C2 September 14, 2005

C2 Strategic C-level Discussions on Technology

September 14, 2005
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From the Top

From the Edge of Katrina: An Update and Thoughts
on the Future of IT Planning for Disaster Recovery

By Brian D. Voss,
Louisiana State University

LSU handles Katrina

About two months ago, I wrote a piece, Hitting the Ground Walking for C2 about my experiences as a new CIO. Today, in the aftermath of Katrina, I have to say that I no longer feel like a newbie. And I say that, having had the good fortune of not having to confront the horrors and challenges faced today and in the days ahead, by my colleagues at Tulane, University of New Orleans, Xavier, Loyola, and other New Orleans-based institutions. As I write this, I'm mindful that we have not yet heard all their stories, as they have been too busy dealing with their burdens and losses to even sit down and write something.

They are dealing with the prototypical disaster recovery scenario. I am not. My data center was untouched after the storm passed us that Monday afternoon. The center was running on a newly repaired back-up generator (I'm glad we found and fixed a problem there a week before) and many of our systems were powered down to conserve fuel for the first 36 hours after Katrina passed. But everything was fine. We were even running our new HPC resource at the limit, as researchers here were analyzing storm data.

Then a new reality set in, as New Orleans flooded the following morning. Everything I thought I was going to be doing as CIO has changed. I am not recovering from a disaster to my facility. But I have been dealing with the aftermath of the worst disaster in our nation's history. Let me tell you a little bit about how things played out, and continue to play out for us, here on the outskirts of this disaster. Then I'd like to share some early thoughts about the future of disaster recovery planning in higher education.

LSU handles Katrina

In the days immediately after Katrina's passing, the LSU A&M campus in Baton Rouge became a primary location for medical evacuations. Our Pete Maravich Assembly Center (PMAC) and its neighboring Field House became a M*A*S*H-like triage center and special needs facility respectively. I'm told that it is the largest such facility ever assembled in time of disaster in the U.S. and it handled more than 5,000 patients in the early days after the disaster. Emergency response units sprang up on campus from the alphabet soup of agencies, both state and national, as did volunteer coordination centers. LSU became the primary operations point for these immediate response needs, and with that the university's role shifted from a higher education focus to one of higher calling. Helicopters buzzing overhead became a common occurrence; we didn't even look up at them anymore. Sirens no longer alarmed us; we heard them constantly. And campus streets weren't teaming with students; streets that weren't disturbingly silent were disturbingly filled with uniformed men, medical teams, and volunteers streaming to the aid of the sick, wounded, and displaced.

Having lived through the past several days (it seems much, much longer), I am simply amazed by my colleagues on campus, and how they performed. There are many exhausted her'es who the week before were ordinary women and men serving higher education at Louisiana's flagship institution. They responded-they improvised, adapted, and overcame. They didn't have a book or manual to follow. One of them said it best: "We're not following the book here, we're writing it."

(Photos courtsey of LSU)

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Need to Know

Tulane's President Chats to Calm Concerns

From temporary headquarters in Houston, President Scott Cowen is answering the Tulane University (LA) community’s questions about post-Katrina operations directly, through Friday afternoon chat sessions. During the first session, held this past week (courtesy LiveWorld, www.liveworld.com), students, parents, faculty, and staff asked about everything from tuition reimbursement to the status and accessibility of research facilities. (The weekly chats are now being offered in addition to the temporary Web site (www.tulane.edu) on which the university began posting critical information as the disaster unfolded in the region, plus other communications such as a telephone Alert Line and an “asktu” e-mail address.) While Tulane was not as badly damaged as surrounding areas, safe and normal operations are dependent on water, sewer, and other services in the region, so the university will remain closed until the Spring semester. Meanwhile, restoring IT is high on the list of Tulane’s priorities. President Cowen said during Friday’s chat, “We’re in the process of bringing up our IT systems as I speak. We have established a clear order of priority. We anticipate it will still be several weeks before our normal Web mail will be available. At this time it is much more important for us to be able to access our payroll systems, student information systems, and financial systems.” Other key staff will join President Cowen in future chats, to help continue the tremendous effort to keep far-flung Tulanians well-informed as the university progresses toward an expected January reopening.

Pocket PC Phones at Wake Forest

MobileU, a pilot program launched this term at Wake Forest University (NC) will explore the use of the converged PDA/phone devices with about 100 students and staff. “What we’ve seen over the past two or three years is students moving away from more traditional messaging like e-mail to newer technologies such as instant messaging and text messaging,” says Jay Dominick, Wake Forest’s CIO. “Student communication patterns are diverging. We want to find out if we can use mobile technology to close that gap, to deliver new things in ways students want to get them.” Find out more.

Portfolio Partners

Open source provider rSmart has announced the immediate availability of the rSmart/IBM Appliance for Education, a bundling of rSmart ePortfolio with IBM’s Websphere software and Db2 database. “Most educational institutions have come to recognize the benefits of ePortfolio, but its complex nature has left many wondering how it can best be introduced and implemented,” says Ray Barker, CEO of rSmart. “The rSmart/IBM appliance helps to make ePortfolio more useful and more accessible to all educational institutions.” Find out more.

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Who's Where

UCLA Chancellor Plans to Step Down

Albert Carnesale, UCLA chancellor since 1997, has announced plans to leave his post as chancellor and return to teaching, public policy, and international affairs after a sabbatical leave which begins in June, 2006. Carnesale holds professorial appointments in UCLA’s School of Public Affairs and the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Council on Foreign Relations, and is a lecturer and author. Find out more.

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August 24, 2005 IT from the Ground Up
Q&A with UC Merced CIO Rich Kogut

August 10, 2005 Strategic ePortfolio Transforms into 'Cultural Application'
A Conversation with Trent Batson, Director of Information and Instruction Technology Services, University of Rhode Island

July 27, 2005 Strategic Planning for Information Technology
By Edward J. Padron, President, Miami Dade College

July 13, 2005 Hitting the Ground Walking
By Brian D. Voss, CIO, Louisiana State University

June 22, 2005 It's Not Simply Infrastructure
An Interview with Tracy Futhey, CIO, Duke University

June 8, 2005 Online Piracy, Ethical Behavior, and the Unintended Consequences of Technology
By Diane Barbour, CIO, Rochester Institute of Technology (NY)

May 25, 2005 The Internet, the Pope, and the iPod
By Tracy Mitrano, Director of IT Policy and Computer Law and Policy
Cornell University (NY)

May 11, 2005 Overcoming the Biggest Barrier to Student Success
By Ron Bleed, vice chancellor IT
Maricopa Community Colleges

April 27, 2005: Piracy on the Seas of Higher Education
By Graham Spanier, President, Penn State University
More archives

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