information technology

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

Kevin Hegarty, UT’s vice president and chief financial officer, will step down from his position to become executive vice president and CFO at the University
of Michigan.

Mary Knight, associate vice president for finance, will serve as interim CFO until Hegarty’s position is filled.

Hegarty will make the transition from Texas to Michigan during this semester, pending approval from Michigan’s Board of Regents. His last day working on campus will be Feb. 26.

Since 2001, Hegarty has overseen finance, budget, real estate, information technology, open records, payroll and purchasing at UT. 

Mark Schlissel, president of the University of Michigan, spoke about Hegarty in a speech to Michigan’s Board of Regents.

“Mr. Hegarty is strongly committed to the role of public universities and brings a valuable combination of private sector and public higher education experience to the appointment,” Schlissel said. “I am confident he will serve our university well in meeting the challenges ahead.”

President William Powers Jr. said Hegarty has been a valuable resource to the University with regards to improvements in efficiency.

“Few people in our University’s history have served the campus with as much dedication and honor as Kevin,” Powers said. “He will be sorely missed and will always be a great friend. Kevin’s love for the Longhorns is exceeded only by his accomplishments improving the university, making us one of the most productive and efficient campuses in the nation and leading us through very challenging budget years.”

Hegarty has contributed to large-scale projects at UT, such as information technology, finance and procurement services and Shared Services, a plan to centralize the University’s human resources.

“If you look at any of the main initiatives that have happened at the University — things as big as the creation of the Dell Medical School — Kevin and his expertise [have] really been central to that,” UT spokesman Gary Susswein said. “This is a big loss for the university, but we wish Kevin well.”

Susswein said the search for Hegarty’s replacement will not begin until after the next UT president is in office.

Knight, who worked with Hegarty for the duration of his 13 years at UT, said she will continue to expand Shared Services while serving as interim CFO.

“We’ll continue to move forward with the Shared Services Initiative,” Knight said. “It’s currently in a pilot phase, so it has a relatively small impact on the campus as a whole.”

Knight commended Hegarty for his ability to work closely with faculty and administrators on campus.

“He’s got fabulous working relationships with the deans and the vice presidents and really has the attitude of ‘we are here to help with the academic and research mission, and we want to do our jobs well so that the mission of the University can be accomplished,’” Knight said.

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

Shared Services, a plan to centralize the University’s human resources, information technology, finance and procurement services, will be implemented differently in future pilot programs as a result of feedback from the first round of voluntary implementation. 

After months of discussion last spring, Shared Services’ implementation was scaled down to a few pilot programs in the College of Education and the Provost Portfolio, an administrative unit that oversees academic and professional areas in the University. The scaling down of the program was a result of recommendations made by the Shared Services Steering Committee. In February 2014, the Committee released a report calling for the University to conduct a pilot version of Shared Services so administrators would have more information about the effectiveness and impact of the program before rolling it out to the entire campus.

Now that pilot programs have been active for one long session, administrators are working to see what has gone well — and what could be going better. Jamie Southerland, associate vice president for Shared Services and Business Transformation, said the College of Education’s pilot program revealed issues as the semester went on.

“As the fall progressed, it became clear that the academic units involved in the pilot did not desire to reduce [their own] cost and/or administrative staffing, and therefore Shared Services offered no benefits to the units,” Southerland said.

To remedy this problem, administrators will recruit departments with a more active interest in implementing the pilot program’s services.

“We are also exploring the idea of offering services that any campus department could opt-in to,” Southerland said. “We know that there are processes that no one is happy with. We are in the process of determining how we can combine re-engineered processes into a service that campus finds valuable.”

Although groups such as the UT Save Our Community Coalition insisted that Shared Services would result in mass layoffs, one year after the pilot programs began, no jobs have been terminated, Almasy said.

“I think we’re now at the very least a year, if not two years, from when this discussion began, and there have been no layoffs or firings,“ Almasy said.

University officials are now looking for another department or college willing to implement a pilot program in order to collect another round of data.

“We are in conversations with other departments who are exploring a move to Shared Services, but we are not in a position to announce anything yet,” Southerland said.

