Changing culture to build a connected campus: A CIO’s perspective

Changing culture to build a connected campus: A CIO’s perspective

By Mugunth Vaithylingam on Tuesday, September 19, 2017


For many years now, higher education IT professionals have typically focused on keeping administrators and faculty happy. They tend to take minimal risks and hesitate to embrace new technologies in an effort to stay out of trouble and avoid controversy. The time has come now, with the rapid rate of technology evolution, to rethink this culture.  

As the leader of technology change here at College of Southern Nevada (CSN), of course I have to make sure our administrators and faculty are happy, but more importantly I need to show them why adopting new technology to reach students where they are is a necessary practice. It is no longer enough to rely on the technology that the faculty already know how to use if it’s not meeting students’ needs. We owe them more than that. 

The City of Las Vegas has announced that it is adopting an internet of things (IoT) approach–automating the majority of interactions residents have with government entities. You will be able to hop on your phone and say, “where is there available parking?” and it will tell you, and let you pay right then and there. And you’ll be able to ask Alexa, “where can I book a party in a park near my home?” and she will tell you. These experiences will become a seamless part of life and residents will interact with their surroundings in an entirely new way. This is where our students live, and this is what they will expect - a truly connected campus.

While most higher education institutions are just now considering a move to the cloud, they are still wary. They want to be on the cutting edge, but not on the bleeding edge. They want to see 100 institutions on it and learn from them before they take the leap.

That, however, is not always the best approach. My position on the cloud is that the value is in the technology delivered and the ability to innovate at the right speed for our students. I believe the bias towards hardware is going away and it's slowly becoming a software driven world.

As I see it, the future isn’t just cloud, it’s multi-cloud, where we have services in a wide variety of cloud based solutions. It’s about accessibility and robust systems. I want to ensure that our students and faculty are able to reach everything they need for school or work, from wherever life takes them – all through our new single sign-on portal, Go CSN. In this vein, our website is hosted offsite, we’ve migrated our email to 365, our LMS is in the cloud, and I'm currently working to move our audio/video infrastructure to the cloud for improved flexibility.

All of this requires big changes in the way people work and getting faculty buy-in can be a challenge. There will always be some faculty members that still want overhead projectors even though we have state-of-the-art document cameras. There will always be faculty who still want to use VHS tapes. The goal for us is to educate them, to change their mindset and help them understand the benefits new technology brings to their teaching, and ultimately to their students. 

As CIOs embrace new technology, they begin to innovate rather than playing it safe with “business as usual.” We don’t want to just make sure the servers are up and running. As the leaders of technology for our great institutions, we need to do more than just support operations.  We need guide our schools into the future towards a completely connected campus.

To help you plan your journey to the cloud, please visit our Pathways to the Cloud page.

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About the Author

Mugunth Vaithylingam

Mugunth Vaithylingam

CIO College of Southern Nevada (Ellucian)

Mugunth Vaithylingam is responsible for planning, developing, and implementing cutting edge information solutions to address business opportunities and initiating and enforcing change management processes.