Illinois State University’s information technology (IT) community gathered at the State Farm Hall of Business and online on April 8 for the spring CITx conference.
This year’s conference was headlined by Dr. Craig McLauchlan, associate vice president for research and graduate studies. Associate Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Charles Edamala introduced McLauchlan to the stage. Edamala took a moment to thank the assembled IT professionals for their work and flexibility during the height of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“Many of you worked on campus the entire time,” he said. “When we went through the masking you came in and you masked up and you did your best. From the bottom of my heart, thank you very much.”
McLauchlan started his talk by explaining how technology is necessary to support the current and future generation of researchers at Illinois State. McLauchlan estimated that there are 1400 research projects being conducted by faculty and another 400 by students. The rapid adoption of recent technologies and finding ways for old ones to be compatible with the new is critical to support research and ensure that Illinois State can continue to grow as an incubator for innovation.
“When it comes to technology, researchers are on two ends of your adoption curve,” he said. “We are either early adopters, beta testers, and want the latest and greatest, and we also don’t want to give up on something we know works.”
He also spoke about future plans to expand Illinois State’s footprint as a hub for innovation over the next few years. The three primary areas McLauchlan plans to expand into are engineering, intellectual property, and a start-up incubator. Much of this discussion revolved around how the newly approved College of Engineering will fundamentally change how the University approaches research and innovation going forward.
“The approval of the College of Engineering is huge, game-changing,” McLauchlan said. “When I interviewed for my job two years ago, I said, ‘if we get engineering, my entire focus is shifting, because we are going to be starting from scratch.’ It’s going to dramatically change the scope and scale of what we do.”
McLauchlan detailed the need to rapidly scale up their intellectual property and maker spaces, which is going to require a major investment of time and labor from the technology professionals on campus. Due to the success of those collaborations so far, McLauchlan is confident that Illinois State will be well-prepared when the College of Engineering launches in 2025.
“The future is really bright at Illinois State when it comes to research and innovation, and you guys are a big part of that,” he said.
After the keynote speech, IT leaders from across campus presented their updates during the IT News segment. These updates were headlined by the announcement of two important awards. David Greenfield, director of TechZone/Student Technologies, was announced as the recipient of the Williams Outstanding Technology Service Award. The award was established in 2001 by David B. and Kay O. Williams to recognize an individual who has made extraordinary contributions to the University in the area of technology and service.
Next, Ella Jahraus from the Tech Solutions WEB team was named CIT Student MVP, an award that recognizes one student employee each year in the Illinois State University community for outstanding contributions to the customers, staff, and/or operations of their technical team, as well as their collaboration with others.
Arturo Ramirez, director of Web and Interactive Communications, presented Jahraus with the award and praised her ability to work with clients and her fellow staff.
“Ella performs at the level of a full-time staff member,” Ramirez said. “There are actually very picky clients and directors who call us and to say, ‘I have this really important set of pages, I have this important initiative, can I please work with Ella.’”
After IT News ended, participants had their choice to attend one of three Birds of a Feather breakout sessions. This year’s sessions covered working towards Windows 11, things the IT community plans to keep from Illinois State’s pandemic response, and connecting in a hybrid world.
Organizers are looking forward to the annual CIT conference in August as they seek to keep the lines of communication between professionals open.
“It’s never been more important for ISU’s technical professionals to gather, share ideas, and innovate because students, faculty, and staff are also experiencing an era of rapid change,” said CIT committee member and IT News emcee Jeff Grabb. “Whether hybrid, remote, in-person, etc. IT needs to show up, collaborate, and meet the challenge.”
CIT is sponsored by the Office of Technology Solutions, TechZone, Student Affairs IT, and the College of Business.