A Fresh Approach to Education IT from Bryan Mehaffey

Take Risks and Reap the Rewards

The status quo is a path on which Bryan Mehaffey’s feet have rarely trodden — not, at least, since he began his tenure at Ave Maria University near Naples, Fla. Mehaffey, a tech visionary with a Las Vegas–style bent, is a nontraditionalist when it comes to IT’s roles and responsibilities in higher education. When he had the opportunity to provide input on the design of a new campus, he wasn’t considering what had been done at other institutions, but what could be done at his own. Four years later, it’s clear that the risk has paid off.

Mehaffey has turned his IT organization into a one-stop shop combining IT and facilities management systems and the groups that oversee them. If professors need the temperature changed in their classrooms, they contact Mehaffey’s team. Faculty and staff dial the same number if they need assistance with their notebook PCs. Everything runs centrally over an Internet Protocol network, through the Office of Systems and Engineering.

“I got an enormous amount of pushback because I was stepping into traditional facilities and life-safety systems,” says Mehaffey, the university’s vice president for technology systems and engineering. “But it just seemed like the natural and right thing to do. It didn’t make sense to manage all the different equipment separately when it could be united under one system.”

Mehaffey is looking for continued success as he embarks on the second phase of the campus project, which includes a new dorm, a law school building and a recreation center.

“There’s been a lot of excitement among students and staff in moving to our beautiful new campus, and part of that excitement is having the most advanced technology,” says Paul Roney, Ave Maria University’s CFO.

To learn how Mehaffey helped design a new campus infrastructure from scratch, turn to “Ready for Delivery,” on Page 20.

Hot Streak

Mehaffey isn’t the only one willing to try a different approach with the hope of great reward. Some institutions are starting to roll the dice on implementing 802.11n while still in draft — although official release appears imminent. Duke University, Carnegie Mellon University and Morrisville State College are among the pioneers forging ahead with the yet-to-be-final­ized Wi-Fi standard because of increased efficiencies, such as faster throughput, longer range and reduced interference.

“The effect of that raw capacity increase will be to move wireless from being just a welcome and useful addition to our wired network, to being the primary means of accessing the network even when the application requires rich media like video and audio,” says Kevin Miller, assistant director of communications infrastructure in the Office of Information Technology at Duke in Durham, N.C.

Return on investment won’t take place overnight, early adopters say. But the promise of improved network service is too hard to pass up, especially when the impact is immediate. At Morrisville State College in New York, Vice President of IT Services Jean L. Boland has seen a major shift in how her faculty approaches lectures. Notebooks became part of the curriculum in 1998, but professors can now do more with them by tapping into high-bandwidth applications and content.

To read about some of the schools currently investing in the new technology, turn to “Warm Embrace,” on Page 34.

We hope that when your institution weighs risk against reward, you’ll find that sometimes taking chances makes the difference.

Need for Speed

When Duke looked at 802.11n in the classroom, the calculation of risk versus benefit was fairly simple, says the university’s Kevin Miller: “It would be very disturbing to faculty and students if they were asked to access a resource, and they had to wait five minutes for it to come up.”

 

Feb 18 2008

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