Community News

Trained by the best: Varaan

Each month we interview a member of the Academy Training Team for insight on how our training works, and as recognition for all the hard work that goes into training new members each and every week of the year!

This month, we’re sitting down with LtCmdr. Varaan, who was recently appointed a Cadet Steward of the Academy.

WOLF: Hello LtCmdr. Varaan, and thanks for sitting down with me to talk more about our training program! We’ve known each other for a long, long time – it’s great to sit down and talk with you in a sorta “retrospective” way, and get your experience over the long-haul.

VARAAN: Thank you. It’s an honour to be here.

Tell us a little about the player behind the character.

Well, I’ve been a supply teacher for a dozen years, am happily married with three wonderful children who are my life (outside of SB118, of course), and I enjoy reading, logic games and puzzles, watching/playing/coaching baseball, and science fiction and fantasy.

As I mentioned above, you were a member many years ago. Do you remember how you found our community? And what differences have you experienced between the way it was when you joined, and the way it is now?

I remember I was away at teacher’s college, and I stumbled upon the site – don’t remember what exactly I was looking for, I just know I was supposed to be doing school work at the time! The concept of PBEM intrigued me. I had some previous experience with MUSHes and MUXes for other genres, but nothing like PBEM. I’ve always liked Star Trek, so the idea of being creative…collaboratively, in a setting like Trek very much appealed to me. I joined, went through training, was assigned a ship, and away I went. I loved it.

As for the differences…I think back then, even though the group had already existed for a number of years, I think we were still getting our feet wet in regards to how to do things, how to do them right, and how to do them better. Captains had more freedom of command style in regards to how to sim, when to sim, the styles of simming, et cetera. On one hand it didn’t inhibit the creative flow, but with varying ways to sim, if a player switched ships they often had to learn a new style. Now, with a streamlined Academy style that continues on to all the ships, it is much easier to move around. And I think there’s a lot more accountability in place, with post counts and forms and the like, trying to keep the fleet running like a well oiled machine.

What brought you back to UFOP: SB118 after your hiatus?

I had found the group and did my simming “all those years ago” while I had internet access from university and college. I didn’t have internet at home. Once I was done school, I had no internet anymore, and so I couldn’t remain with the group. I never WANTED to leave. Which was why, when my wife and I finally felt we HAD to get the internet because now some of the kids are old enough that they need it for their school work, I was able to “come home,” as it were. This group is fantastic, and really illustrates the IDIC principle. For all you non-Vulcans out there, look it up!

You have a rather unique experience with the Academy, as you were once an Academy Deputy Commandant! Do you feel like the Academy has changed since you were in that role?

Oh, absolutely! But from my opinion it hasn’t changed drastically. All of the proper elements are still present. Yet like any living organism, it has evolved over time to adapt to its needs. It’s gained an element here, dropped an element there. But I think that with the training manuals we have now, that really spell out what is expected at each stage of the training program, and the feedback – not only to the cadets, but to the trainers too – I think that really the level of communication, in all its facets, has improved. We’ve always had great trainers and great admin, and we still do.

And now you’re back on the Academy Training Staff as one of the Cadet Stewards. Can you help our members understand what you do in this role?

Sure. When a prospective player submits an application to join the fleet, and it gets accepted, it’s the Cadet Steward that they hear back from. We welcome them to the group, explain about the week long training they’ll go through to make sure they have all the tools they’ll need to be successful, and offer to be a friendly contact person for them until they’re officially on a ship. Then it’s all of your turns to be a friendly person! Behind the scenes, there’s forms and charts for us to fill out, of course, but mostly our job is to be that welcoming presence, someone that they can feel comfortable with should they need something.

What’s your favourite memory of your time on the training team?

Honestly? I guess it was recently…I mean, after I returned to the fleet last year. Before I had left years ago, we had a period where the trainers were allowed to submit new/original training scenarios, to try to update the program. Some were accepted and were made training scenarios. We still use some of them today. I remember that I had written one, which had been accepted. So, jump forward, and I return to the fleet, and then rejoin the training team. There was a week that I was a mock cadet, and the Training CO just happened to choose the scenario I had written almost 10 years prior. I got to be a cadet in my own scenario! It was great! I could see where something I had done was actually being used to help shape new cadets.

What advice would you give to someone who might consider joining the training team?

Do it. I mean, I know it’s a requirement for anyone wanting to advance through the ranks, but even if you aren’t that interested in promotion, you should still consider it anyway. With all of the resources, contact people, and step by step manuals we now have, there’s nothing to be afraid of. Everything is laid out for you. And the simple pleasure of seeing someone grow from a newbie to a productive simmer in our fleet…it’s a great feeling. Especially when you can say you were a part of the formative steps.

Thank you so much for your time — we’ll let you get back to training!

You can read more about LtCmdr. Varaan on the wiki, and learn more about joining the Academy Training Team on this page.

About Tristan Wolf

FltAdml. Tristan Wolf, real name Jordan, founded UFOP: StarBase 118 – a Star Trek Play By Email RPG – in June of 1994. He previously served as the Commanding Officer for a number of simming installations, notably the first of StarBase 118 Operations. He currently lives in San Francisco with his partner and their Humane Society rescue dog named Baxter. Jordan works in politics, loves scifi (natch), fantasy, and new technologies.
View all posts by Tristan Wolf

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