Radio-television-film senior lecturer Anne Lewis said the University’s small-scale attempts at using Shared Services have not succeeded.

“It [has been] a miserable failure,” Lewis said. “It just didn’t work well when they tried to merge so many functions — so many individual functions, that served provost or faculty, into one kind of automated system.”

Southerland said the Provost Portfolio experience with Shared Services was a positive one.

“Thus far, the Provost Portfolio has been pleased with the quality of service from both the [Central Business Office] and [Academic Technology Support],” Southerland said. “They estimate that the switch to Shared Services has saved more than $1 million annually, most of which has already been reinvested in academic programs across the campus.”

We will be watching the Faculty Council at its April 14 meeting and how it answers the challenge President Powers presented to the council last September in his State of the University Address: to advise how the UT curriculum should change to take advantage of the ways new information technology permits teaching in interactive ways “pedagogically better” than “large passive lectures.” And how UT students can gain from using e-learning materials offered by others.

Powers is right in raising the use of information technology as a major issue in higher education. For the first time since Gutenberg, when movable type began to produce books more efficiently than did dictation and hand-copying, higher education has a chance to apply capital to reduce labor. E-learning materials can improve learning and reduce costs.

Using the new technology will greatly change universities. Many subjects taught by the traditional classroom-course-lecture method will be mastered by students who practice in simulated environments until proficiency is gained. Displaced lecturers may engage in more research or render hands-on assistance to students engaged in e-learning.

Before reaching its recommendations, the Faculty Council will want a clearer idea of exactly what is happening today with information technology. We might expect each department will be asked to designate a member of its faculty who will be granted the necessary time to gather facts to aid the council. This would include ascertaining: What technology-enhanced learning materials, no matter where developed, are now available for mastering a subject? Which of them are of a quality which meets UT standards? How are students led to these materials? How might success in learning by these means be acknowledged and accredited? What new forms of faculty assistance to online students and joint study by students using technology are evolving? How can a professor who wants to produce technology-enhanced learning materials do so, with what consequences on duties and intellectual property rights? What help should such a professor expect, from his/her department or from a centralized university technology office? How might UT’s future use of technology relate to what other universities are doing? President Powers, last September, expressed pleasure that the Faculty Council was establishing a committee to focus on these issues. But at the up-coming April meeting, seven months later, according to the Faculty Council secretary, we can only expect a report of an “ad hoc committee that was organized to propose the charge for the new committee and the principles for determining its membership.”     

Information technology and its relationship to higher education are moving at a faster pace. It will take recognition of that fact and the devotion of substantial resources to the work of the committee-to-be-formed, and to those in the departments designated to help, if UT is not to leave these issues to be addressed only by others.

Francis D. Fisher, senior research fellow, LBJ School of Public Affairs, submitted via email

 

It’s not an issue of comparing race to sexual orientation, but it’s about providing a safe space for the Longhorn community to express themselves and pursue their education while not facing discrimination.

— Online commenter Kent Kasischke in response to the Life & Arts article “Gay Liberation Front from 1970s paved way for UT gay rights groups”

 

People post crass, rude things to get a reaction. If nobody is reading the posts, nobody will react to them and the bullying will stop. Delete the app, y’all.

— Online commenter Madeline in response to the column “Yik Yak app encourages racism, sexism at UT” by Alexandra Triolo

Powers touts potential costs savings and efficiencies in endorsement of report

In a speech Tuesday, President William Powers Jr. endorsed a report that claims it would yield the University $490 million over 10 years.

The report is the collection of findings by the Committee on Business Productivity, a group of 13 business leaders commissioned by Powers in April 2012 to find efficiencies in the University’s non-academic services.

The report, titled “Smarter Systems for a Better UT,” proposes a series of reorganizations, rate increases and prioritizations to achieve its end goal.

In his speech, Powers said that while universities are not “simply businesses,” they do exercise some business functions, such as supporting information technology, reimbursing travel and buying resources from outside vendors.

