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"Next Steps" Message to Retreat Participants

James O'Donnell, August 10, 1999

This message goes to a broad group of people who generously gave their time early this summer in support of the "R+3" retreat that reviewed where we have come with computing services at Penn after three years of implementing the work of the 1995-96 task force. Some of you spent most of a day with us at the retreat, while others gave us the benefit of concentrated interview sessions in which we explored issues with individuals. I'm very grateful to you all for that time and commitment.

Let me now report where we are. What I heard, loud and clear in all that we did, was that we are fundamentally on the right track. To build an agenda for the future now requires two things: (1) addressing some open, or newly-identified, issues that remain from the 1995-96 restructuring, and (2) a recognition that while we have mastered to some extent the operational, the strategic adoption of technology in support of the University's mission still needs further support and development.

Under the first category I would place our new awareness of the need for "strategic local support" and the basket of issues around funding of IT that have arisen in the last three years. In the second category, I would place large issues like the future of distributed and distance learning at Penn.

You will hear more in weeks to come, but for the moment I can say that we have a good plan and signoff from the Provost and from the EVP to do essentially two things:

    1. Restructure the current IT Steering Group to take advantage of its strengths but especially to integrate it with other interest and advisory groups (including but not limited to Small Schools, SUG, Network Planning Task Force, Network Policy Committee) into a working community of leaders who are responsible for the coordination and operation of systems and services across the University. I am delighted that Ira Winston has accepted my invitation to serve as chair of IT Steering. I will still be a loyal participant, but Ira will be able to give the group a fresh focus and help it work through the structural questions that can make it even more effective.

    2. Targeted strategic working groups will be created to address the issues that require broader academic and administrative participation. I'm not prepared to announce specific groups, not least because I've not had a chance to talk to everyone whose generosity I plan to implore for participation! Roughly, however, there will be quite soon focused work on some of the knottiest IT funding issues; at the same time some strategic advice and guidance for President, Provost, and EVP around distributed and particularly distance learning issues; and then building through the fall a group that will take up the charge of building the broadest vision for the integration of new technologies in the University's strategic vision.

These efforts together will contribute to making this an exciting and busy year for many of us. I have learned personally in the course of this summer to realize again how much I like my job and enjoy working with this community. Soon enough, these will have been the good old days: the challenge is both to enjoy them but to take advantage of them as opportunity to build and achieve.


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