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Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014

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Information technology changes announced

Computing and Information Technology has changed its name to the Office of Information Technology . But the transformation taking place within the unit runs much deeper than shifting a word or two.

"This marks a new beginning for us," said Betty Leydon, who became vice president for information technology and chief information officer at the University in June. "Our primary focus is going to be on service -- working hard to provide the services that support the University's mission and our clients."

Leydon came to Princeton from Duke University, where she was vice provost for information technology and chief information officer for seven years. She also was at the University of New Hampshire for eight years, ultimately becoming executive director for computing and information services.

Leydon spent the summer meeting with Princeton's information technology staff and developing some preliminary plans. "Because it was the summer, we realized it would be difficult in any coherent and meaningful way to get extensive input from the community about our mission and goals," she said. "However, we had brainstorming sessions to talk about the strengths and weaknesses of our organization as well as the services we provide and those we don't but know are needed. Then we wrote a mission statement and goals. Obviously, in terms of working on the specifics of how we accomplish these goals, we'll need a lot of input from faculty, staff and students."

Leydon formally unveiled those plans and discussed key changes at a meeting with the entire OIT staff in the Frist Campus Center Sept. 10, the same day the new name became effective and a new OIT Web site went live (see below).

The number one goal of the organization is to "deliver information technology products and services that meet the needs of the Princeton community and achieve the highest level of customer satisfaction."

"It's not an accident that we put that goal as number one," she said. "We feel that one of our weaknesses is an impression that the central CIT organization was not as service oriented as it could be. I think that's typical of central IT organizations in general, especially if there's no way for people to provide feedback or suggestions. People feel that decisions are being made without their input."

The new plan provides mechanisms for faculty, staff and students to participate in OIT decision making. "Decisions related to information technology at Princeton need to be defined from the perspective of the people here -- the faculty, staff and students," she said. "We hope to create appropriate advisory councils that will include those constituencies so that we can work together to determine the short-term and long-term goals for OIT."

"I think this also will facilitate exchanging ideas about information technology and helping to find ways to collaborate across the institution," she continued. "I've heard people say that there are interesting things going on, but it's very difficult to find out about them. I'm sure that we could do more sharing and learning from each other's experiences if we have some vehicles for doing that."

Leydon also hopes to improve communication and collaboration through such tools as a new monthly newsletter that will be mailed to all faculty and staff and posted on the Web.

Another key goal is to "support the use and development of information technology to enable academic innovation in teaching, learning, research and scholarship."

"Over the past five to ten years, many institutions -- including Princeton -- have concentrated on building the infrastructure, putting their networks in place and replacing old administrative systems, partly because of the year 2000 problem and partly because old mainframe computers were expensive to maintain," she said. "Now we have a solid infrastructure and we can turn to the academic arena to determine what more we can do with these resources to improve teaching and learning. There are many more tools today than there used to be. Now there really is an opportunity to make a difference, where there might not have been five years ago."

Leydon's other goals for the office include playing a leadership role in planning for the use of technology and providing quality information technology professionals to support the OIT's work. "The more we encourage faculty to use the academic systems like Blackboard, the more we need to provide staff support and training for those tools," she said.

Although she is still in the process of defining priorities for the office, Leydon said she and her staff already have been participating actively in a Web strategy task force she co-chairs with Robert Durkee, vice president for public affairs. The group has been charged with proposing a strategy for improved and expanded University use of the Web as well as policies, guidelines and an appropriate administrative structure for carrying it out.

She expects to continue her work with the OIT staff to refine the preliminary goals as they receive input from members of the University community.

"Until we know what services are needed and what the strengths of the people are and what their interests are, it's hard to make more specific plans," Leydon said. "Since I haven't yet had an opportunity to meet many faculty or students, I really am looking forward to learning about their priorities for information technology."

Key information technology changes

 The unit is now called the Office of Information Technology. The new name uses more up-to-date terminology and makes it consistent with Vice President Betty Leydon's title.

 Two University units that provide technology-related services and previously were not part of OIT have joined the organization: the Educational Technologies Center; and the Partnership 2000 initiative.

 The office has a new Web site at web.princeton.edu/sites/oit/index.htm . The site is organized so that constituents can view the information in the most appropriate way for their status at the University: faculty, staff or student. "There will be separate pages for those groups, and the services under them will be organized with an eye toward the role those people have," said Leydon. "We hope this new structure will make it easier for people to find information. Also, by focusing on the services we do provide, we're hoping to learn what services are needed that we're not providing now."

 The office has instituted Google as the new search engine for the domain. In addition to helping people find things more easily, Google provides a database search for images. The office also has added features not previously available to the people search function on the Web. The advanced people search allows users to find names that "sound like" what they type and are not necessarily spelled correctly.

 Some programs created in the provost's office that are organized around the purchase and support of computers by faculty, staff and students will now be administered by the Office of Information Technology. "The people using the equipment still will be making the decisions," Leydon said. "We'll just be facilitating the provision of services or purchase of machines."

 OIT will mail a new monthly newsletter to all faculty and staff and post it on the Web. The one-page publication will provide readers with short pieces of information to help them use technology and will point them to resources for more details.

Contact: Marilyn Marks (609) 258-3601

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