The Era of the IT Executive: 25 CIOs Speak Their Minds
Associate Provost and CIO
How does your vision for IT support Xavier’s mission?
I think the thing that really makes my job fulfilling to me is the whole mission, which is at the center of everything that happens at Xavier. But coupled with that mission is our students’ (welfare). Our vision statement actually says “Xavier men and women become people of learning and reflection, integrity and achievement, in solidarity for and with others.” That is really at the core of who and what we are for our students, coupled with the mission to get us here. When we can become enablers for the faculty and the students to experience higher education, whether it’s experiential learning while they’re here or immersion into the service learning perspective, technology can make it such a richer experience.
A perfect example of this is IT’s partnership with our new center for innovation. Through innovation and with technology Xavier can be an exciting place students want to attend and employees want to stay. We want people inside and outside of Xavier to know our story and see how the partnership between technology and innovation is changing Xavier’s identity, and how we can make it a meaningfully unique place to be.
How do you see your role with faculty, staff and students?
I’ve come to learn that, from the faculty perspective, in a lot of cases where technology was the unknown, a lot of it was fear-based. And if you put yourself in their shoes, they don’t want to get up in front of a class of 20 students and go to use some technology and fumble. Students are savvy, they know the technology better than most of us. So, you can imagine, being 18, after a whole life spent using technology, their expectations of the technology in higher education should be even more progressive. Really the root of all of it is embracing the relationship, a partnership. If we have that relationship, whether it’s with the faculty, the business leaders or our development office, who’s out there talking with alumni, potential donors, we’re running together and trying to figure out how, through innovation and with technology we can make this place exciting and someplace the students will want to attend; a place the employees are proud to say they work at, then I can retain them.
How do you go beyond a transactional relationship with the business leaders to go deeper?
I think by showing that we can do it we gained their trust, because they saw it happen. And then by us continuing to do that and starting to – it’s almost like a snowball – we’re starting to go faster and get bigger, because we’re doing more of it, that they’re seeing us lead by example, and they’re seeing that we’re putting our money where our mouths are. They’re doing it. So we’re growing that trust – it’s not just talk, it’s actually happening.
I think the other thing we do a little differently is we just don’t do status quo over and over. For example, when a vendor contract comes up, we don’t just necessarily renew it. We look at it, we bid out almost everything, and we look at whether or not it makes sense to stay with them. When a system comes up and needs an upgrade, I’m known to say, “Why should we stay with them?” For example, our blackboard 2 1/2 years ago came up. The hardware needed it, the OS needed it and the actual application all needed updating. I said, “Perfect time to look to see if we want another solution.” It ended up that we picked one. We formed a little team of all faculty and one IT person, and we ended up picking Canvas, which is cloud-based, agile and the interface is very social-media-like. Students love it.
It’s that kind of stuff that shows the proof is in the pudding and when you have your biggest people that just say they hate technology (actually) using Canvas, which is agile, students love it – and I’m saving a boatload of money – it’s such a win.