and scholarship.Their talks had a deep impact on Lopez who changed his assignments from traditional papers to more digital humanities based assignments that could be shared “not only with faculty, but with the world in general.” Lopez will miss having his friend around, but found a silver lining in having an excuse to visit Canada in the future.
“Working with him we also discovered that we also like similar things,” Lopez wrote in an email interview. “We both love soccer and share a similar philosophy about what the game of soccer should be about (he is a fan of Manchester City and I am of Barcelona). There are not a lot of people in the States with whom I can talk and text over the weekend about soccer, so that has been fun. We are also both obsessed with bread, and we both have been working on our sourdough bread techniques (his bread is much better than mine!).”
Murgu’s love for soccer stems from his Romanian background, where the sport is a big part of the culture., When Murgu was young, he found soccer boring, but as he grew older he came to appreciate the technique and flow of the game. For anyone who’s been to Murgu’s office this will come as no surprise. A jersey, sealed in a glass frame, is the first thing one sees when walking into his office. Ironically, the jersey belongs to a former city player that Murgu hates, James Milner. Murgu’s friend had gotten him the jersey as a birthday gift with a twist.
Murgu doesn’t play any soccer, but enjoys playing FIFA on playstation along with other video games like Call of Duty. Murgu finds video games is a great way to connect with friends all over the world especially during the pandemic.
New College may be losing a valuable instructor, community member and friend, but the school can take pride in having given someone like Murgu the opportunity to flourish. Murgu will carry on his career in Canada where he can be closer to his family, friends and partner. While this may be goodbye, Murgu does plan to visit in the future and will remember his time at New College fondly.
Murgu’s last day will be this Friday, Oct. 3. He will be missed by many in the community.
“My favorite part without a doubt is the willingness of students and faculty to try something new,” Murgu shared. “It allowed me to work with faculty, for example, to create assignments, to create a course, to teach. All these things can’t happen really at other universities. I really benefited from that. I think it’s why I got this new job, to be honest with you. In two years, I was able to talk about all these different things. The only way to stack that CV in that way is to be given the opportunity to try things.”
For those who want to keep up with Murgu in his future endeavors he can be found on twitter @CalMurgu or through his blog on his website: calmurgu.com.
The Catalyst staff sends its best wishes to Murgu in the future. We will continue sending future issues to his inbox until he begs us to stop.
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Still waiting on my copy of the Catalyst, folks.
We’re not publishing anything in print for the rest of the semester, but I’m hoping it will be back up in the fall!