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Higher Education's New High-Tech Executives

Higher Education's New High-Tech Executives

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by Thomas Vernon from Planning for Higher Education v23n1

To plan for and manage the high-tech revolution, institutions are introducing a CIO.
by Thomas Vernon from Planning for Higher Education v23n1

To plan for and manage the high-tech revolution, institutions are introducing a CIO.

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10/14/2013

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To
plan
for
and
manage
the
high-tech
revolution,
institutions
are
introducing
a
CIO.
Higher
Education's
New
High-Tech
Executives
Thomas
Vernon
uring
thepast
15
years a newsenior administrator
has
ap
peared
at
hundreds
of U.S.colleges and universities. Heor
she
is the Chief InformationOfficer,
or
CIO. Also known as
the
Senior Information Technology Executive (SITE), Vice President for Information,Vice Provost for Information and Technology, or several other titles, the CIO position
has
suddenly appeared
because
of
the
explosive growth of technology, computers,and telecommunications on
most
campuses, because ofinstitutions' need to holddown costs and coordinate
and
build networks with technology, and because wayshave to
be
found to integrate new technology with
the
traditional educational missions of
the
institutions.Computers, multi-media, and telecommunications are swiftly transforming howscholars do research, how architecture students design their buildings, how freshman
Thomas
Vernon
is a Ph.D. candidate at the
Uni
versity of Pennsylvania Graduate School ofEducation's higher education program andfounder ofInteractive Media Concepts, consultants for multi-media uses at schools and
col
leges. A graduate of Dickinson College,
he
earned a master's degree
in
educational technology at Boston University, and has written articles on
CD-ROM
products and programs.
edit their papers, how scientific laboratoriesare equipped and run, and how professorscommunicate with each other. Technologyis also changing pedagogy and classroomdesign (Blackett and Stanfield 1994);
and
distance learning is increasing.
The
present structure ofhigher education administration is
not
designed to planand direct
the
high-tech revolution takingplace in higher education in the 1990s.
Thecurrent
administrative structure of aca
deme
may
need
a
thorough
examination
and
overhaul. With
that
larger issue inmind, I conducted a study ofthe new CIO's.
About
those CIO's
The
CIO position, I learned, has been in
ex
istence about 15 years.
The
idea of
such
aposition apparently arose from a desire toconnect
two
disparate functions on campus.One was
the
library, which was seen as thefocal point for knowledge sources and information.
The
otherwas the computer center,which handled data processing, administrative computing, and often academic computing.
The
technology revolution of
the
past15 years, including
the
advances in voiceand data communications, prompted someinstitutions to worry about which of the twowas guiding
the
revolution.
The
idea of asingle, highly informed "information visionary" came into being. Two of
the
driving
PLANNING FOR HIGHER EDUCATION Volume
23,Fa111994
 
