January 28, 2021

On the Air

How an IT Leader Found Transformation Opportunity in the Midst of the Pandemic

By Charles Araujo 
Published on techzone360.com

When the pandemic hit, it disrupted industries around the world. One of the most impacted was higher education and, within that sector, community colleges may have been the most affected of all. But, at least one leader saw this disproportionate impact as an opportunity.

It’s not hard to understand why the pandemic hit community colleges so hard. Almost overnight, they had to transition to remote learning, often in communities that lacked the technical infrastructure (in the form of home computers and high-speed internet) to do so.

At the same time, while these colleges were often community bedrocks, they lacked the significant resources of their university brethren. Many community colleges responded admirably, doing their best to meet the needs of their students and communities. But, a few, such as the College of Southern Nevada (CSN), took it as an opportunity to innovate and transform.

“The now ubiquitous COVID-19 pandemic has changed things in an incredibly fundamental way,” explained CSN’s Chief Digital Experience Officer Mugunth Vaithylingam. “But, [it] has simultaneously made us take a fresh look at everything.”

Along with the college’s administration team and faculty, he realized they needed to meet the needs of the campus community and ensure that no one would be left behind. To do so, they knew they would have to engage with their business partners and employ a healthy dose of creativity – and it would start with a little refocusing.

Refocusing on the Experience

Like many higher education IT organizations, CSN’s Office of Technology Services (OTS) was focused on doing what its name stated: delivering technology services.

However, as the pandemic hit, Vaithylingam realized there was an opportunity for technology to play a different role.

“We’ve entered an age where we can leverage efficiency in our tech that makes things better while costing less,” he shared with faculty and staff during the college’s convocation week in August.

He went on to explain that technology played a crucial role in delivering an outstanding student experience: “The easier and more inviting the process, the more we provide a compelling answer to the question, ‘Why CSN?’”

Moreover, as the crisis hit full force, he and others in the administration seized the opportunity to take a leap forward.

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