Spiders Reflect on Fall Semester

The fall 2015 semester was certainly a busy one for Spiders, from spinning webs in the office cubicles to keeping up with coursework in the classrooms. With the spring semester now in our midst, several Spiders took time out of their busy schedule to tell us about the projects they were working on, the skills they acquired or improved, and what they enjoyed most about working here last year.

Spiders grew on both personal and professional levels during the fall semester. If you are interested in finding out more about what the Spiders have been working on, feel free to reach out to spiders@syr.edu.


In her position as a coordinator, Katie Canete, a sophomore in the Bandier Program for Music and Entertainment Industries, keeps the Spiders in top shape by managing their schedules and the much-anticipated potlucks. She explains that it took her some time to settle into her role and to make sure everyone was on the same page, but soon realized that the best way for her to be an effective leader was to get to know everyone beyond the surface level. “Spiders is a collective of passionate people who know what they like to do and are good at what they do,” Katie says, adding that she likes working at Spiders because everyone seems genuinely happy to be here.

Graphic Design

The graphic designers have been working on a wide range of projects, from Snapchat geofilters to icon sets representing the schools and colleges of Syracuse University, and are looking forward to new creative ventures this semester. “The biggest challenge was the steep learning curve, especially on the design side of things, as I had no ‘formal’ training. Although, I did enjoy learning on the job as I went along,” Megan Elliot, a computer art and animation major says. Megan explains that she has grown as a designer with a refresher course in InDesign and a recent introduction to HTML and CSS coding languages, along with constructive criticism she has received from fellow Spiders. She designed and developed her own portfolio website, created infographics and a SVG banner for the Spiders website, and designed several posters among others.

Kate Percevault, a senior communication design major, learned the basics of motion graphics in AfterEffects last semester and her main project was to design an icon set featuring each of the different schools and colleges of SU. She is proud of the final design, but explains that she tackled some issues getting there. “This icon set didn’t start out with what I designed. I came up with different approaches and at one point I was creating vector illustrations of almost every building on campus,” Kate says. “I was trying to make them cohesive and that was difficult because they had to be about the same scale and have the same presence. That gets tricky when a building is three times larger than another.” She is now working on a teaser video showcasing these icons.

Web Development

The web developers have been diligent this semester developing the sites of SU and creating themes and plugins for WordPress and Confluence. “My main goal was to impress Jono, and I think I did that with the data visualization project,” Shazif Shaikh, a freshman aerospace engineering major, says. He explains that this project, a filtering mechanism for sorting posts, was his first task at Spiders and it helped to strengthen his bond with the other web developers. Shazif set goals to learn new coding languages and refine his skills in PHP and jQuery, and simultaneously created his own projects. He has worked on several school portfolio templates and tested new ways to better present interactive maps through WordPress plugins. Shazif loves his job at Spiders as he is able to work with people who (sometimes) appreciate his jokes and make good food for the potlucks. “I’m grateful for the Spiders, as they helped me through the first semester of college,” he says.  

Jeremy Dennen, a senior triple-majoring in computer science, psychology, and neuroscience, has been working on an IOS application that allows students to view content from the Syracuse University Magazine website on their mobile devices. The application itself pulls content from WordPress. “I would say this project is a pretty solid accomplishment in terms of broadening my horizons,” Jeremy says. “I’ve been wanting to explore different forms of software development so that’s been pretty cool.” He explains that the transition from web development to his work with different types of software has given him the opportunity to apply his knowledge learned in the classroom to new platforms. Jeremy learned a great deal at Spiders last semester, including new development languages and the ability to adapt to new situations, but first and foremost to always back up his hard drive!  

Chad Johnson, a senior environmental resources engineering major at SUNY ESF, has been working on a plugin that styles Confluence, which is a content management system accessible to SU faculty and staff. He is now in the perfection stages of styling the plugin, ensuring that it has the same look and feel as the existing Cobalt 500 theme on WordPress. Chad has enjoyed this project because it has given him a better understanding of terminal commands and how to push content onto Github. “[The biggest challenge] I had with starting up the project was how it was going to be used, what kind of functionality it would need, and who would be looking at it. But now I understand that more,” Chad says. He jokes that his favorite part of working at Spiders is definitely the potlucks!

Content Publishing

The content publishers, a new addition to the Spiders workforce last semester, have been kept occupied, from writing weekly bios to formatting SU websites to the WordPress Cobalt 500 theme. Ellie Haines, a junior communication and rhetorical studies major, is proud of the Army ROTC website she converted to the Cobalt theme. “[I liked learning about] WordPress and the work that goes on behind the scenes,” Ellie says. “I knew about it before, but not to the same extent. It’s been fun to learn it more in depth, and learn its quirks and tricks.” She loves her position at Spiders because she is able to apply herself to something that is fulfilling and a different pace from university coursework.

“I have a better understanding of CSS and HTML,” says Paige Kelly, a sophomore magazine journalism major. “They used to be foreign to me, but now I understand them.” From various online lessons on Code Academy to her work with WordPress publishing tools and content inventories, Paige feels like she has come far in her time at Spiders. Despite a steep learning curve, she explains that she has developed an appreciation for web accessibility and has seen improvement in her writing skills. She has already converted a handful of SU websites to the Cobalt 500 theme. Utilizing Indesign, Paige has also been redesigning several Spiders’ résumés and Bites, the Spiders family cookbook. Her goal is to learn as much as possible during her time here and knows this will be easy as “it’s a nice and relaxed environment.”

System Administration

Colleen Lin, a web accessibility consultant at Spiders, had a hectic fall semester and appreciated the opportunity to hone her skills in time management and coding. She is currently creating her own portfolio website in WordPress with CSS and HTML and recently completed a Trivex tutorial for learning developers. She hopes to one day develop her own web accessible website, combining her new knowledge in coding with her web accessibility expertise. Colleen explains that she enjoys working at Spiders because she’s able to tackle the meticulous nature of coding languages in a “safe haven” with people who push her to achieve her best. “I have had the confidence to take on challenges,” Colleen says, “I don’t think I would have ever seen myself a couple years ago making my own website or even learning code in general!”

“I like when a Spider has a problem and they come to me and ask for help,” Markos Manoledakis, a system administrator at Spiders, says. “Although that doesn’t mean I wish for them to have a problem!” Markos learned a great deal about networks last semester and how the main server functions with all the clients they set up. In addition to troubleshooting networks and setting up Confluence, he fixed a lot of hardware problems with the computers themselves, ranging from partitioning and formatting, to mysterious issues here and there! Markos enjoyed tackling the “random” problems most as he was able to take initiative and was challenged to figure out new ways to solve them.