forces were a desire to trim the enormouscosts of building an information networkand the fear of rampant incompatibility
if
adecentralized, semi-anarchic approach tobuying hardware and software were allowedto continue.
In
the 1980s most colleges and universities were oblivious to the information explosion that lay ahead, as John McCredie
(1983)
pointed
out
Even among the
10
institutions McCredie identified as pioneers inthe field, only eight had a single person atthe executive level coordinating the efforts.But gradually during the 1980s more institutions did put one person
in
charge ofmanaging computing and telecommunicationsplanning and activity. From then on thenumbers grew. One reporter estimatedthere were fewer than
20
CIa's
in
1984
(Turner 1984). Butin
1986
the estimate roseto
100
(Fleit 1986); and a
1990
estimate putthe number at more than
200
(penrod
1990).
What
do
CIO's
do?
While the specifics vary among institutions,there are some typical duties. According toa recent survey,
the
CIa's
themselves described their main tasks as the leadershipand planning of technology growth on campus and broad communication about possibilities, costs, and training (penrod 1990).
The
CIa
represents his
orher
institution totechnology vendors and external organizations, negotiating to select the
best
equip
ment
and obtain the
highest
discounts.
CIa's
sometimes visit vendor sites to examine pre-release equipment, and they keepup with new and upcoming directions intechnology.
They
also assess
the
risks
in
volved in purchasing cutting-edge equipment in terms
of
reliability, standardization,and compatibility (Updegrove 1992).
The
CIa
is responsible too for monitoring security and control issues; computerhackers are an ever-present threat, especially in large, decentralized systems. Intrusions can threaten the security ofadministrative records and other confidential information.
The
CIa
may work withfaculty who
are
preparing proposals
or
grants involving
the
purchase of computerequipment; and
he
or
she
encouragesscholars to buy equipment compatible withuniversity-owned computers. For
CIa's,
di
plomacy and strong negotiating skills seemas necessary as technical expertise.
Three
campus examples
I have included the organization charts containing a
CIa
from
three
institutions: asmall, liberal arts college, a large community college, and a private, research university. (See Figures
1-3.)
At GettysburgCollege in Pennsylvania,
the
leaders havedecided on a centralized approach, asshown in Figure
1.
The
Associate Provost is
the
CIa.
Though
he
has
a technical background,
his
duties are mainly administrative, and
he
relies heavily on
the
technicalinformation of his staff. Since
he
approvesall technology purchases for
both
the
li
brary and the media center, there is coordination of information technology in
these
spheres too.At Maricopa County Community
Col
lege in Phoenix, Arizona, the
CIa
is a ViceChancellor for Information Technologies
For
CIO's,
diplomacy
seems
as
necessary
as
technical
expertise.
(Figure 2). He reports directly to the Chancellorofthis several-campus college, and isresponsible for developing long-range technology plans and total system design. Healso directs
the
telecommunications program and participates in the College's overall strategic planning. His Director ofComputing and Communications adminis
ters
the district-wide telecommunicationsystems and shapes
the
long-range plansfor voice and data communications.At the University of Pennsylvania
(Fig
ure
3),
the
Ivy League university in Philadelphia,
the
direction of computing andtelecommunications is largely decentralized, due partly to the university's responsibility-center approach to budgeting and to
PLANNING
FOR HIGHER
EDUCATION
Volume
23,
Fall
1994
9
 
the
advanced expertise of many of
the
institution's scholar-researchers.
The
ViceProvost for Information Systems and
Com
puting is
the
cm,
and
he
supervises a six
part
division of Information Systems andComputing (ISC), which promotes standards, provides central services, and repre
sents the
different schools to the manymanufacturers.
The
ISC
has
an AdvisoryCounciloffaculty, staff, andstudentswhichprovides suggestions and criticisms and
in
sures that
the
technology is meeting theUniversity's academic needs.
Where
do
CIO's comefrom?
The
largest number of
CIa's
have come to
the
position from faculty positions, especially in engineering and computer science
(W
oodsworth 1988), and from administrative positions requiring sophisticated computer skills.
These
seem natural entrypoints because it is essential for the
cm
tohave a working knowledge of
the
politics,economics, and sensitivities of higher education. At leading institutions, a Ph.D. maybe necessary (Updegrove
1992).
The
future
cm
is often someone whose deep interestin computers, software packages, and telecommunications has gradually replaced hisor
her
interest in a particular discipline oradministrative unit.Entry from industry happens rarely.Yet occasionally a person who manages
all
the
technology for a company or servicebusiness makes
the
switch to academia.But many
in
industry are reluctant to workat colleges because of the sharp differencebetween
the
cultures of business and
the
academic world (Updegrove 1992). Also,
the
salaries and budgets are smaller inhigher education and the managementstyle is quite different. Persons trained infast-moving, profit-making, hierarchical,commercial enterprises usually find the
"or
ganized anarchy" of many universities hardto take.A third route into
the
cm
position isthrough library science. In some ways
li
brarians have the best training in managinglarge, varied, complex data bases and
Gettysburg College:
The
CIO and staff
FIGURE
1
This
college
has
a centralized infonnation management system.
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