Pat Besong's photo

Professional Bio

I am from the Pittsburgh area originally. I graduated from Ambridge Area High School in 1977. I received a full athletic scholarship for gymnastics to Penn State, where I majored in Art with an emphasis in drawing. I graduated With Distinction in 1981.

Ambridge Area High School crest       PSU mark

After college I got my first job as a technical illustrator for HRB-Singer (now a subsidiary of Raytheon) in State College, PA. In December of 1983 our publications department bought some of the first Apple computers to hit the market, the Apple Lisa. My career has taken a digital turn ever since. It drastically changed the way we did business at HRB, going from pen and ink and paste-ups to the first versions of MacDraw and PageMaker. Apple Lisa computer

hammer In the late 1980s, after stories of $600 government contracted hammers hit the newspapers, HRB's business model went from sole-source to competitive bidding. We were not poised for this manner of getting new work from the government and business floundered. Layoffs started hitting and I began to look for work elsewhere.

I was fortunate enough to land a job as a graphic designer at Penn State in the Photo/Graphics department. Half of my job consisted of designing for the local public television station, WPSX (now WPSU). I learned to operate and design on a Chyron Infinit! character generator, which produced broadcast quality graphics and text that they would key over video for live television. I also designed animated show openings on the Chyron and probably made it do things it wasn't really designed to do. The other half of my job at Photo/Graphics was general graphics and illustration: signage, posters, displays, and other printed matter. As the Mac computers became more powerful, I learned to do 3D animation using Adobe 3D and Director. I did quite a few weekly animations for a nationally syndicated kids' news program called "What's In the News". I think I knew at that time that the digital end of art was the way to go. The video below is one of about a dozen I did for an architectural engineering project called SteelDEM.

When we got our first backbone connection to the Internet in 1996, I pretty much dove in head-first, learning HTML without the aid of a WYSIWYG Web editor like Dreamweaver. I still prefer to code "by hand" as opposed to these programs. I started taking Web design work, including freelance work for a local ISP. I designed some of the first Web sites for businesses in State College, including McLanahan's and The Diner. I also got started digitizing video for the Web, and used to make a page of the "Plays of the Game" after each PSU football game.

football logo

About that time, I heard about a group of people that were looking into a new online learning initiative called the Penn State World Campus. I was able to convince the "away team" who was studying the possibilities of how this might work that they would need the services of a graphic designer and Web developer. I was soon added to the team for about 6 months. I eventually helped design the first Web site for the World Campus (really had to be watered down because 28.8 modems were the norm at the time) and was the designated graphic designer permanently. As I worked with the World Campus, I eventually bid on and was offered a job with Continuing Education as an instructional designer. While the World Campus had their own CMS (WebCT at the time), Continuing Education had only HTML pages, which I developed. I soon learned to program in Perl and was able to add bulletin boards and the like to the Web sites for the courses. I also created some practice quizzes in Perl which were typically 20 questions multiple choice. The script I wrote would grade the quiz immediately after it as submitted, eliminating the 2 week wait that students typically had for submitting quizzes via mail up to that point. As I progressed in Perl, I developed new things as well. I created a Web-based interface so that we could easily put new students into online courses in batches of 10. All I needed to do was to input their userIDs into the form I created and the Perl script would write their userID into the appropriate course's HTAccess file, which controlled who was able to view the content. The interface would also allow us to easily find and remove userIDs from courses as well. It was a great time saver.

Adobe Flash Player logo In a couple of years the Internet boom was on. We began to see more jobs for Web developers and I decided it was time to try my luck in the real world. I accepted a position as a Web developer for SMGnet in State College. They made Web-based applications for Fortune 500 companies. At that time they were looking to recreate some of their most popular CD-based business simulations for the Web. I led a team of about five developers and a graphic artist in creating these simulations in Adobe Flash. I quickly became an expert at Flash, digital video, Javascript, and style sheets. The simulations were fantastic and really impressed their customers. I was even able to keep score with an elaborate use of browser cookies in lieu of a database. I really learned a lot in that position, but it was also very frantic trying to make the deadlines.

bomb But, SMGnet was like so many other "dot bombs" of that time. After telling us how great things were looking, two weeks later they laid off 14 people out of the blue. I knew immediately that I had to leave as soon as possible, so I began to float resumes. Luckily, I got a call from someone at Penn State again. Seems their videographer in the Faculty Multimedia Center was leaving for Iowa and they needed to get someone in soon to replace him. I became that someone. They were able to get me on board before their videographer, Kaspar Stromme, left for Iowa. Kaspar taught me about what he was doing with QuickTime video, namely HREF tracks and streaming. Once I got the basics from him, I was off and running doing lots of research with using QuickTime.

sony video camera

When I wasn't helping out with appointments in the Faculty Multimedia Center I was working on special projects that involved video. One of which was uploading content for the streaming video server, an IBM Videocharger, that seemed to be on its last legs. I think it would go down every time the wind blew or when someone tried to access a video, whichever came first. I began to push for a different streaming server and after about a year of testing every product out there, we decided to go full bore with an Apple QuickTime Streaming Server. I was the project manager for the new service, and in about a year we had a great new streaming service in place, thanks mostly to the expertise of Danny Coughlin, who did all the coding and Justin Elliott, who took care of all the hardware issues. The new service allows faculty to upload and manage their own videos, and set permissions on each video to control access. This was necessary to comply with the TEACH Act.

During that time I was also developing learning modules in Adobe Flash. We did some really nice work in Flash, and I do believe that Penn State could really use a large team of Flash developers to make even more great content for its courses.

After our department's director retired we reorganized a bit and I was appointed the manager of our multimedia department, my current role. While I have a lot to learn about management, I believe I've come a long way in a couple of years. In the fall of 2006 I was enrolled in the IT Leaders Program (taught by MOR Associates), a six month certificate program to develop leadership skills among Penn State's IT personnel. It has been a great help to me. I've really learned a lot about the concepts of leadership and management through this program and would recommend it to anyone.