Listening and Watching

As the new guy on campus I have been doing quite a bit of listening — and watching.  As I mentioned in my previous post I have taken time to walk around campus a bit, albeit not nearly as much as I had hoped during these first two weeks but enough to see the beauty that has become Stony Brook University. I read an old piece in the NY Times (funny that that is my new hometown newspaper) from 11 years ago talking about the efforts underway to make the campus a source of pride. Very interesting to see the “after” without having seen the “before.” Let’s say I am impressed with the progress.

One of the interesting connections to that are the improvements that are underway on the technology side of the campus — less visible from the outside, but just as impactful in my opinion to the overall satisfaction of our faculty, staff, and students. I am thrilled about the new, nearly pervasive wireless access students will be greeted with in the Javits Lecture Hall this fall — this is just one small example of our collective work getting ready for fall 2013 and the networking upgrades that the DoIT team have been working on the last few years. This one thing is a huge deal to the nearly 60,000 students that pass through these learning spaces each week — and it will be to faculty too as we watch them envision ways to engage their learners in this newly enabled space.  I am confident that my colleagues in Teaching and Learning with Technology will be ready with ideas on how to leverage the affordances of this space with new connectivity.

I’ve also spent a ton of time listening in both traditional and non traditional ways.  I’ve had plenty of meetings with both our own staff in DoIT and with members of our administration. Each meeting I learn more — my Evernote app is exploding with new pages! It pushed me to do something I haven’t done in a while — I turned to Twitter to see what I could find from as many SBU channels as I could … and I found a ton. So much so that I started a Twitter list that I am adding as many Stony Brook related accounts i can find to and I am watching it as much as possible.  It is a vibrant and connected community and I encourage you to follow along (and suggest new follows for the list).

It doesn’t just stop with twitter. Our students are very active on tumblr as well and I am particularly fascinated by the sbufresh tumblr … really quite amazing. I was impressed enough to send a note to our director of communications last night and today she reached out to the owner of this very helpful tumblr to help us find a new channel for us to share some information.

Today I walked campus as new student move in was on display. It is always humbling to watch parents take a final stroll with their children as they get ready to leave them to start their freshmen years. It is in that I hope we can all see how critical our mission really is — to play a part in making the years they spend here an overwhelmingly positive experience. I saw so much today that filled me with pride and as the new guy, that was an emotion I wasn’t sure I was expecting to have. Seeing the student volunteers, the staff ready to lend a hand, and knowing that we were working feverishly behind the scenes to make sure the IT infrastructure of campus is ready for the big day on Monday was really great. I know most of us will be on call this weekend and I know we will be ready for them.

A Week In

Is it too early to reflect on the new job? Maybe, but I do have some observations … and not all are related strictly to the things I have been doing in my new post.  First some easy ones.

It is beautiful here — and by here I mean both on campus and the surrounding areas.  Each day I’ve made a point to check another part of both out.  Walking around campus it is easy to see that there is a value placed upon the physical aspects to campus. It shows wonderfully and as I explore I come to appreciate the effort that is going into making this place beautiful.  You may look at that and wonder why it is so important, but it is. If you think of the big picture, keeping our campus looking first rate is part of the path we are on here at Stony Brook.  My previous campus at Penn State prided itself on always looking its best and it was a strategic decision, one that paid off in lots of ways — an easy measurable is that PSU annually gets over 100,000 applications. Obviously not all of those are because the flowers are well placed and the grass is freshly mowed, but it helps and I appreciate that about what is happening here.

Then there is the surrounding area. Wow.  Each day after work I have taken time to go see the water. When you arrive from central Pennsylvania, the potential to hear the waves and see the sunset over the Sound is simply breathtaking. I am soaking it in and it is part of a ritual that has helped me round out the days and reflect on all that I am learning. If you live around here and you haven’t done it in a while try to do it with fresh eyes.

A couple additional observations from the first week … the DoIT staff have been wonderful to work with across the board.  I’ve been in meetings almost constantly since the minute I stepped on campus and in each of them I have obviously had to lean on my new colleagues at times. Each time, they’ve come through.  I find that our team is very smart and very committed to making this University a better place.  This extends past DoIT as well … I have had interactions daily with other senior administrators and I am struck by the collective intelligence and commitment to excellence.

I was struck this week by the connections to SUNY and the emphasis on working in a collaborative fashion.  On two different occasions this week I spent time with SUNY leadership and was very impressed with both their vision and approach.  Yesterday, Dr. Hao Wang, SUNY CIO, held a “listening tour” stop on our campus and invited CIOs from SUNY schools across the the eastern region and Long Island.  It was a great way to hear from colleagues and peers and have conversations related to where we could work together to solve big system level challenges.

I’ll close by saying it was an intense week filled with great conversations. I am aware of some of what is to be done, but also by what has already been accomplished. I am now turning attention to the next couple weeks as we welcome students back to campus and I can start to really dig into some of the larger issues at hand. A good first week.

A Welcome and an Invitation

I’ve been blogging for quite some time and have always found it to be a great outlet to work through ideas, share thoughts, communicate my thinking, and invite comments and feedback. I will use this space as much as I can and I imagine it will change over time — in the early days it will mostly be about reflecting on the learning curve and to share initial thoughts on my early interactions here. As time goes on I expect it to become more of an outlet to keep people posted on what I am working on, thinking about, and things that are of general interest to me, to the DoIT community, and those from the outside looking in.

I’ll invite you now to be an active part of this space — push me with comments, links to posts, and even ideas that I can use to create new content. I want this to be about the notion of “the conversation.” I am a true believer in discourse and in actively engaging those around me. I crave conversations and if you’ve ever heard me speak you will know that I firmly believe that the Internet is creating new opportunities to engage in very new forms of conversations. This is a primary reason for this space — a place for us to engage.

We are all incredibly busy doing what we do to support the faculty, staff, and students of our institution and taking time to blog may seem like a waste of cycles to some. To me it is part of the larger process of communicating across all of Stony Brook University. A space like this should provide greater access to the things that are driving our individual and collective agendas. I will try to use it for that.

I can’t meet with all of you on a regular basis … the reality of time and scale just will not permit it.  If there are things that you want to know from me that you think others will benefit from hearing, send me a note and let me know … that could very well be the prompt I need to take some time and articulate some thinking.

For now you should know that I am very active on the social web — some for me personally and some for professional pursuits. I don’t maintain multiple accounts, as I try to think of my online identity as an aggregate meta identity … so you won’t need to follow me across various twitter accounts, there is just one.  I try very hard to maintain my social presence in an intelligent way … Facebook, for example, is reserved for family and friends, but please feel free to plug into me on Twitter. Like many of you I have a life outside of work and I tend to share things on Instagram, Vine, Tumblr, and other outlets that are much more about who I am away from the office.

This is as much an invitation as it is an introduction, an invitation to engage in new forms of conversations. I will work to do my part, but my hope and ultimately, my expectation, is that you be a part of that. I am well aware this won’t work for everyone, but if it opens another channel for those that it does work for then I’ve succeeded in one small way. So, I will close with a very humble thank you … thank you for allowing me to become a member and a leader of this team. I will do my very best every single day to make sure we are doing what we need to continue to delight the people that count on us the most at this great University.

What do you think?