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His pre-Games strategy streamlined registration

By : Stephen P. Jensen

Chris Cullinane likes things neat and tidy. He’s cleanly shaved, smartly dressed and his workspace is just so. His desktop Dell GX270 offers a world of coded Empire State Games information, and if not for his programming Midas touch, the stuff of statistical chaos.

Cullinane, previously a documentation coordinator for Binghamton University’s Computing Services, and most recently the new associate director of administrative operations for Residential life, turned chaos into order and made life easier for 2004 Games coordinators, specifically those who register athletes for housing.

Cullinane began his campus life seven years ago as a resident director. He spent three years in that post before sliding over to the computation side of things, where he produced and edited technical documents.

“I went to school for residential life, and I’m trained in residential life,” said Cullinane, 32. He has a master’s degree in education administration to prove it.

But while working for Residential Life (the first time around), he developed a computer program he said helped to organize where students would be housed. “It was sort of one of those things where my avocation and my vocation swapped,” he said.

Rene Coderre, assistant director for Residential Life and a member of the 2004 Games campus organizing committee, asked Cullinane if that old program could be tweaked.

“He said, ‘Chris, can we do this for the Games?’” Cullinane said. “He and Grace (Hoefner, assistant director, Residential Life) have been working on the logistics for all this and they gave me a solid indicator of what they wanted the program to do, and what statistics they wanted it to give them.

“It’s based on an old program, and a kernel of it lies in a basic database I created years ago,” he said. “It was originally used to streamline housing returners. Back then, it wasn’t a web-based application.”

Born was Cullinane’s on-line registration form, which allowed regional coordinators across New York state to record an athlete’s name and to place that individual in on-campus housing for the four-day event. All without lifting a pen.

“This year was my first time in (coordinating) housing for the games,” Hoefner said, “but in 2000, Rene personally, physically typed 6,000 names into a spreadsheet. The human effort it took and the human error it produced – you’re going to make mistakes in typing – we didn’t want to go down that road again.

“This was just a given, and Chris’ work on it was a Godsend,” Hoefner added.

Said Cullinane: “My role here (at the University) is to eliminate paper, so I try to eliminate all of it as I can.”

Quite simply, Cullinane wiped out the hard copy. In a nutshell, regional directors would:

Log into their regional site.

Click on a given team (lacrosse, soccer, basketball, etc.)

Click on an athlete’s name, which had been pre-logged by Games officials in Albany.

Click on a building, floor and room, then click on that room to place the athlete (color coding indicates male or female buildings, floors or rooms).

“The goal was to have a need for very little training to enter an athlete,” said Cullinane, “so by using this type of system, it minimizes errors.”

And, he said, it did.

“Anecdotally, I’ve spoken to a lot of regional coordinators who were here, and they all liked it,” said Cullinane. “It also allowed them to work a little closer to deadlines, which minimized last-minute changes.”

Hoefner’s sold.

“I’m hoping to get permission to use (the program) for summer conferences in Residential Life,” she said, “so I’m not hampered with all that inputting myself.”

Cullinane also said he’s heard whispers about his program becoming part of next year’s games, which will be held in the Hudson Valley.

“They have a unique challenge because they have housing spread across four or five campuses,” he said. “With a little adjusting, it could work for them, too. Some people have suggested we sell the program to the Empire State Games. We’ll see what happens. I’m the dad, but I’m not the owner.”

Asked how much time his program saved: “It’s hard to say,” Cullinane said, “but on the Sunday prior to the start of the games there were 98 percent, maybe 99 percent of the athletes already locked in.

“Each region had only maybe 20 changes by the day before the games began.

“It really did save us a lot of time,” he said, “but I didn’t do the manual labor of entering the housing information.”

He just made it easier.
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Last Updated: 10/14/08