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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Public Engagement and Campus Information Technology at Illinois

by Ann Abbott

For the past two years and now entering the third, I have participated in our campus-level information technology (IT) shared governance. I have learned a lot, met a lot of wonderful experts and felt the stretch and strain of shared governance in a huge, decentralized campus.

Good times.

Here's a simply listing of some of the things I participated in. Later I will give some thought to pulling together patterns, disjunctures and other kinds of insights from these experiences. 

1. I chaired the Extension & Outreach Committee. I wish our committee was called the Public Engagement committee. That said, I think we made some good initial strides toward framing and shaping the relationships between IT and public engagement on our campus. 

2. I served on the IT Executive Committee. All the chairs of the subcommittees and several other representatives for the Executive Committee. This is where the various interests come together and look at bigger-picture items that bind us together. At these meetings I not only learned about campus IT, I also got a peek into many of the offices, programs and structures that do great work on this campus but are not directly involved in teaching and research. In other words, I saw what a huge machine our university is. I saw why our univeristy can have thousands of employees but not enough people to teach certain classes.

3. I attended and presented at the CIC CIO Tech Forum. I heard many very good speakers and came away with ideas about iTunes U and iBooks. I also remember being inspired by something they had done at Northwestern's College of Education. They had received two or three very large flat-screen tvs or monitors as gifts. They turned them on their sides and hung them in the entrance area. They had an Instagram feed rotating constantly. They had determined a hashtag for the College, and students posted their own photos that were on public display. I like that idea!

4. I was a member of the search committee for the new CIO. This was a lot of work and intense at times, but I enjoyed getting to know everyone on the commitee and am very proud of the result: Mark Henderson is our new campus CIO.

Finally, I'd like to contrast my experience with shared governance and IT at Illinois with the picture painted in a recent article in AAUP Journal of Academic Freedom, v. 5: Poritz, Jonathan A. "Open Access to Technology: Shared Governance of the Academy's Virtual Worlds." Although I certainly don't disagree with any of the points raised in Portiz's article, I am glad to see that shared governance about IT on the Illinois campus is three years old, involves faculty, APs, and Deans. I think we're on a good track.

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