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Innovations: Message From The CIO, Steve Fabiani

By jservedio on December 1, 2017

Having joined Colgate just over a year ago, my time here has been focused in three areas – meeting members of our academic community and learning about  our great institution; organizing our people, finances, and services to ensure that the full force of ITS is aimed squarely in support of Colgate’s academic mission; and identifying and addressing as many acute technology opportunities and risks as possible. In this first Notes from the CIO, I’d like to share what we’ve learned, what we’ve done, and where we hope to go in the coming months and years.

Lessons from Our Community

The most appropriate way to begin this section of my report to you is with a deep and sincere thanks. As you all know, and as I have come to feel deeply, the Colgate community is a model of excellence among our peers. Joining any community in a service leadership role can be challenging. Your welcoming nature, supportive guidance, genuine advice, and passion about the students we serve and the work we do has made becoming a member of the Colgate community a pleasure.

Conversations with faculty, administrative colleagues, and students have brought many insights and illuminated many aspirations. As an academic community of the highest order, we seek an IT division that contributes to success – whether in the classroom, lab, or office – while recognizing that technology is a means, not an end. Our faculty and students expect (and deserve) consistent and reliable technology  in our classrooms and learning spaces. We have systems that could serve us better if they were easier to use, more intuitive, and better integrated. We must serve our institutional commitment to research with a dedicated and skilled staff and current high-performance computing technology. Finally, we expect that the entire division will operate in support of 21st-century technology for an academic community. We are not unique in having had an IT structure that focused only a small part of the division on academics. As we move forward, every member of the IT staff must in some way be engaged with our core mission. To borrow the words of a colleague, “It’s all academic. Everything we do.” These must be our core values.

Organizing for a Modern Approach through late 2016 and early 2017, our division engaged in an introspective organizational exercise driven by feedback from external constituents and focus sessions among our staff. Out of this work came organizational changes that we expect will serve our community far more comprehensively, without adding additional staff positions. Three distinct service teams were combined into a single unit. All of our digital media, classroom, and event technicians are now working together under one director. ITS now has a team dedicated to the visualization and effective use of data campuswide. And our teaching and learning technologies staff is now also responsible for thought leadership around technical innovation across the division. ITS is organized into five teams. Each team has responsibility for both academic and administrative services.

Engagement and Support, led by Ahmad Khazaee, is your first point of contact. This team includes our service desk, which addresses acute and systemic problems and can guide you to the right folks in ITS to meet your unique needs or address new system or service requirements. This team handles all repairs and upgrades for  all staff and faculty computing equipment, and public labs and printing campuswide. This team is also charged with tracking service requests and identifying any systemic patterns and problems.

Learning and Applied Innovation, led by Jeff Nugent, is focused on helping us organize our thinking around innovation so that we’re ready to help when you need it. Jeff and his team of instructional designers can help faculty and students who wish to use technology as part of their pedagogical approach. They operate special facilities like our Digital Learning and Media Center and our budding makerspace, The Hub. Jeff’s team is also responsible for fostering the entire community’s understanding of how to use the many systems and services we offer.

Services and Shared Infrastructure is our core technology group, led by Glenn Packer. This team is responsible for sustaining all systems – both academic and administrative. Running major systems like Moodle and Banner, maintaining our networks and telecommunication services, and operating high- performance research computing clusters are all efforts that require both deep technical expertise and clear understanding of how our faculty and administrators work toward meeting the institutional mission. Bringing this team together means we have a critical mass of deep technical expertise and institutional understanding working together as one unit.

Data Analytics and Decision Support is  the team that’s focused on ensuring that our community can use the rich collection of data we maintain. Led by Tim Borfitz, Data Analytics offers services to both faculty and administrators who are working with large data sets or difficult data analysis. Borfitz’s team maintains the university’s data warehouse and provides support for developing visualizations. Whether you have a massive research data set that you’d like help wrangling, or you need to examine historical administrative trends, his team is there to help.

Classrooms, Digital Media and Events, led by Mark Hine, includes technical staff whose first mission is to ensure that our learning spaces and presentation technology is consistent and reliable campuswide. This team is also responsible for our video and recording studios and provides technology support for the many daytime, evening, and weekend events and exhibitions at Colgate. From September 2016 to August 2017, the CDME team supported more than 1,000 special events – 250 events per technician – in addition to maintenance and upgrades of our learning spaces campuswide.

Priorities for 2017–2018

In this edition of Innovations we highlight work done over the course of the last academic year  and summer, but there’s much work to be done in

terms of aligning our support structures with what our faculty need and in looking at our priorities in the context of the broader institutional strategic planning efforts.

This fall and winter, I’ll be working with CIT, OAK, the Research Computing Advisory Committee,

President Brian Casey’s cabinet, and members of  the appropriate board committees to bring our long

term-planning documents into focus. There are many conversations to have and there’s much community review to happen between now and a final strategic plan for IT. In early conversations, many themes are emerging and include:

  • Improving the technology in our teaching and learning spaces so that they inspire confidence and work consistently every time.
  • Information security and mitigating the many risks that come along with managing data and connecting to the Internet.
  • Continuing our infrastructure upgrades, including additional efforts in residential and campus outdoor wireless, improved authentication and connectivity to Internet 2.
  • Additional technology support for the arts, aligned with the broader institutional priority around support for arts initiatives.
  • Examining our many administrative systems.  Our main student and financial system, Banner, was implemented 23 years ago. Many others have been added in the years since, in some cases to accommodate the ways in which Colgate has grown and changed. It’s time to look carefully at this landscape of systems to ensure that they are all working together correctly and serving us as well as they can.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, and a planning effort must be a collaborative one. To this end, I welcome your feedback and perspectives. And repeating the sentiment from earlier in this report, I offer sincere thanks.


Enjoy Innovations!


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