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Over the last decade, technology has been rapidly changing the dynamics of education. Today, educators across the globe are finding new ways to implement cutting-edge technologies to improve the relationship between teachers and students, enhance the relationship between teachers and students, and reshape the entire educational landscape. Their goal is simple and straight forward—to offer better learning outcomes for the students at the lowest costs. In an interview with Education Technology Insights, LeRoy Butler, Chief Information Officer, Lewis University discussed how technology would change the educational landscape in the upcoming years.
1. Could you shed some light on your career and journey to become CIO?
I have spent my entire professional career in the educational technology space. I started working as a part-time student employee in the computing and information service department at Furman University (Greenville, SC) during my undergrad program. By the time I reached my senior year, I was offered a full-time job at the university. I worked mostly with end-user support and multimedia technology until I complete my undergrad. After completing my master's degree, I worked at several K12 school districts as their CIO (or job titles that are very similar)for about seven-year. After I received my doctorate, I got an opportunity to run an IT department at a University in Ohio, where I spent about six years and then moved to my current position as a CIO at Lewis University.
“If you have a passion for serving and contributing to one of the greatest sectors of our society, i.e., education, then make sure that you work to lead an organization collaboratively with the people you work with”
I have had the opportunity to work in nearly every aspect of the operations within the educational sector. Whether it was end-user support, networking, infrastructure server, data-center administration, or training, these experiences have helped me become the CIO I am today.
2. Please elaborate on some exciting projects and initiatives that you’re currently overseeing in the educational landscape.
Technology has genuinely upgraded how we provide a quality educational experience for our students regardless of the type or size of the institution. It could be a Tier One research institution or a small liberal arts university. There is an opportunity for technology to enhance the experience of students through several different modalities. We are at a point where the education industry has started embracing technology as a valuable asset to change the way we deliver education.
One of the things that we do here at Lewis University is that we try to use technology to help students achieve their educational goals more effectively, efficiently, and consistently, regardless of where they are in their lifecycle. As an educational technology professional, our job is to ensure that the resources that we bring into the organization are beneficial to a group of individuals such as traditional-age residential, commuters, or first-generation students. We must understand the needs and goals of each group and then try to build technology solutions to help achieve that.
3. In light of your experience, what must be the priority for the CIO of educational institutions?
Our priority should beto provide the best possible educational experience for our students at low costs and greater outcomes. As educational leaders, we are tasked with—how can we provide that experience at the lowest price without compromising the quality and knowledge capital of the institution available to students. Technology has always been a great equalizer in society, and our approach at Lewis is promoting efficiency and inspiring innovation, i.e., becoming a more efficient and effective organization on the administrative and operational side. This allows us to dedicate more resources on the academic side to help our students achieve their educational goals and give them more desired opportunities.
4. What has been your secret or innate traits that you have had that helped you succeed over the years?
I don’t have any magical traits or any secret that has helped me in my career. Formal education, training, and experience have helped me reach this point in my life. We need to look at different sectors of our society and try to learn from these areas and apply it to our field. I believe in the project management approach that requires triple constraints to manage an organization, especially in IT and the Higher Ed environment. The triple constraints are time, scope, and resources or cost. It is a triangular relationship where time, scope, and resources are the three sides of a triangle that are interconnected and related to each other. This helps us in making informed decisions before bringing out new technologies or initiatives into the organization by answering questions such as strategic relevance or effectiveness of the move on students and the organization. We look at these three things in relation to each other, and if there is a disjoint between two of these aspects, then it is probably not a good idea to implement that initiative on campus. So, that helped me make informed decisions about how to invest in technology, especially with the limited resources that all higher Ed institutions have in terms of technology.
Another thing that has helped me is the mindset of an educator. You are an educator regardless of whether you are in a classroom, teaching, or in-service desk support, as you directly or indirectly have an impact on the student experience. A student-focused approach will help us function and act like educators while interacting with students. Both things helped me frame my approach to provide technology, equipment, resources, and support on our campus.
5. Would you like a piece of advice for people who envision to step into your line of career someday in life?
I don't think you could work in a more professionally fulfilling and satisfying industry. One of the things that I love to do as a leader at university is a commencement. It is very satisfactory to see students crossing the stage as they finish their education. If you have a passion for serving and contributing to one of the greatest sectors of our society, i.e., education, then make sure that you work to lead an organization collaboratively with your colleagues. If you have the traits to involve the community and make shared decisions by working collaboratively, then you can serve the position of CIO effectively.