Information, Technology & Consulting

Staff Spotlight: Dave Ricker of IISS

How did you become interested in technology?

As a kid, I was always very interested in math and science.  In 1981, my high school in Avon, Connecticut got its first computers: TRS-80s (“Trash 80s” as we called them) from Radio Shack. From the moment I first started writing BASIC and running programs, I was hooked. I still get a thrill out of writing and running code. There is something magic about creating something and then setting it in motion. In college I majored in Computer Science with a minor in Math, a program that was part of the school of Arts and Sciences. It was here as part of my arts and humanities class requirements that I also developed a passion for the arts, and literature in particular. Coming out of college I worked for the IT consulting wing of Arthur Andersen (which later became Accenture). When many of my peers were getting MBAs, I decided to get an MA in English and pursue a passion for writing. My ambition to become a novelist never came to fruition, but the honing of my writing and communications skills as part of my MA has served me well in my IT career. The technology is less important than the people who are making use of it, and being able to not only understand difficult problems, but communicate them so others might understand is really key to working in IT today. Now my interests lie in data, information discovery, and visualization, which is where art and technology come together. I still get into code once in a while, but mostly it is with my 12-year-old son, who is learning Python courtesy of Code Academy and doing a sampling of Computer Science and Data courses through Udacity.

What did you do before Dartmouth?

I worked at Sandia National Laboratories, a Department of Energy nuclear laboratory in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I have also been on a board for Western Governors University (WGU) since its founding in 1998 and still continue in that capacity today.

What is your most memorable moment at Dartmouth?

It was one of the convocations a few years after I started working here in 2001. I like the feeling that I am working at a place that has some greater role in society. I grew up during the Cold War and my work at Sandia National Labs was infused with a sense of higher purpose. At the time, I was struggling to find that same sense of purpose at Dartmouth. But at the convocation, then-President Jim Wright gave a speech that put it all in perspective. I got it. And I have felt that sense of mission again in my work ever since. I strongly suggest staff attend this ceremony every year. It is a good reminder of why we are here.

Most surprising little-known fact about you?

I did search and rescue in New Mexico for almost seven years. Some of the more formative experiences of my life occurred on these missions. They also help prepared me for dealing with life and death issues concerning one of my children, who has a serious chronic health condition. My experiences in the raising of this child and the interactions with the medical establishment formed the basis for my role in helping create in 2009 the curriculum for the "From the Other Side of the Stethoscope (FOSS)" program at Geisel, a requirement for all 3rd year medical students at the completion of their 6-week pediatric clerkship. I still serve this program as a facilitator and a member of its Family Faculty.

Where did you last go on vacation?

My family and I go to a folk music and dance camp called Pinewoods every year. Multiple generations of many of the same families have been attending for decades. It is kind of like having a big family reunion in a beautiful setting with incredible food, music, singing and dancing, as well as swimming, canoeing and general revelry. Three of my kids are being classically trained on the violin, but it is here I get to watch them participate in the magic of traditional music and how it is transferred from the old to the young.

What books are you currently reading?

I am thumbing through Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty by Daron Acemoglu, an anthology of international poetry edited by Czeslaw Milosz, and I'm currently making my way through all the Booker, Nobel, and Pulitzer novels on that special shelf at the Dartmouth Bookstore. I also recently read The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, by David McCullough. It has a lot of material on Augustus Saint-Gaudens whose home is a national historic site just down the road in Cornish. Well worth the trip.

Are you using any new apps? What are they and why do you find them useful?

Flightaware. When I travel for WGU, I am always getting loused up. Flightaware’s “misery map” at least lets me know what is coming.

Do you have a twitter handle, blog, or publications you’d like to share?

I have been publishing a few essays of late. Just Google me and you are liable to find them.

Anything else you’d like us to know about you?

I sit on the school board for the Rivendell Interstate School District, the best kept secret in the Upper Valley. We are building something truly special there. Any extra time I have in my life amidst my job, four kids, a 150 year old house, 13 acres of brush and trouble, and a small flock of sheep, I put into thinking, reading, or doing something about education in this country. It is the most important thing we do as a society.  With a well-educated populace, we can solve the rest.

Information, Technology & Consulting