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The Northerner

IT improves customer service

Valarie Macarie

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Great News for NKU. The IT department is continuing their metamorphosis. They have been working hard to provide better service, better technology, and better education for students in the long run. NKU plans to emerge as a major player in the “new economy” with initiatives underway to make this happen. “We’ve begun to build up the infrastructure,” says Gary Pratt, Associate Provost for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer, as he and his staff work to transform the Office of Information Technology. We’ve already seen some progress with a reorganization of three departments into one in just two and a half years since Gary joined NKU. He’s creating an organization that covers all constituencies: administrative, academic, and all users including students, staff, and faculty. He said, “We needed to be a change agent; we’ve made a lot of positive changes over the last couple of years and people appreciate what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.” Gary gave up his home and the wonderful climate in Colorado to pioneer the big changes that needed to occur at a time when NKU was behind the technology wave.

There are still some issues to resolve in the IT department as they work hard to meet the needs of a continually expanding university. There have been great improvements over the past few years; however, they are pushing hard for more. One issue is the quantity of demands being supported such as equipment, facilities, and number of users on campus. For example, a few years ago, there was one technical person for every 350 pieces of equipment and now there is approximately one person per every 250 pieces of equipment. However, the ratio is still behind industry standards. Another accomplishment was the long overdue creation of a replacement plan for older equipment. We are beginning to see the plans taking shape for a transformation into a modern, technological university.

One of the most exciting initiatives is the new Teaching and Learning Center under construction at Steely Library. For NKU to be considered a university on the forefront of technology, one of the responsibilities include training faculty and staff to use the equipment. Several initiatives came together between IT, Faculty Development, and the Steely Library to create the Center. “We’re in the final month of renovation and the center will be a one-stop shop for training and development for faculty and staff,” Gary said. He added, “We are pushing the bounds of any renovations we did in the past; the new center will be a showcase facility with high-end equipment for faculty, staff, and eventually for students.” The idea is to have a place to come and learn technology with everything from digital editing to a comprehensive video library combining audio and video collections in a single facility. Faculty and staff will be trained in Office 2000, Outlook, Blackboard, Lectora Publisher and more. Eventually, the plan is to have technology to provide media upon request at any computer work station or classroom on campus so that faculty will be able to view media on their office computer and schedule it to be shown in their classrooms.

Other broader initiatives are underway to transform the economic landscape statewide. NKU would like to play a major role in making that happen. “The Office of the New Economy in Frankfort was created to oversee the development of the new economy plan for the State of Kentucky,” said Keith Johnson, Co-Chair of the Northern Kentucky Technology Initiative and Attorney at Taft, Stettinius, and Hollister. He stated, “It was a collaborative effort of a statewide technology strategic plan spearheaded by the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce in this region.” Kara Clark, the Chamber’s Coordinator for Public Affairs, confirmed, “The focus areas for the new economy plan include: expanding business recruitment, nurturing small business growth and entrepreneurism, building the public infrastructure and technology skills of our current and future workforce, and establishing the necessary leadership to further the new economy.”

NKU already plays a much broader role in regional education with several outreach programs. The College of Education provides teacher training to the K through12 arena bringing greater skills to those teachers. The Metropolitan Education and Training Services (METS), a unit of NKU, provides training and development to businesses throughout the Greater Cincinnati community. Gary said, “Our role as a university is to create access to the skills so students can successfully utilize technology in every aspect of what they do. We’re taking a strong, hard look at the programs we’re already providing, reorganizing and enhancing the programs we have, and making information technology available in all the programs so that when a student leaves, regardless of their program, they will have the abilities they need to succeed.” Gary sees NKU on the forefront in making a major difference for this region.

Other big plans for NKU include the collaboration between Highland Heights, Cold Springs, Wilder, and Campbell County with the development of the areas that surround campus as a “Commercialization Corridor.” The NKU Foundation has plans to develop two properties nearby, a hotel/conference facility and high-tech office buildings. The Office of Information Technology is building the infrastructure of the campus to support these partnerships. Funding will be an issue to make it happen; technology is expensive and takes money to support. “We plan to show successes with the investments already made in building the foundation and then start building the structure around it,” says Gary. So far, they

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The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.
IT improves customer service