INNOVATORS 2005: Bryant University

Innovation: Combined Diverse Network Infrastructure
Innovator: Bryant University


Bryant University’s challenge was to provide a combined diverse network infrastructure that would enhance the teaching and learning experience, improve campus communications and network reliability, simplify network management, reduce costs, and improve business administration processes. As stated by David Lux, Dean of Arts and Sciences, “We try to push the technology envelope without taking undue risks. We can’t afford cutting-edge research projects or expensive white elephants. We want to be out in front of the trends, but we have to be accurate in our forecasts.” This ongoing effort of combining a robust network infrastructure and improving technology services is part of Bryant University’s larger strategic plan for technology integration that benefits the entire campus and neighboring community.

Specific goals for the project:

· Enhance the campus telephony system to provide additional applications and intelligence, without added cost.

· Provide support for voice, video, and data applications.

· Provide unrestricted wireless mobility to students and faculty throughout the entire campus environment.

· Improve safety on campus: Integrate VoIP technologies with public safety mobile radios allowing staff in residence halls to pick up emergency radio communications.

· Facilitate distance education, collaboration and shared learning using videoconferencing and video-streaming technologies.

Key Players
The entire campus community and “neighbors” are beneficiaries. Certainly, students come first, but the ability to offer more effective curricular and co-curricular programs for students makes it possible for faculty and staff to model what they do, for their peers (faculty and staff are consistently engaged in professional development activities involving Bryant technology systems and capabilities). Bryant’s technology initiative is a campuswide effort involving campus leadership and student body. All divisional vice presidents are challenged to implement/support technology initiatives that will assist in meeting the university’s mission. Many of these initiatives overlap other departments such as Facilities (with HVAC systems), Public Safety (with IP security cameras), Residence Life (with the implementation of the wireless data network and VoIP systems), and Academic Affairs (with the Blackboard course management system;

Technology Choice/Project Design

Bryant, a relatively small institution with limits on resources, relies on its departments and groups working cooperatively. The university involves departments, administrators, staff, and students, and networks wherever and whenever it can. Several years ago, Information Services was repositioned on a divisional level, allowing IT to foster inter-divisional cooperation on campus and exercise the kind of autonomy needed to form productive, long-term relationships with vendors. For this particular project, Bryant selected a comprehensive networking and communications solution from Cisco Systems ( The solution provides a robust, scalable, standards-based solution that seamlessly extends the capabilities of Bryant’s existing Cisco-based core infrastructure. In addition to Cisco, Bryant has worked with partners such as Verizon ( and Unicom (, to delivering its vision.

Says Art Gloster, VP of Information Services, “As Bryant moves towards total IP convergence, we have already implemented VoIP, 100 percent wireless data coverage in all buildings, IP video, LAN mobile radio integration, IP security cameras, library and audio visual-streaming media storage (enterprise content management), Wi-Fi/Cell Phone convergence, HVAC controls, physical access security, digital signage systems, video conferencing, Virtual Language Labs and GIS. Additionally, we are exploring how our technology can support state Homeland Security initiatives, global training with affiliated institutions, and interstate collaboration of educational resources with like institutions. Many aspects of the project have been completed, some underway and some in the planning stages. This will effect a permanent change, eventually, in a 100 percent totally converged network.”


“Students, faculty, and staff seem to enjoy showing off our networking and technology systems when visitors come to campus,” says Lux “And we’ve seen a real transformation in pedagogy. Our technology systems are allowing us to do things and explore options that people only dreamed about just a few years ago. In the areas of communication, collaboration, storage, and delivery of curriculum we are in a whole new world compared to just a very few years ago.”

Bryant University is now implementing a campus-wide technology initiative utilizing the deployment of new and improved technology to develop a single converged network infrastructure capable of supporting a rich variety of voice, video, and data applications that enrich learning and collaboration, improve student career opportunities, boost administrative productivity, and extend Bryant’s resources beyond the classroom.

The first step in convergence was to implement VoIP in the residence halls, replacing the existing Centrex system, but accomplished within the confines of the Centrex system budget. This was completed in summer 2004, as was a wireless data network. Bryant has partnered with Cisco for all networking equipment/solutions. This initiative garnered the university “Second Most Wired Campus,” recognition in the Princeton Review.

