John Rathje, CIO and Vice President for IT of Kent State University, spent two years working on a network modernization strategy. 

Apr 29 2021

Building Higher Ed Networks That Are Ready for Anything

Universities are turning to new and improved networks with the flexibility to adapt to whatever comes their way.

Like most higher ed IT leaders in the early weeks of 2020, John Rathje had never imagined a day when his organization might need to function entirely remotely. What he had done, however, was develop a vision for his university’s network — a vision that made all the difference when the pandemic hit.

“We’d already spent the better part of two years working on our network modernization strategy,” explains Rathje, CIO and vice president for IT at Kent State University in Ohio. That strategy understandably didn’t address a crisis scenario as complex as the COVID-19 pandemic, but it did happen to call for exactly the kind of network Kent State suddenly needed right away.

“It needed to be able to scale to meet demand, and it needed to have flexibility and agility, management and monitoring — all of that had to be built in,” Rathje says. As the coronavirus swept through Ohio last winter and Kent State prepared to shift to remote instruction, he and his team only had to launch the validated plan they already had in place. “We just had to execute,” he says. “We knew exactly what needed to be done.”

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Photo credit: Roger Mastroianni