Campus Closeup: Max Graves

Audio-visual technology has evolved significantly since Max Graves (Audio-Visual Services) began working as an ITV specialist 14 years ago.

“The technology has become more prolific, cheaper, faster and more people are using it. It’s all increased,” Graves said. “People who would never have considered videoconferencing 10 years ago are now using it in the classroom because of changes and improvements.”

When he began, videoconferencing was still in its infancy, a technology rarely used by the public because it was slow, flawed and costly. 

“Now you can videoconference from your desktop or laptop. Heck, you could do it from your phone.”

Graves’ office handles academic distance learning, which can include live webstreaming and archiving, as well as videoconferencing.  NMU-related academic support is free, but the office also provides billable services to non-profit and commercial entities in the community. For example, he has worked with the Marquette-Alger Regional Educational Services Agency (MARESA) to coordinate training programs and electronic field trips for the classroom.

Other aspects of Graves’ job range from converting VHS-format recordings to DVD to making NMU’s UNITED Conference available online for the public via live webstream. He also helped to work on VIP visits to campus. These have included George W. Bush, Bill Cosby and, most recently, President Barack Obama, who used videoconferencing technology to interact with Negaunee and Powell Township classrooms. Graves said that his department was heavily involved in Obama’s visit and put in plenty of overtime to make it flow smoothly.

When mentioning any work he’s done, Graves is quick to point out that he’s one part of a four-man team. “The guys I work with are of the highest caliber. I’ve worked in the classroom, been in the military and with a federal organization. This is the best office I have worked in. You could not find better people and my supervisor (Eric Smith) gives us a lot of autonomy and freedom to be creative.”

Working on a supportive team is just one of the many things Graves enjoys about his job. He also likes introducing people to the many and varied options available for incorporating technology in the classroom.

Graves was born in Gary, Ind., and raised in Marquette, the first generation of his family born outside of France. His mother was the head of the modern languages department at NMU and his stepfather was a professor in the music department. Graves majored in criminal justice and business administration at NMU. He also was a student employee in the former Quad II cafeteria. But a traveler at heart, he joined the military and spent much of his time in the Netherlands and Germany, where his son was born.

Perhaps most surprising about Graves is that he has a background in criminal investigations, serving as a special agent in the U.S Army and eventually working at the Federal Investigative Services Division of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in Kansas City, Mo. He left that field to return to school to obtain a Michigan teaching certificate before joining the staff at NMU.

Graves still enjoys traveling and recently took a trip with his wife, Deb, to Naples, Fla. They biked, kayaked and got close-up views of manatees and dolphins at Lover’s Key State Park. Deb works in the radiology department at MGH, so the close proximity allows the couple to get together for lunch quite often. They have two daughters and a son, all of whom attended NMU.

It’s difficult to tell how technology will advance in the next 14 years, but Graves will continue to help make audio-visual technology more user-friendly.

“It’s a people job,” Graves said. “You’re the go-between, between what’s out there and what services are provided, and introducing people to those services and products. It’s an ever-changing and expanding field.”



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Updated: May 24, 2011

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