How a University’s Mission Affects Its IT

You’d expect a university’s reputation to affect many aspects of campus life: its student body, course offerings and campus size. A university’s reputation also can fundamentally shape the function of its IT organization.

More and more, CIOs at colleges and universities are aligning their IT infrastructures with their institutional missions, meaning IT’s role varies depending on whether it operates in a public research institute, private research institute, liberal arts college, community college or Ivy League university.

This trend probably is best understood by looking at two different kinds of institutions: a large public research university and a small, private liberal arts college.

At the large public research university, most of its budget comes from state funding, grants and awarded contracts.

“We’ve seen something in the order of $300 million in contracts [and] awards to work on global health issues, for example,” said Ron Johnson, vice president of technology for the University of Washington. “That’s a significant amount of money, and it represents not just dollars [but] the significant importance and promise of working in those areas.”

The challenges for the IT organization in these cases can be eclectic. Naturally, the researchers here need access to the latest equipment and resources. For example, oceanographers and marine scientists at the University of Washington are studying the genes of creatures that live in extreme environments, Johnson said. To accomplish this, they are placing biosensors at the bottom of the ocean and discharging robots that can collect biological data.

“Our challenge as IT…

Agatha Gilmore


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