This past July, Pace University appointed Thomas A. Hull as the new Vice President and Chief Information Officer for the University. Hull has a long history of both public and private sector experience, most recently serving as Chief Information Officer of Siena College in Loudonville, New York. Hull will serve as the senior administrator of Information Technology Services at Pace and be responsible for maintaining an integrated, efficient, sustainable, and responsive program of information technology and infrastructure support services for academic, research, and administrative computing.
What are your top three priorities as CIO?
In brief: To emphasize progress with our Academic Technology group in the areas of online learning and distributed learning environments; to develop and execute a program plan for business intelligence known as iStrategy that will deliver dashboard data using our new data warehouse this year and provide insight into all areas of the University in the next couple years; collaboration enhanced by modern technology and knowledge management for our wealth of faculty talent across the University; and to implement best practices in the area of ITS strategy and operation, which includes management of all service areas from the foundation of infrastructure management, user services, call center, and helpdesk to the portfolio management of our software and device solutions (over 100 applications and systems).
What are some of the challenges you may face in this new position?
There are several challenges that we have to stay on top of in the IT industry, including the changing landscape of end user and mobile computing paradigm, which is emphasized in higher education with new devices coming to campus every year. We must learn and then provide client integration and networking to our key systems at the University with those devices. Another constant challenge is to provide efficient service management for all of our vendor products and then make the best use of the new features and functions that come with the annual development cycles so that we are getting the most value for our investments in technology. We are challenging ourselves with growing our skills in ITS so that we are talented in programming and systems integration, so that we are capable of producing modern applications and user interfaces. Similarly, we are seeking complementary partnerships with members of the Pace Community such as the Seidenberg Creative Labs and also utilizing our part-time student workforce to get new and exciting projects that will make a difference in the web applications and new end user interfaces in using our systems.
There have already been a lot of improvements in pedagogical technology at Pace, what else can we expect to see?
This is a very exciting area because it includes technology for the changing educational landscape in higher education. The higher education industry is moving fast and we want to be right in front of the curve. We want to standardize technology for our online and distributed learning programs and for our future opportunities, so that the technology that produces collaboration between faculty and students is defined and repeatable for all schools. This includes collaborative virtual classrooms, videoconferencing with a pilot program that we are evaluating called Blackboard Collaborate, desktop sharing between faculty and students so that students can text and ask questions or comment on the material, and applications so that everyone can work in the convenience of any location no matter where you may reside. We also have an iPad User Group that is constantly researching and trying new apps for pedagogical usage including new apps for students’ education materials, and usage as a clicker in getting responses to questions during the classroom sessions, amongst others.
Are you planning any collaboration with other departments at the University?
Yes, there are several initiatives in consideration now for cross functional collaboration. We have expanded our service request system (Web Helpdesk) to have queues for OSA, Facilities, Security, University Relations, and several others so that we can have a central point of contact, which is now as simple as just dialing the 3’s (3-3333). This way anyone can ask any question on any subject and get a response from the proper department. This August, through OSA leadership, we implemented a virtual call center so that if OSA’s call volume is high—such as the start of the semester—then staff from any location can be plugged in to take calls regardless of where they sit. We are collaborating with Enrollment Management on Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Web Services, and we working with HR and Finance for online web applications to reduce our paper-based forms processes which will be communicated throughout this year. There are other collaborations, too, including one with the Athletics Department in communicating the schedule of athletic events, and working with all the academic and student areas for helping the students get started with their ePortfolios that will help them retain their academic work products for the rest of their careers.
What do you consider to be the most important aspect of your work for the Pace Community?
I consider my relationships with students, my peers and the leadership of the University to be a very important aspect of my work here. The connection with faculty and students may be the most important since we are here to provide the best possible experience of higher education to our students. I am constantly considering new uses for technology and continuous process improvement so that we provide a great, modern experience here at Pace. In working with the Pace leadership, SGA, and Faculty Committees, it has been an excellent start to my career here at Pace and I look forward to expanding our technology initiatives and relationships with all members of the Pace Community. I encourage anyone to contact me via e-mail or call to talk about a new idea or opportunity that we can endeavor into.