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Chester Named First Vice President for IT at U Georgia

Timothy Chester has been named vice president for information technology at the University of Georgia, becoming the first person to hold the title. He came to UGA as chief information officer less than a year ago--in September 2011--and was previously vice provost for academic administration and CIO at Pepperdine University.

Recent Initiatives, Changes to the Organization
Chester told Campus Technology the creation of the vice president for IT position signals both a vote of confidence for the accomplishments of UGA's IT staff of the last year and a recognition of the importance of the work ahead.

"I think this means a couple things," he said. "[F]irst ... this means that the senior administration likes what it has seen in the past year in terms of how we have focused our efforts on a smaller number of more critical projects; that we are delivering on a well understood need to also focus on operational reliability and stability; and I think it also signifies the strategic importance of the work ahead--a focus on replacing all administrative systems and beefing up our infrastructure and support for student and faculty research programs."

He added: "A few months back I wrote in Campus Technology that the role of a CIO in a large, research-oriented flagship like the University of Georgia is to create a context for the innovation of students, faculty, and staff. Ultimately, I believe the elevation of the role of CIO to vice president for information technology signifies that the administration believes that we are on the right path to doing just that."

In a letter to his staff, Chester cited several major projects that have been completed or undertaken this year, including:

  • An 11,000-hour effort to halt the transmission of Social Security numbers and remove SSNs from core administrative systems (resulting so far in a 93 percent decrease in the transmission of SSNs);
  • Significant network bandwidth upgrades;
  • Implementation of the Banner system;
  • Updates to change management practices;
  • Improved collaboration; and
  • About $1 million in cost savings.

He also noted in his letter that the changes to UGA's IT organization in the last year have resulted in less tangible gains, including a greater sense of trust in the IT staff from the campus community.

"Though we are maturing into a different type of organization, and that change can be difficult, as I walk through our areas I see a sense of enthusiasm, a bit of pride, and some extra spring in our step," he wrote in his letter. "Many of you have told me that you feel that your customers take your advice a little more seriously and that more trust has accrued to us. That is not to say that our work isn't tough or more frustrating than it should be, but remember we're in one of the toughest businesses there is--IT--in one of the more difficult and change resistant industries around--higher education. My advice to you is to continue what you are doing--nothing is more important than for us to individually and collectively do what we will say we will do."

"In a very short time, Dr. Chester has become an effective and highly visible campus leader in the crucial area of information technology," said UGA President Michael F. Adams in a prepared statement. "It is essential that our faculty, staff and students have access to reliable networks, and Tim's singular focus has been on that task. His leadership and expertise are especially important as we implement new academic, administrative and development operating systems. He has exceeded the very high expectations I had for him when he arrived here last year, and I am pleased to recognize him in this way while also elevating the position itself to an appropriate station."

New Initiatives, Longer-Term Directions for IT at UGA
On the new initiatives front, UGA just launched a project called ConnectUGA, which Chester characterized as "a multi-year project to replace the key administrative systems for processing student information--admissions, financial aid, records, and bursar functions," Chester said. "Our project kickoff was just two weeks ago and our first in a series of rolling go-lives is scheduled for September of 2013."

He said that, in the near term, UGA's IT organization will focus on quality and security but will tackle a broader range of services in the longer term.

"My predecessor, Dr. Barbara White, led a multi- and inter-disciplinary team in putting together a comprehensive long-term master plan for IT at the University of Georgia," Chester told us. "I believe that this plan is a blueprint for greatness. I was hired as her successor to deliver on this important work. This year and next we will continue to focus on those aspects of the plan that center on operational reliability, stability, consistency and sound information security practices. In the longer-term we will build on those foundations in delivering better capabilities for analytics, mobile and collaboration technology, and research-related infrastructure and services."

In his new role as vice president for IT, Chester will continue to report to UGA's senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, Jere Morehead.

The University of Georgia serves about 35,000 students, including more than 26,000 undergrads and 8,200 graduate students, and employs nearly 3,000 faculty members. UGA's IT staff numbers about 240, and its annual IT budget is $28 million. The university's overall annual budget is $1.35 billion.

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at .

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