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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

September 24, 2004

IT leaders will chart path for technology future on campus

by Karen Bolluyt

Iowa State can make "a huge leap forward," according to Iowa State's chief information officer Jim Davis. Davis started his new job July 1. He is a faculty member in electrical and computer engineering and director of Academic Information Technologies (AIT), where he was interim director until July.

Not that such a leap is easy. Davis said it involves "challenging our assumptions and models we have used for years."

Here is the situation, according to Davis: Faculty and staff want to use computer technology in new and better ways in research, education and administration. ISU's information technology (IT) specialists are smart, creative and eager to meet these changing needs and challenges.

Davis is working with Maury Hope, director of Administrative Technology Services, and John Kingland, director of Telecommunications, to lay the groundwork for the campus discussion.

"We want people to challenge us, both by talking about current needs and by trying to imagine the future," Davis said. Davis, Hope and Kingland are conducting a study as preparation for writing a synopsis of the current status of IT at Iowa State University.

Focus groups and campus forums

In the initial phase of the study, the IT directors are convening focus groups of students, researchers, teachers and administrative staff members during September and October. Other meetings and forums will give the rest of campus a chance to weigh in on the future of campus IT.

Davis said his goal is "an ongoing campus conversation that will provide feedback for continuously improving information technologies."

Davis said IT directors will encourage an ongoing campus conversation about continuous improvement of information technologies.

People will be able to check on the status of the study on a Web site that is under construction.

Current central services

Among the services provided by central IT units are:

  • The network infrastructure that provides telephone services, data communications networks, campus video distribution, Internet access, security and identity management.
  • Student and financial systems, such as admissions and AccessPlus
  • Technology to enhance learning, including WebCT.
  • The Durham Solution Center, a one-stop place to go with IT questions.
  • Hardware and software support for desktop computers.
  • Specialized research equipment, such as for high-performance computing

The outlook for the future

Davis said he expects many ideas for the future to come from faculty and staff who want to use IT in new ways. Some changes already in the works or under consideration are:

  • Improving the capacity and reliability of campus Internet connections.
  • Providing one-stop help desk service for computer and network solutions.
  • Increasing central file storage for faculty, staff and students
  • Improving campus mobile communications options by expanding and upgrading wireless networks.
  • Improving the campus wired infrastructure to support next generation voice, data and video services converged on one campus network

Quiet fall good for planning

Last fall students arrived on campus at the same time as the latest computer virus, the Sasser worm. "Many students found their access to our network was blocked. Some computers needed to be completely rebuilt. It took several months to fix," Davis said.

So far this fall, things are relatively quiet on the virus front, allowing IT staff more time to focus on planning.

They also are following results of a new service for students. AIT staff developed a program that scans personal computers and notifies students if operating system patches or updated anti-virus software is recommended for their computers.

Planning for savings and/or multipliers

"We are always on the lookout for 'force multipliers.' That's our way of saying we want to get $5 of benefit for a $3 investment. We believe that by prioritizing IT needs, and refocusing our collective IT resources, we will become more efficient and effective overall," he said.

IT Study Advisory Group

  • Ben Allen, provost
  • Warren Madden, Business and Finance
  • Thomas Hill, Student Affairs
  • James Bloedel, Vice Provost for Research
  • James Davis, chief information officer
  • Olivia Madison, Library
  • Aluru Srinivas, Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Maury Hope, Administrative Technology Services
  • John Kingland, Telecommunications
Davis, Maury Hope and John Kingland

Jim Davis, Maury Hope and John Kingland will lead a campus discussion this fall on IT services in the future. Photo by Bob Elbert.


"We want people to challenge us, both by talking about current needs and by trying to imagine the future."

Jim Davis