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A Family Affair: ITS Staff Members John and Gianna Mangicaro Share a Lifetime of Syracuse Memories
Growing up, Gianna Mangicaro ’18 loved shadowing her father, John, a University employee of over 40 years, on Take Your Child to Work Day. Invigorated by the energy of campus, Gianna knew when it came time to select a college, Syracuse would be at the top of her list.
She recalls following her dad around classrooms as he checked on the technology required for teaching and learning—which at the time consisted mainly of overhead projectors. John worked back then as a technologist in what would eventually become the Information Technology Services (ITS) department. “Just being around college students and seeing the classroom checks, I would say to myself, ‘OK, someday I’m going to be in one of those seats,” Gianna says. But even she couldn’t have predicted how large of a role Syracuse University would play in her life.
Forever Orange, in Every Sense
In 2014, Gianna’s dream came true as she enrolled as a management major in the Martin J. Whitman School of Management, and four short years later—“It’s the blink of an eye and you’re done with your college career,” she says—she graduated at the top of her class in Whitman in 2018.
Since then, she’s held several professional roles at Syracuse, including working at University College (now the College of Professional Studies) on its pre-college program for high school students, and now in ITS as associate director of learning environments and media production (LEMP). Gianna oversees the technical aspects of a large scope of campus events, primarily in the K.G. Tan Auditorium in the National Veterans Resource Center at the Daniel and Gayle D’Aniello Building.
She is also working on an online MBA degree through Whitman, which she plans to complete in May 2024. “I enjoyed every moment of my undergraduate career—I loved it so much I had to come back and earn a second degree,” Gianna says. A proud alumna, she serves on the Generation Orange Leadership Council through the Alumni Association and admits, “I loved the Orange spirit at the University so much that I never left.”
After one conversation with her father, you realize—it might just be in her DNA.
A Dream Job 35 Years in the Making
While John is quick to extol Gianna’s academic and career success, his own route to a successful career in academia has perhaps been a little less “by the book.”
He calls himself a “born tinkerer” who learned everything he knows about mechanics, engineering and technology by opening things up, taking them apart and seeing for himself how they worked. Rather than attending college, John pursued trade schools and on-the-job learning, joking that the only degree or certificate he’s ever received from Syracuse is in scuba diving.
“I wasn’t much of a school person. I learned through the practical,” he says. “I’ve been called the ‘MacGyver’ of the University, because anything that’s challenging—whether it’s mechanical or electrical or whatever—they can usually call on me to figure it out.”
At Syracuse John has held various roles, from managing classroom technology to providing many iterations of audiovisual support as technology progressed over the years. He now has what he calls his “dream job” as an instructional technology engineer and manager of the ITS MakerSpace, a collaborative, Universitywide lab that provides the space and resources to help its users imagine, design, build, tinker, modify, hack, teach and learn.
“Back in 2012, 3D printers were just starting to appear in the mainstream. The University bought one and I had a little ‘underground’ MakerSpace in the back room of Newhouse, as well as a laser engraver,” John says. “Word started getting around. Then one day, Chris Sedore [then-chief information officer] came to me with the idea to build out what he called a ‘hackerspace.’ I loved the idea. That’s how the MakerSpace was born.”
John has spent the last 10 years relentlessly dedicated to the MakerSpace, which now houses 20-plus 3D printers, two laser engravers, embroidery and sewing machines, vinyl printing and cutting equipment, T-shirt printing and other tools.
“It’s a constantly evolving facility. I let it become student-driven and that is what it is today,” John says. “The students who work for me, they go on to build rockets, submarines, helicopters, you name it. They’re our true gems. I always tell them, ‘It only took 35 years for me to find my dream job, so be patient.’”
Who’s the Boss?
The MakerSpace is now under the purview of LEMP, meaning that while John officially reports to Mike O’Mara, associate CIO for academic service centers, Gianna has some involvement in John’s work. Currently, Gianna is busy planning for celebrations of the 10-year anniversary of the MakerSpace during Orange Central this fall.
“It’s always fun. People say, ‘Oh, she’s you’re boss now,’ and I go, ‘Well, she always was,’” John says, laughing. “She knows the machines as well as I do and she has all of the practical knowledge.”
It’s no coincidence. After all, Gianna grew up learning everything she could from her father—including how to change a tire on her car, snake a kitchen sink, tap maple trees in their neighborhood for syrup and use a wood splitter—at age 8. (“I told her not to tell her mom about that one,” John says.)
“He’s a very creative person and whatever he puts his mind to, he is able to accomplish it,” Gianna says of her father. “I always had the belief that if he learned how to do something or how something works, I could also figure it out.”
A recent example of father-daughter collaboration occurred last fall when the University hosted Micron Technology as the company announced its transformational investment in the Central New York area at Tan Auditorium.
“We used to hold our microphones together with tape and once the tape had come apart during a presentation and we could see it on the recording, so we knew we couldn’t have that happen again,” Gianna says. “I went to the MakerSpace to see if they could 3D-print some microphone clips for the Micron event and they were able to quickly print them for us. One even ended up on the governor’s podium. The MakerSpace is a place where you can create a small idea that solves a pretty big problem—like tape coming apart on a microphone.”
A Lifetime of Orange Memories
From Gianna visiting her dad’s outpost in the Newhouse School as an infant to enjoying family meals together at the restaurants on Marshall Street. From attending bowl games and dozens of other Orange athletic competitions to planting trees together in honor of the Remembrance Scholars. From Gianna naming Otto’s Juice Box when the Barnes Center was renovated to seeing Elton John perform in the JMA Wireless Dome last year, Syracuse is woven deeply into the fabric of the Mangicaro family.
Often accompanied by John’s wife and Gianna’s mother, Carolyn, and Gianna’s fiancé Christopher Szlamczynski ’18 (who works as assistant director of satellite facilities in the Barnes Center at The Arch) on their adventures, the pair speak highly of the University and the important role it has played in their lives.
“It’s just like an extended home for us. Everything we do at home, we do here—working, eating, laughing, spending time together,” John says.
“From the time I was a baby, everyone on campus was always excited to see you. As a student, there were faculty members who are super passionate about what they do and I was able to learn so much from them,” Gianna says. “Now as a staff member, I’m able to interact with so many different people and departments. It’s just an awesome place with a lot of great individuals that are just super happy to be here, too.”