POTSDAM From her seventh-floor office, SUNY Potsdam Provost Margaret E. Madden has a birds-eye view of many of the changes happening on campus. However, a significant effort remaking the campus escapes her eyes, existing mostly within the virtual world of computers.
Ms. Madden and her counterpart at SUNY Canton, Vice President for Student Affairs Molly A. Mott, are supervising work to share information technology services between their campuses.
It is an obvious place to start, Ms. Madden said. It has the potential to improve our functionality and eliminate duplication in services, which could lead to benefits over time.
As the schools work to share or combine more back-office services, they also are trying to bring their computer systems into line. That means programs coordinating the student billing process or keeping track of admissions and financial aid documents for students eventually are going to be made uniform between the campuses.
In the IT world, so much is virtual, Ms. Madden said. In some cases, the sharing isnt going to be just between our two campuses, but through multiple SUNY campuses.
Over the past year, SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher encouraged the campuses to share IT services. But Ms. Mott said the effort took on a life of its own.
IT is going to revolutionize the way we serve students, she said. Working on it has created more open-mindedness, because it doesnt dictate the academic culture on our campuses, but it is so pervasive. It is all about goodwill, collaboration and leveraging our strengths.
The schools banner servers, large databases of student information, will be moved to the SUNY Information Technology Exchange Center in Buffalo, accommodating more shared resources.
Were both going to off-site hosting at the same place, which lends itself to a wider SUNYwide technology exchange, Ms. Mott said.
Currently, SUNY Potsdam hosts its own databases.
Though it may be a forgotten element of campus life, information technology touches every element of the college experience. Everything from academic advising to library catalogues depends on electronic databases.
The focus is on operational efficiencies. We want to find commonalities and share best practices, Ms. Mott said. This is really about the students. By streamlining processes, were going to provide them with better service.
Thanks to degree-auditing software, which displays a students progress toward graduation and lists untaken prerequisite courses, SUNY Potsdam faculty advisers are freed to provide advice on academic and career pursuits to their students. Both schools are moving to a shared, SUNYwide advising program.
It hugely transforms the advising process because advisers no longer have to figure out which courses students need, Ms. Madden said.
Right now, there are no plans to consolidate staff or to hire a shared IT employee, but working closely benefits both campuses. The campuses shared services may serve as models for SUNY systemwide as administrators push for more shared IT among all SUNY campuses, Ms. Mott said.
The schools are working to bring their library systems closer together. They already share a joint interlibrary loan officer; now they are working on bringing the two library systems into line.
Were piloting a regional interlibrary loan model, Ms. Mott said.
Sharing IT functions should lower software costs among campuses, Ms. Madden said.
It is costly. The software is expensive and takes time to implement, she said. SUNY tries to negotiate to get the best price for all campuses.
The monetary benefits of sharing IT services are difficult to calculate, Ms. Madden said, but the move simplifies things for students and may be a catalyst for more shared services.
The technology follows proposed shared services and then pushes more shared services, she said. Were still exploring the possibilities.
Ms. Mott agreed.
It sets the tone and the scaffolding, she said. IT is under everything we do.