They may not know it, but every University student, faculty and staff member is affected by the work of the Office of Information Technology.
Behind the Moodle page, registration technology, financial aid transactions and more is new Vice President and Chief Information Officer Scott Studham.
Studham filled the position beginning Feb. 13 after former VPCIO Steve Cawley vacated the post for a role at the University of Miami in Florida.
Though often behind the scenes, the office Studham oversees plays an integral role in the University, said Robert Jones, senior vice president of academic administration.
“Information technology is no longer an aside as part of operating a university,” said Jones, who helped University President Eric Kaler pick Studham. “It’s central and core to the mission of the University, not only to teaching and research. It’s a very core part of how we operate.”
Studham has been a CIO for major institutes for the past decade. Most recently, Studham served in this role at the University of Tennessee since 2009.
The University of Minnesota is about twice the size of the University of Tennessee. That “size and breadth” is something that drew Studham to the position, along with the challenge of utilizing strained resources and integrating information technology at a school of this scale.
Balancing technology efficiency and advancement
Since he assumed the presidency, Kaler has emphasized enhancing bureaucratic efficiency, even creating the Operational Excellence Committee.
Studham’s new position plays a role in that push for efficiency.
The Office of Information Technology, which has an approximately $60 million budget, has recently faced cuts.
In the past four years, its staff has decreased from 450 to 350, he said.
To deal with this, the office has looked to do more with less by eliminating redundant operations in different colleges that could be centralized in a single system.
At the same time, the University wants to stay ahead of the game when it comes to technology use.
“I want our best thoughts about how to use modern tools to enable student access, and I want to pilot those ideas, adopt what works and spread it across our campuses,” Kaler said in his State of the University address March 1.
Studham said that the informational technology world as a whole has seen a trend toward consumer devices like phones.
“Now we have many different systems coming in. A lot of students are bringing in their own iPod or their own iPhone or their own iPad, a lot of different tools with them,” Studham said.
To deal with that variety of electronics, Studham said that the University mainly focuses on smartphone-friendly Web pages compatible with various technologies because it’s harder to write code applicable for every type of mobile device.
Though not the central focus, mobile apps are also on the University’s mind.
Final presentations of OIT’s UMN Mobile App Challenge, a two-semester event that pitted students to develop innovative mobile apps, were held March 23.
One app idea that came out is similar to Yelp, which allows students to check in and out of different places on campus with comments about the location.
Like other new hires, Studham has spent the first month of his employment getting better acquainted with the University — specifically, its information technology challenges.
How the University can better integrate technology with its courses is at the top of his priorities, he said.
“We’re starting to see this change in how courses are delivered,” he said.
Technology is becoming a more important part of the classroom, and Studham is looking for ways to continue and improve this integration.
At the University of Tennessee, Studham focused on student needs with one of his projects allowing a student to stream lab software to his own computer’s desktop.
He said that technology here needs to come out of a “grassroots culture” — meaning technology is created with users in mind.
“Technology touches every part of this University. That’s why we were very keen about hiring someone who has contemporary knowledge of these enterprise systems,” Jones said.