Northeastern University Reflections

Northeastern University is a private R1 institution that operates on a global scale. With campuses spanning from London to Vancouver, Northeastern is known as an epicenter of experiential learning across all academic offerings. We are a large and complex university that focuses primarily on residential instruction, with an expanding set of hybrid and online degree programs. The Boston campus is positioned as the global headquarters, but much of the uniqueness of the institutional culture shines through from our other 13 locations. Northeastern is one of a very few universities that offer a holistic undergraduate experience at multiple locations globally. Each campus focuses on the notion of experiential learning, but borrows from the local communities and contexts to shape the research agendas and programs offered. Northeastern is a dynamic and exciting first mover in the world of higher education.

In the role of CIO, I oversaw Academic Technologies, Enterprise Platforms, Network and Infrastructure, Research Computing, Cloud Center of Excellence, Salesforce Center of Excellence, ServiceNow Center of Excellence, an enterprise Project Management Office, Customer Support, Marketing and Campus Engagement, Information Security, Finance, and Vendor Management. In addition, the information below represents unique differentiators from my time at Northeastern:

Global IT Leadership: Northeastern is a global university with campuses in London, Toronto, Vancouver, Charlotte, Silicon Valley, Oakland, Washington D.C., Miami, Seattle, Burlington, Nahant, and Portland. In addition to managing the IT infrastructure for these campuses, I played a critical partnership role in campuses’ ongoing and unique IT interests. This included models to support campus-specific teaching and research agendas, as well as external partners co-occupying campus spaces. In addition, I led the successful launch of multiple campuses to ensure robust communication, networks, and AV. I led all IT aspects of the merger of Mills College into Northeastern to be our first undergraduate campus outside of Boston. I led a similar integration with Northeastern London to be complete for Fall 2024. This includes transitioning all students, faculty and staff, leading the consolidation of enterprise systems, vastly improved connectivity, and the introduction of digital workflow.

Enterprise Resource Planning: Developed and executing on strategic roadmap to transform every aspect of our ERP environment based on the results of an enterprise review of systems of records that are internal to central computing, academic units, and distributed business units. This roadmap includes the completion of the implementations of the Canvas learning management system, Slate enrollment management platform, and Workday Human Capital Management. I oversaw the initial readiness work and business case development to lead a move from Banner Finance to Workday Finance as well as the implementation of an entirely new, Salesforce advancement platform to support our capital campaign. My roadmap also included the transformation of our student information system, scheduled to begin in 2026 or 2026.

Global Digital Platform: Envisioned and implemented a new model for digital engagement between and amongst the primary audiences of the university community. This platform is a “Platform of platform” strategy that integrates and streamlines access to dozens of existing systems of record to provide a more frictionless way to connect and engage with university digital services built on a robust API-driven event architecture. Both the Student Hub and the Employee Hubs are used thousands of times a day across Northeastern to help students, faculty, and staff to engage in the various tasks related to being a member of our community from a single web and mobile view. The Student Hub includes seamless access to cloud capabilities, learning activities, registration, bill paying, clubs, groups, digital communities, and more. The Employee Hub supports the work of our faculty and staff by offering a single location to access critical work assignments, support tickets, HR information, personalized systems of record, as well as AI-powered training and learning recommendations. The newly released, Parent Hub will bring a one-of-a-kind digital experience to parents designed to alleviate the stress and overhead associated with managing interactions with their student’s university life. This platform will also make intelligent recommendations to bring university events and activities to their fingertips daily. Finally, the Alumni Hub, slated for development in 2025, will integrate across our enterprise giving platforms, provide access to various campaigns, deliver customized news feeds, and make intelligent recommendations to enhance alumni engagement.

Digital Transformation: A key strategic driver of my work at Northeastern is the overall digitalization and optimization of analog practices to decrease costs and increase productivity. From digital dashboards that support and inform operations, an identity and access management modernization that is leading to a password-less future, a next generation data management platform to support university decision making, cloud utilization that is now at 75% of our total enterprise computing investment, to tools designed to support faculty in the classroom like “one button classroom” use and classroom technology health dashboards, to an environment devoid of traditional telephones replaced by Microsoft Teams capabilities built into all offices and collaborative spaces. Since 2018, we have moved hundreds of processes from paper to digital to streamline HR, Finance, Enrollment, the enterprise Call Center, Facilities, and others.

Research Computing: In 2018, Northeastern had a total of .5 FTE focused on the growing need for research computing support. Through ongoing collaboration with the Office of the Provost and the Research Computing Committee I was able to grow this to a team of 20+ scientists, engineers, security experts, and consultants who work with faculty to take advantage of computing to power their teaching and research. In addition, Northeastern is a partner in the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center that houses our high-performance computing platform, Discovery. We have seen double digital growth in the adoption of research computing resources each of the last four years, with no sign of slowing down.

Customer Service: In my first year, I completed a successful overhaul of our customer experience function with a focus on rapid and accurate closure of tickets across all service areas. I led the introduction of an entirely new service catalog, an evergreen collection of self-service knowledge base articles, walk up support modeled from first-hand learnings from Apple, digital locker lending of equipment, and AI-powered chat bots. Recently introduced a managed service desk model to further reduce costs and enhance support.

Classroom Technology: In 2018, less than 20% of our 300+ classrooms had modern AV functions to support teaching and learning. Today all but a very small number have been upgraded to support lecture recording, hybrid learning, and digital tools to engage in-class and remote learning. As part of the classroom modernization roadmap, established the Global Classroom standard that provides one-touch AV activation, cable-free teaching from any device, multi-site simultaneous section participation, and personalized dashboards for faculty to proactively understand the overall health of their assigned classrooms before arriving to teach. Recently introduced a managed AV service provider model to further reduce costs, enhance support, and to vastly reduce downtime for faculty.

COVID-19 Response: To meet the institutional desire to remain open for the residential population during a period where most universities moved to fully online delivery, I led a series of digital transformations to support that goal. We created dozens of specific, custom applications that allowed students to continue to attend in-class lectures via a dynamic scheduling tool that allowed them to request a seat in de-densified spaces, a COVID-19 test scheduler that allowed us to perform daily health checks and schedule and test each student every three days and faculty and staff every five days, the complete testing center workflow including mobile check-in, lab system integrations, and the secure delivery of results.

Infrastructure Modernization: Currently in the third year of a five-year plan to vastly enhance and modernize the overall connectivity of our campuses. This includes increased speeds to researcher desktops across all locations of the global network to allow faculty and graduate students to take advantage of both our own high performance computing environments and public cloud providers. Additionally, we are replacing thousands of outdated wireless access points to vastly improve wireless connectivity in classrooms, resident halls, study spaces, administrative and faculty offices, as well as public outdoor spaces.

Information Security: Introduced Northeastern’s first information security roadmap, based on the outcomes of an enterprise security review conducted in 2019. This includes the adoption of an industry-standard security framework, new tools, and outsourced managed security operations center. During my tenure, we doubled the size of the information security team so that we can spend more time working directly with end-users to prevent human triggered incidents. We have also established a CMMC practice to secure CUI to maintain our ability to conduct research with defense and government entities. Finally, we established an incident response playbook that provides guidance for responding to security incidents that integrates university police, the office of general council, and our central marketing and communications organizations.

Under my leadership, ITS staff grew from 170 to 245 FTEe + 500 student workers