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2006 Campus Technology Innovators: Campus Infrastructure

2006 Campus Technology Innovators

Innovator: UC-Merced



2006 CT Innovators: California

open-standards-based solutions, wherever possible.

Challenge Met

University of California-Merced, the first new UC campus in nearly 40 years, opened its doors to students in fall 2005. CIO Rich Kogut and his IT staff worked on the site for more than two years prior to welcoming the initial student population of about 1,000. Building a brand-new campus infrastructure from the ground up presented an opportunity to incorporate best practices across the board. But the process was not without challenges, given the magnitude of the project, set in the resource-constrained environment of a university system faced with spiraling costs and persistent growth. How would the institution’s IT leaders provide the services that faculty and students expect immediately, while continuing to build out a major research university destined to grow to an enrollment of 25,000 over time?

Kogut and his colleagues responded with a highly flexible, scalable, manageable, and particularly user-centric infrastructure.

How They Did It

Planning for growth and change, these IT leaders have adopted an architecture that allows them to add, upgrade, and replace functionality without a domino effect. Toward that end, and to avoid vendor lock-in, they implemented open standards-based infrastructure and applications wherever possible. For major technology components such as networks, directories, and e-mail, they only accepted RFP submissions based on non-proprietary solutions and features.

UC-Merced uses a single ID/password and a universal portal. The school went with an open source portal solution, JA-SIG’s uPortal, to make it easier to implement a vast array of applications over time. Unicon provided key assistance in configuring and deploying uPortal.

The campus employs many vendors and technology solutions, including telecommunications from AT&T; networking from Extreme Networks; Cisco Systems’ wireless solution; servers and directory, e-mail, and identity management solutions from Sun Microsystems; Oracle’s calendaring and database solutions; Sakai’s collaboration and learning environment; and open source support from rSmart.

Kogut and his central IT team are responsible for UC-Merced’s entire IT infrastructure and application portfolio, with the exception of financial and personnel systems hosted by a sister campus. The build-out is far from complete, but Kogut is pleased that the portal and identity management system supports applicants, students, staff, and faculty, and incorporates e-mail and Sakai as tabs. The same ID and password are used for the portal, calendaring, e-mail, VPN, wireless authentication (802.1x), registration, bill payment, vacation/time reporting, printing, file services, document management, and other applications, giving UC-Merced a terrifically user-centric and sustainable IT infrastructure.

Next Steps

For UC-Merced, a vital ongoing task is to continue to bring more applications and content into the portal, and to expand the reach of single sign-on. The school has joined InCommon, and will participate in UC Trust, a Shibboleth-based federated identity and authentication program supporting access across the entire UC system.


Kogut recommends establishing a clear vision and strategies early on. “Technology changes frequently, and it is important to plan with that in mind,” he says. “Well-understood strategies allow greater delegation of investigation and decision-making to a wider array of staff, increasing productivity.”