This CIO profile is part of the "Mobility in Higher Education" survey underwritten by Sprint Higher Education Solutions and conducted by the Education Dive editorial staff.
New Hampshire's flagship research university, the University of New Hampshire, serves 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students on three campuses — a main residential campus in Durham, an urban campus in Manchester and a law school in Concord.
Maintaining the hi-tech infrastructure connecting these three locations is an IT team led by CIO Joanna Young (@UNHCIO). At this year's Educause conference, Young participated in a panel discussion on how CIOs can serve as transformational forces for their institutions, noting the ever-growing importance of strong Wi-Fi infrastructure and going beyond merely presenting new technologies to faculty and staff. On the heels of our 2013 "Mobility in Higher Education" survey, Education Dive spoke with Young about transitioning into the education industry, the "Internet of things" and how UNH IT takes that next step when introducing new technologies.
EDUCATION DIVE: How did you arrive at your current role?
JOANNA YOUNG: I spent 20 years in the insurance industry and was fortunate to have great career opportunities and growth during those years. I am a UNH alum and live in NH, so when the CIO job was offered to me, it was an opportunity to diversify my experience and extend my experience to UNH. I’ve now been at UNH over 4 years.
What was your transition from insurance to education like?
YOUNG: It was exciting and challenging. I was used to working with diverse business units in insurance. The colleges and other large units at UNH are like unique business units; they all have their own strategies and culture to which IT needs to be responsive. I am able to be much closer to the customer — our students and other constituents — at UNH, which is nice. Probably the biggest change coming to UNH was getting used to working with federal and state government on sponsored research and other areas of common interest.
What kinds of challenges and accomplishments have you experienced since you got there?
YOUNG: The challenges were in two categories. First, the basics. Modernizing and rationalizing IT was an initial challenge, including improving relationships with internal stakeholders. We also had to bolster our infrastructure, particularly the Wi-Fi network on campus. Second, we had to increase the contribution and strategic value of IT. We built an online learning platform, dramatically increased faculty knowledge and participation in technology-enabled learning (flipped classrooms, et. al.), went to “mobile first” and “cloud first,” got customer relationship management started, modernized our web presence (in fact now planning next iteration), and got started on the “big data” journey. A major project that straddles both categories is UNH managing the State of New Hampshire’s broadband expansion, which was federally funded through ARRA and is wrapping up this year.
In the panel you were on at Educause, you said, "Often, it's IT's role to go far beyond just presenting a technology or offering a technology." What are some ways that UNH is doing this?
YOUNG: UNH IT is an innovator, not just a builder and supporter of technology. We work to create opportunities; the UNH IT academic technology team is out in front with new classroom technology and online learning platforms. UNH's new online Masters of Social Work is an example where we paved the technology pathway for our faculty. UNH IT also introduced Salesforce as a platform for admissions and is expanding to other units. We work to prevent barriers. We know how critical a robust and secure wireless network is for our institution, and we are constantly working to be ahead of the insatiable demand of the "Internet of things."
From an IT perspective, how have smartphones and tablets impacted your daily work?
YOUNG: Mobile devices are ubiquitous. More devices, more applications, more bandwidth-intensive functionality. The challenge for IT is staying out in front of the bandwidth demand, and ensuring security. Next up is "Internet of things." That will drive the next explosion of bandwidth and cyber security demands on IT.
What do you think the biggest impact of the "Internet of Things" will be on education?
YOUNG: Within our market, it's yet another driver of the urgency and criticality of producing larger numbers of STEM-educated graduates. Higher education needs to be out in front, providing academic and research experiences that students will need to be positioned for success.
Practically speaking, on our campuses, more and more 'things' will be Internet-enabled, and ergo more broadband will be needed. CIOs and their teams need to stay ahead of the demand curve on our network infrastructure, and need to be unwavering on a mobile-first approach to delivering technology. An organization's inability to engage with customers and constituents via mobile is a negative differentiator. People will gradually shy away and opt out if they can't engage via mobile and social.
Does your school have a BYOD policy right now?
YOUNG: We’ve been doing BYOD for years. We have a secure, high speed network that employees and students can use with any device, within reason. We have a guest network for our many visitors to campus, including our state-of-the-art Wi-Fi in our arena, the Whittemore Center.
If you could change one thing overnight to make your life easier on campus, what would it be?
YOUNG: My work life getting easier isn’t important. My job is to make students, faculty, staff and visitor experience the best it can be, whether at one of our three campuses or virtually.
What’s the best technology investment you’ve seen your institution make while you’ve been there?
YOUNG: I can’t name just one. 1) The technology and related training and support, made available to faculty so they can, in turn, appropriately apply it to UNH’s high-quality educational product. 2) 100% Wi-Fi access in the residence halls, in direct answer to student requests expressed in my first days back in 2009.
What do you think your school's biggest technical challenge will be over the next decade?
YOUNG: People expect to be able to interact with an organization in a personalized, swift manner. IT has to be able to deliver the platforms, with the supporting infrastructure, to deliver that affordably and at scale.
In terms of the overall tech environment on your campus, are you satisfied with where everything is at?
YOUNG: I'm never satisfied. I certainly take time to appreciate our successes, and celebrate with my team, such as the recent roll-out of UNH's new digital logo. However, business and technology don't sit still; neither do I — at least not for long. The higher education market is being disrupted at a time when education is critically important for our state and the nation. We have to offer and personalize education at scale. You need technology, good technology, to do that.
Stay tuned over the next few weeks for more CIO profiles from Education Dive as part of our 2013 "Mobility in Higher Education" survey underwritten by Sprint Higher Education Solutions. Download the full survey results here.