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A Cross-Town Partnership

Taking advantage of geographic proximity and economies of scale, two Philadelphia higher education institutions have launched a special partnership to share their technology support and educational vision.

Cabrini College, a small, Roman Catholic, liberal arts college, has partnered with Drexel University, a Philadelphia-based technological cooperative university. Drexel will share computing staff, technology support and assist Cabrini's move to becoming a completely wireless campus.

When administrators at Cabrini began planning its technology future, they considered outsourcing services to an organization. However, working with Drexel was more appealing. For one thing, Drexel has a history of technology "firsts," starting with its 1983 mandate that all students have access to a microcomputer. Also famous for being the first major university to go completely wireless, Drexel's technology leadership and proximity to suburban Philadelphia's Cabrini made it a desirable partner, says Antoinette Iadarola, president of Cabrini College.

Iadarola felt that a fellow higher education institution would better understand Cabrini's mission. Not only that, but working with Drexel was cost-effective, considerably less expensive than a vendor would have been. So, she approached Drexel's president, Constantine Papadakis, about the partnership, and the deal was struck.

Cabrini College has grown rapidly in the past several years, increasing its enrollment by 50 percent and expanding the academic heft of its student body at the same time. Iadarola saw a technology upgrade as a logical next move. "We are very strong in some technology areas like graphic design, communication arts, and Internet computing," she notes. "We wanted to support those students and make sure we offered them and all of our students the best available technology." Besides, she believes it is absolutely critical that small institutions stay ahead of the technology curve if they are going to survive.

Through a hybrid staffing arrangement, both Cabrini and Drexel staff members will support Cabrini's information, technology, and resources areas. This mixed group—which includes two end-user support specialists, one audiovisual end-user specialist, a first-line help desk assistant, and a network engineer—will be assigned permanently to Cabrini College. According to Iadarola, putting staff from the two campuses on the same team will not only cut costs, but create a better support team.

Officially launched in March 2001, the partnership has already had an impact on campus life. Cabrini has switched to a completely wireless environment. Incoming students will bring their own laptops, equipped with the tools to interact wirelessly from anywhere on campus. Drexel's instructional design staff is already running faculty development workshops, helping faculty create Web-based teaching materials and build online courses.

Sometime next year, Cabrini's Drexel connection will result in access to the Internet2 network. Cabrini will perform network analysis and upgrading and increase its distance learning offerings, putting some certificate programs completely online and moving toward offering some four-year programs online.

For Drexel, the partnership has provided economies of scale, presenting an opportunity to maximize its resources. In fact, the arrangement has been so successful that university officials are talking with their counterparts at other small Philadelphia-area colleges about partnering in similar ways.

For more information, contact Nancy Gainer at Cabrini College, (610) 902-8254.

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