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Hazelwood Untangles Berea's Web

If you are reading this article, you have seen the work of Cary Hazelwood. In fact, BC students, staff and faculty members (not to mention thousands and thousands of folks off-campus) use his work to find information, news, and much more.

Cary Hazelwood.

Cary Hazelwood is BC's Web site coordinator. As one of the driving forces behind the Web site's recent overhaul, Hazelwood undertakes the task of making Berea’s Web site informative, interesting and easy to navigate. Along with a team of student workers and fellow Web site managers James Brooks and Jay Buckner, Hazelwood has helped deliver Berea's Web site into the 21st century.

Originally from Carrollton, Kentucky, Hazelwood went to Brescia University, from which he graduated in 1995. After that he went on to a fellowship at EKU, where he taught English Composition for two semesters while working toward his Masters degree. Although he started out in computer science and took periodic Web programming courses while at EKU, Hazelwood was interested in English because he saw it as a more creative outlet.

When he came to work at Berea College in 1998, Hazelwood started out as a software trainer and worker at the IS&S help desk. He answered Web-related questions and taught faculty and staff how to use necessary software programs. Over the course of five years, Hazelwood gradually moved into a role of creating and maintaining the Web site for his department. When the Web team was formed in 2003, Hazelwood was eager to be involved.

"I decided it was time to move on and do something a little more creative, something a little more challenging," said Hazelwood.

The Web team’s initial task was to create a new design template for the Web site. The first Berea College Web site was a simple page put up in 1995, and although it gained a more usable interface a couple of years later, when Hazelwood and the rest of the Web team came to the site it looked dated. "It worked for what we were doing, but we definitely needed to come up to contemporary design," said Hazelwood. (For a glimpse of the past designs, you can visit the Wayback Machine links at the end of this article.)

Hazelwood's research into "what worked and what didn't" involved making a spreadsheet of 3,000 assorted college and university Web sites. He visited each site and looked for ideas for Berea’s Web site template. Other colleges that were experimenting with more easy-to-use interfaces, such as Melbourne University, had research that helped in the development of the template.

"It started out…with some basic ideas that one of our students had, and we kept working on it and working on it," said Hazelwood. "We just kept modifying it and we finally whittled it down to what we currently have." Then came the second phase of the project, as the Web team had to gather information and create pages for each individual Berea College department. Coordinating with all the different departments was one of the hardest tasks for the Web team.

"The greatest challenge [in designing the Web site] was defining our roles," said Hazelwood. During the process, the team had to figure out how many responsibilities each person could take on, and how much expertise could be expected from both the students and coordinators.

Hazelwood is proudest of the site's consistent navigation. "I’m a usability freak," he says. "I want to make sure that if someone comes here and they click on things, they understand how to get back where they were." And "because it is centralized, because it uses a common design [and] structure, they can easily navigate through the Web site."

All in all, the redesign of the Web site and the individual department pages took Hazelwood and his team about two years. But the work is an ongoing process. "It's always in flux," Hazelwood says of the Web site. "It's like writing, it’s like anything else, you’re really never done."

The Web team is constantly working on improving navigation, making it even easier to find necessary pages. They are currently in the process of simplifying the html source code of each page by using style sheets instead of tables, which will make the code easier to read and drastically reduce the page’s loading time. The Berea College main page will also be redesigned to give it more of an appeal to prospective students. In addition, the Web team works on occasional smaller projects, like the Berea College 150 Year Portal and an upcoming overhaul of the BC-Now! homepage, a site for which he has won two major awards from the Council for the Advancement of Secondary Education.

These days, Hazelwood’s average day follows a routine. “Usually I ride to work, and I just sort of plan out the day,” said Hazelwood. “[I] check through projects, work with the students, work with Jim, make sure we’re all on task. Mostly the whole day consists of that. Sometimes [I have] meetings with the departments or in the department. ...I’ll be researching new techniques and experimenting as well, throughout the day.”

About his job at Berea, Hazelwood said "I think what really keeps me here are the students.” His background in teaching is what drives him to make his workplace a learning environment, helping to ensure that students build on what they have worked on and come up with new ideas. “As any teacher can tell you, they eventually get their ideas from their students. Their students are what keep them thinking."

Outside of work, Hazelwood enjoys hiking, photography, and writing. He is a voracious reader and a fan of movies and other media, and his extensive knowledge translates equally to both classic works of literature and pulp fiction mystery novels from the 1920s. Although Hazelwood loves many books, he has a special fondness for J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Hazelwood does not have definite plans for his future at Berea, but says “I do intend to go and get my doctorate in English at some point in the next five years." When asked whether he had advice or a quote to pass on to others, Hazelwood thought for a long moment. Finally, he came back to his love of Tolkien with a quote from the character Gandalf: "'All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you.'"

He went on to explain, "In this day and age we spend a lot of time with entertainment. Lots of time. It doesn’t seem like we really do much more than entertain ourselves. So when things are wrong with the world, we don’t pay attention to it… Don’t let the world drift on by, don’t just sit there and do nothing; do something that means something to you."

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