“In these areas, they ought to be following the best business practices,” Powers said. “As a recipient of both tax dollars and tuition dollars, to do otherwise is to betray the public trust. For any public institution, efficiency is a moral imperative. But it also is the smart thing to do because it can free up much-needed resources we can redirect to our core missions of teaching and research.”

Three primary areas are identified by the report: asset utilization, technology commercialization and administrative service transformation.

The report outlines several proposals, such as raising dorm, food and parking rates; selling excess power produced by the University’s power plants in the open market; increasing the licensing volume of the Office of Technology Commercialization; and reorganizing the information technology, finance and human resources operations of the University.

The authors of the report also argued the need for an “operations czar” or “project manager” that would oversee the implementation of the recommendations. In his speech, Powers appointed Kevin Hegarty, executive vice president and chief financial officer, to do so.

In 2002, then-president Larry Faulkner commissioned a similar though much larger group of business leaders and citizens — mostly UT alumni — to produce a report that would outline an academic vision for the University. Known as the Commission of 125, the group’s 2004 report created a 25-year timeframe.

Powers ended his speech with a story about the Pope’s decision in 1586 to create a 344-ton obelisk. Powers said the implementation of the proposal, like the obelisk, will need to be done “one logical step at a time.”

“Because they were successful at this, many more obelisks were moved around Rome in the following years, one of which weighed 510 tons,” Powers said. “If we get this right, there’s no telling what else we’ll be able to accomplish, and there are other areas of our operations that will need our attention too.”

For a select group of San Antonio students, one of the cheapest four-year degrees in America is now available at Texas A&M University-San Antonio.

The “Affordable Degree,” a $10,000 bachelors degree in applied arts and sciences with emphasis on information technology, was announced last month by Maria Hernandez Ferrier, president of TAMSA. The degree is only available to San Antonio-area students who begin early by taking college courses in their junior year of high school.

The students can then have most of their course requirements completed in high school, free of the tuition they would be paying for the same classes in college, said TAMSA communications specialist Jillian Reddish.

“This program is bringing in a pretty high caliber of students who are already thinking about their future plans,” Reddish said. “The potential was there already.”

The program also requires each student to take two years of classes with the Alamo Colleges, allowing TAMSA to increase cooperation with the San Antonio community college system, said TAMSA spokeswoman Marilu Reyna.

“The community college option will be an essential partnership for those in higher education,” Reyna said. “We hope this program gets families talking with their children at an early age about college and tuition.”

The degree was partly an answer to the call of Gov. Rick Perry at his last State of the State address, when he asked for a $10,000 degree that included tuition and books in its cost.

“This degree option comes in at under $10,000, so it does answer Perry’s call,” Reyna said. “[It is] an answer for affordable degree options during these tough economic times.”

TAMSA is looking for ways to expand the program into other areas that guarantee jobs for San Antonio students, Reyna said.

“We will look at the various programs we have in place to see how we can partner with community colleges to make more degree options available,” Reyna said. “We will then concentrate on areas of study that yield our graduates with job opportunities when they graduate.”

San Antonio College, the community college TAMSA is partnering with, specializes in information technology. San Antonio has a large market for technology jobs, an expanding area of the “silicon valley” that has grown in Central Texas, Reddish said.

“Because we have such a high demand in San Antonio for technology jobs, many of the schools here have laid groundwork to create well-qualified graduates in these sectors,” Reddish said. “It’s a cyclical process, and you can’t have one without the other.”

Victoria Sertich, a 3D animation student in the Alamo Colleges system who hopes to transfer to TAMSA, said she was very happy to hear about a degree that was cheap, of quality and useful.

Sertich said while the degree was good for students entering the market right now, once jobs begin to fill up from the high volume of graduates, the degree could become less applicable in the future.

“At first, people who need spots are going to be able to find jobs, but of course [the job market] is going to get saturated,” Sertich said. “In the future it might be a little shaky, although there will probably be a new demand by then.”

TAMSA is a new university and is willing to experiment with different kinds of degree programs, Sertich said, while more prestigious universities will not be willing to drastically lower their tuition fees.

