This is the final report of the external review team examining the current state, community expectations, challenges and opportunities surrounding information technology at Harvey Mudd College (HMC).

President Maria Klawe identified for the review team the following overarching goal for IT at the College: highly reliable functional support of academic and administrative functions. This apparently simple request, which drove the mandate of the review, developed into a substantially more complex picture as the review team explored and began to understand the challenges for an institution like HMC to provide appropriate IT support of its core mission. Notwithstanding its small size - as measured in student enrolment, for instance - Harvey Mudd College is a complicated institution with widely varied needs and expectations for information technology in teaching, learning, research and administration. HMC faces a sea change that all higher education is trying to cope with: all our core missions are inextricably tied up with the use of information technologies. This means that envisioning and supporting the resulting IT ecology requires more attention, resources, planning, and communication than “academic computing” and “administrative computing” did a decade ago.

In the case of IT at HMC, while we found widely varied expectations across different stakeholder groups – students, faculty, and staff – those expectations are perfectly reasonable, appropriate, and contemporary. People do not expect the impossible, but they do expect more than they are getting today.

Our report identifies the key recurring themes that emerged from our discussions with campus stakeholders. We asked for candor, and we got it. There were many accolades for IT staff effort and some aspects of the College’s IT infrastructure(1). Within appropriate constraints of confidentiality, we have described and analyzed many of the experiences we heard from individuals and groups who have experienced (and sometimes struggled with) the current level of services and resources within Computing and Information Services (CIS) at HMC. We have attempted to place HMC’s current state within the context of changes to the higher education IT landscape over the past two decades.

There are some complexities around IT governance and strategic choices (setting priorities and making investment decisions) that will require executive leadership from the entire senior management team. In general, the College seems to be getting surprisingly little leverage from its affiliation with the other members of the Claremont consortium. Indeed, past decisions and weak governance have led to diseconomies of scale in critical areas, e.g. administrative systems. The discipline of creating crisp business cases for IT initiatives both at HMC and among the Claremont Colleges will pay dividends for HMC.

For any institution, the road forward starts with vision, leadership, and strategy. That is why our list of 10 strategic recommendations begins with the need for an IT strategy at the College. We hope this strategy can be developed expeditiously, possibly using the recent IT self study and this report as a foundation. Many of our other recommendations can be viewed as finding ways to increase the internal IT capacity and service levels while recognizing the need for careful investment given the College’s financial constraints.

We offer our thanks to President Klawe, the executive team, the staff of CIS, and the many students, faculty members, and staff who so generously offered their time and thoughts. We were able to learn in a very short time about the immense strengths and complex challenges at HMC. It is clearly an institution whose influence is surprisingly disproportion to its size. This happens only when there is excellence in faculty, students, and administration. Given the degree of dependence all of higher education now has on information technology, HMC is now faced with the challenge of achieving an equal degree of excellence in this area. There are no simple formulas for achieving the goal President Klawe enunciated for us.

It will take the commitment, thoughts, and contributions of the entire institution to achieve. We don’t mean this as a platitude. We are quite serious that IT excellence in higher education, especially for an institution of HMC’s size and quality, is not a solved problem. It requires constant attention to the complex ecology and the disparate needs of students, faculty, staff, and upper administration. We hope this review report will be a positive factor in making needed improvements to the information technology infrastructure and resources needed and deserved by the Harvey Mudd College community.

(1) The term infrastructure as used here refers to both hardware and software tools and technologies, and is not limited to ‘wires and blinking lights’.

Posted by admin on June 24, 2008
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