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In early October, four ITS leaders presented at the 2023 EDUCAUSE annual conference, a gathering that bills itself as “the premier higher ed IT event” of the year.

The ITS leaders who presented at the October 9-12 conference in Chicago were:

  • Kate Hash, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Customer Experience & Engagement
  • Brenda Carpen, Director of Project Portfolio & Change Management
  • Calvin Groves, Service Desk Director
  • Ryan Turner, Director of Networking and the Operations Center

The conference draws participants and presenters in higher education and the tech industry from across the country. Being selected to present from among one’s peers nationally is an achievement and honor.

Addressing young professionals

Hash co-presented a pre-conference workshop called Transition to Leadership: Prepare for and Excel at the Next Step of Your Career. She also shared personal experiences and insights as a guest on EDUCAUSE’s live podcast that amplifies the voices of young professionals in higher education. The podcast topic was debunking five myths surrounding young professionals.

Of the more than 10 EDUCAUSE sessions that Hash has presented over the years, the Transition to Leadership pre-conference session this year was “my favorite by far,” she said. “It was a great mix of us presenting on important topics and open discussion. The group of 25 IT professionals was diverse in every way imaginable and it was a great reminder that career paths are different for everyone and there is no one path to advancement.”

Brenda and her co-presenter Rachel smile broadly in front of an Educause sign
Brenda Carpen (left) and co-presenter Rachel Vital

Implementing a change management discipline

A first-time EDUCAUSE attendee and presenter, Carpen and fellow panelists presented on approaches to successfully implement a change management discipline in your project life cycle.

Carpen and her co-presenters “met for the first time at the conference and had a blast presenting,” she said. “We are going to continue meeting on a regular basis and share what we have learned.”

Designing innovative classrooms

In his first presentation at a national conference, Groves used a poster session to discuss a project from his previous job leading IT for the UNC School of Education. He talked about the innovative classrooms he helped design for the School of Education when the Master of School Administration program moved to a permanent hyflex format.

Calvin Groves stands in front of his poster at the Educause national conference
Calvin Groves stands in front of his poster

The School of Education wanted to maintain the faculty-student connection while lecturing and to facilitate group work while maintaining an equitable class experience. In his presentation, Groves shared how the school accomplished the goals through faculty partnership and classroom design and what the school leaders learned along the way.

“I had lots of great conversations with folks interested in designing their own hyflex classrooms,” Groves said.

Campus network as strategic asset

In a high-view from a built-in camera, Ryan Turner presents in a classroom. His co-presenters are seated at a table behind him
Ryan Turner presents at DePaul University

At a panel session called Transforming IT into a Strategic Campus Asset, Turner presented on how UNC transformed IT and the network into a strategic asset that brought new value to the educational and campus experiences.

In Chicago in advance of EDUCAUSE, Turner co-led a full day of discussions on networking technology infrastructures, addressing trends, challenges and opportunities. Originally planned as part of the EDUCAUSE conference, the seminar moved off-site to DePaul University and was separate from EDUCAUSE.

Relationships, innovations, AI

Aside from the opportunity to share as presenters, ITS leaders who attended EDUCAUSE said they appreciated learning about the innovative things that other institutions are doing, connecting with peers at other universities and catching up with old friends and “alumni” of ITS.

Groves enjoyed the timely conversations he had with other attendees about their customer support tools. Currently, ITS is evaluating four vendor finalists as the department considers a new customer support tool for the University.

The conference also offered “a good number of sessions covering how institutions are addressing enrollment challenges through technology and customer-centric approaches to doing our work,” Hash said. “UNC-Chapel Hill is immune to the enrollment challenges most colleges and universities are struggling with, so those sessions are interesting on a few levels and help me better understand the market realities currently in play in higher education.”

Artificial intelligence was a big topic, with perhaps too many sessions devoted to AI, she said. “There were good conversations on governance and big picture aspects of AI, but still not enough ‘here’s how we are actually using it in our world’ approaches. I imagine that will come with time.”

Get involved

UNC-Chapel Hill is an organizational member of EDUCAUSE, meaning that all UNC students, faculty and staff are eligible for individual membership. Members can participate in community groups, conferences and learning opportunities.

As for making connections and networking, Hash said she values the relationships she’s developed by being involved with EDUCAUSE advisory and community groups. Those relationships also “help me see some of things we face at UNC from a more holistic perspective,” she said.

In addition, she got to meet her mentee who attends the New School in the city of New York and participates in EDUCAUSE’s Executive Leadership Academy. Hash added, “We had only met virtually up until that point!”


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