UT spokeswoman Tara Doolittle said the University is not officially considering such a program, although President William Powers Jr. has previously mentioned introducing this type of degree.

“We’re always looking at efficiency and ways to contain costs,” Doolittle said. “While we don’t offer a $10,000 degree, a quarter of our freshmen only pay $2,500 a year out-of-pocket. This is certainly in play, although it may not be a formal degree plan like the one in San Antonio.”

Printed on Monday, April 9, 2012 as: A&M-San Antonio creates affordable degree
 

Students can look forward to an influx of job opportunities in health care professions and some information technology and business fields, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

By 2018, more than a million jobs will be available to students graduating with degrees in biomedical engineering, health care aid professions, information technology and accounting analysts, according to bureau statistics.

Dr. Arthur Garson, senior vice president for health policy and health systems at UT Health Science Center at Houston, said he noticed two kinds of health care jobs on the list. Some jobs are highly professional, such as medical researchers and doctors, while others require certification and training, such as medical assistants and athletic trainers.

He said all health care professionals are needed to meet the medical needs of an aging population, especially baby boomers.

According to UT Health Fact Book 2011, more than 4,000 students are currently enrolled at UT Health Science Center. Of the 4,000 students, 1,025 are enrolled in the medical school, 886 study nursing and 586 study biomedical sciences.

Garson said if funds are not available for research and training, current and future students will be deprived of the necessary skills needed to meet the demands of growing health care occupations in the future.

“In the professional arena, government funding for research overall is at risk,” Garson said.

Biomedical engineering junior Nishant Mehta said he is researching ways to develop methods to combat tumors. He said if the research funding is eliminated, it will have a global impact on the scientific and medical community.

“The research is global in a sense because most of the new discoveries come from academia,” Mehta said.

Business and accounting fields will also grow in the coming years, according to the list. More than 300 students graduate every year from the Master in Professional Accounting program at UT, said accounting Director James Franklin. The rigor of research and teaching quality at UT makes it possible for students to get the right kind of training necessary to achieve success after college, he said.

“Students have to have a solid understanding of accounting principles and the ability to examine books and records to determine if something is accurate,” Franklin said.

Most accounting jobs will be geared toward investigating documents and compliance reports to see if they meet the requirements set by law, according to the bureau statistics.

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UT students enrolled in fastest growing programs:

Business administration:
Undergraduate — Full time 3,876 Part time 167
Graduate — FT 1,048 PT 229

Engineering:
Undergraduate — FT 5196 PT 387
Graduate — FT 1,777 PT 302

Information:
Undergraduate data not available
Graduate — FT 221 PT 77

Natural sciences:
Undergraduate — FT 8216 PT: 843
Graduate — FT 1,263 PT 104

Nursing:
Undergraduate — FT 712 PT 65
Graduate — FT 226 PT 79

Pharmacy:
Undergraduate data not available
Graduate — FT 535 PT 45

Source: UT Statistical Handbook. All data is for the year 2010
 

Daniel Slesnick, associate dean for research, facilities and information technology in the College of Liberal Arts, was appointed the University’s new vice provost of resource management Wednesday.

Current Executive Vice Provost Stephen Monti, who has worked at the University for 43 years, announced his retirement last week. He will work closely with Slesnick to ensure a smooth transition.

Monti said Slesnick’s appointment was an excellent choice made by the institution, and they have already started working together. Slesnick will work half the time in the provost’s office while still teaching through May. During the summer, he will work full time in the provost position.

“He has a desk set up right next to mine in my office,” Monti said. “We will work together on things and he will come to all the meetings that his schedule allows to immerse him in the process.”

In his new position, Slesnick will deal with budget issues as well as facility and space development.

“[Slesnick] is a good administrator,” Monti said. “He has worked with facilities and budgets and has good common sense.”

Slesnick received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics at the University of Washington and his doctorate in economics at Harvard University.

In 1982, Slesnick started at the University as an assistant economics professor and became an associate professor in 1986. Slesnick has been a senior tenured professor since 1993.

In 2007, Slesnick became associate dean for research, facilities and information technology in the College of Liberal Arts.