In support of the learning process, Bryant uses its network to distribute encoded CTV educational broadcasts and classroom sessions to students on its intranet, and to affiliates abroad. The network infrastructure and advanced AV technologies support remote management of equipment life cycles such as projector lamps, source selections, and startup/shutdown features, and allows for streamlining support efforts of high-demand classroom AV technology and Bryant’s campus laptop program, which services over 3,000 users.

Community messages and organizational announcements can now be distributed via the network, strengthened by Bryant’s new digital TV studio, which opened in January 2005. The campus radio station is also distributing radio, broadcast over the IP network. Bryant’s network supports Citrix application distribution ( for students/faculty uses, and helps to maximize IT staff efficiency. This ability is extremely important as Bryant’s laptop use increases, and distance learning initiatives are expanded. The network infrastructure supports synchronous and asynchronous distance learning initiatives, which the university is expanding to support international affiliates as well as graduate/undergraduate courses.

Bryant is also opening up access to its network resources through its I2 affiliation with OSHEAN Ocean State Higher Education Economic Development and Administrative Network allowing for high-speed collaboration with other institutions. The university also has an advanced, segregated residential network that allows administrators to manage performance, user access/activity, and virus threats, and streamline user registration.

Bryant provides gigabit Ethernet service to the entire campus and 100 mbps full-duplex throughput to all devices on campus. Says Rich Siedzik, director of Computer and Telecommunications Services, “We are in the process of replacing our DS3 Internet connection with a dark fiber connection. This will increase our Internet bandwidth capacity to gigabit speed. With dark fiber in place, Bryant will be able to extend many of its campus-wide technology initiatives well beyond the physical boundaries of its campus.”


“As we’ve gained momentum with technology innovation,” says Lux, “progress seems to come more smoothly. People in our community have gained confidence as they've seen initiatives work. The technical challenges don’t get easier, but the increased level of confidence in our technical systems really helps with the human issues involved in new initiatives.

“One of the surprises we’re facing in providing a wireless infrastructure on a converged network has to do with laptop control in a classroom” says Philip Lombardi Director of Academic Computing & Media Services: “The environment of ubiquitous computing has opened up a means for students to cheat during exams, view broadcasted video streams, surf the web, and instant message (just to name a few things) during lectures. This is creating a challenge for both faculty and Information Services. Faculty are finding themselves seeking new ways of adapting their course content and teaching styles to be more engaging so students will participate in class. IS is exploring technology alternatives to help alleviate this problem by incorporating instructor-based controls and setting up laptop-use policies for classroom participation. One of the products we’ve been piloting for laptop classroom control is by Silicon Chalk. This product not only allows the instructor to manage students’ laptop use in the classroom, but also allows for the student to capture the instructor’s presentation on the laptop, for later review. Additional challenges have been with students using the network for entertainment purposes: they’re using gaming devices such as Xbox over the wireless network, and that has caused some issues. To overcome this problem, Bryant has adapted network use policies and performance remediation tools to minimize network degradation.”

Next Steps
Bryant is actively planning a variety of new applications. More than 2,700 students already have access to IP phones, and in 2005, Bryant will extend the system to faculty and administrative offices. Unified messaging for administrators and faculty is also being planned to allow them to manage voicemail and e-mail messages from a single, integrated mailbox for improved responsiveness and productivity. IPTV, Web cameras, and IP Communicator softphones are all products the institution is looking into, for students to use on the laptops deployed to them. Also being planned is the migration of videotape (held by the library) over to a storage area network (SAN) unit, for distribution by the network. Through the VoIP and IP security camera systems, Bryant is offers improved communication, security, and safety to its students. A Homeland Security effort will also improve community relations, says Gloster.


Says Siedzik, “It’s to your advantage to incorporate technology in as many ways as possible into the total educational experience. Students are aware that technology is the future and enhancing their university experience through the use of technology better prepares them for their future careers. Putting action behind the theme of being “student focused” drives you to be an innovator of technology rather than a follower.

“Key to this is getting “buy-in” from all parties involved. Have patience; let people express their problems and concerns so that you can understand their problems. Only then can you really understand the obstacles and barriers and begin to frame the project requirements. Getting “buy-in” needs to be more than just getting approval or understanding of the plan. If we've learned anything, it's how important true ‘buy-in’ can become.”

Related Links and References
Princeton Review “Most Wired Campus”