EDUCAUSE 2015–Part 1

I’ve been home for a while now and it’s a good time to collect my thoughts and musings about the conference.

Last year, I wrote a total of four blog posts about my EDUCAUSE experience, and much of what I wrote is still relevant.  This year was even different, as I saw the program I had a direct hand in creating as part of the program committee come to life.  It was an interesting year–you may remember in late March Indiana passing a law that allowed for businesses to refuse service to LGBT people, and since EDUCAUSE was happening in Indianapolis, we all had to think about how to respond.  While luckily 1) The harshest aspects of the law were blunted by amended legislation and 2) the city of Indianapolis itself vehemently asserted its commitment to diversity, the discussions we had as a program committee, and the additions we made to the program (as well as a stated commitment to diversity, including 1000 “I Support Diversity” badge stickers that were completely used up within a day) definitely improved the offering and made me feel proud to be part of a community that while not perfect is committed to improving diversity of all kinds in higher education IT.

I flew into Indianapolis Monday.  While I was at Newark Airport, I’m sitting near the power (kudos to United Express for having AC outlets with USB chargers as well), and across from me sits Sharon Blanton (@sharonblanton), our program committee chair.  She was also sitting right behind me for the flight.  It was good to talk to her and discuss our expectations for the conference. We were also able to share a cab to the JW Marriott (also known as the J-Dub).  At check-in I see my good friend Jenn Stringer right behind me in line.   I settled in to my room,  and went down to registration, where I almost instantly found Catherine Yang (@pumpkiny) which was good, but she was understandably busy getting everything set up.  I then went back to the Marriott and then found one of my co-presenters, Bill Allison (@billallison) to finish up the notes and format for our session, and then went out in search of dinner and people with whom to eat it.  Succeeded at both–went to Georgia Reese’s  with Bill and Allan Chen (@kaiyen), and had a great dinner, including something I don’t usually get–an exotic artisanal cocktail.  We then went back to the J-Dub lobby bar, and I found a few people to hang out with, including an old friend, Luke Tracy (@lukectracy).  Pretty much shut the bar down, and went to sleep.

Woke up earlier than I should have the next morning, and gradually made my way awake and to the convention center for my first formal conference event, a preconference seminar with Bryan Alexander (@bryanalexander) about “Building an Emerging Technology and Futures Capacity in Your Organization“.  It was great, and I got to sit next to Raechelle Clemons (@raeclemmons).  I learned a lot about how to use environmental scanning, the Delphi method, and scenario mapping to help us do our long term planning, which is right in my wheelhouse.  I also could see how these planning and forecasting techniques could be used to reduce anxiety in organizations by making the future seem tractable.  So hopefully well worth it.

The to lunch at Harry and Izzy’s  with a bunch of people, and then to find my other co-presenters, Chris Misra  and Janet Scannell (@janetscannell).  We finalized the details of our presentation, and felt confident we could pull it off.  Then I went to the CIO Constituent Group meeting, where Theresa Rowe (@OUCIO) successfully led the session, which was similar to previous years, where table cards identified one of the Top 10 IT Issues, and people sat at the table they wanted to discuss about.  Had a great conversation about IT Funding with two people from UT-Dallas, which was good.

A few minutes to return to the room and collect my thoughts, and then off to a get-together with some of my Frye 2006 friends.  It was supposed to be dinner but there was much server confusion (facilitated by our table jumping, unknowingly across servers) but beer and appetizers were consumed before Jenn Stringer (@jennstringer),  Janet, and I were off to the EDUCAUSE Recognition Reception, which is an invite only reception for the program and recognition committees, EDUCAUSE staff, and other invited guests, to celebrate the EDUCAUSE award winners–James Hilton from UMich, Beth Schaefer (@sluggirl) from UW-Milwaukee, and Brandon Bernier from UW-Madison.  As a member of the program committee and the recognition committee, I was actually invited to the reception twice, but I only attended once.  It was very nice and it was good to see both EDUCAUSE president emerita Diana Oblinger and current president John O’Brien together:

It was easy to see that Diana was enjoying her retirement, and was also happy to be back among friends.

After the reception it was back to the Marriott bar, when I was able to talk to Braddlee (@braddlee), and also David Cantrell, a dear old friend, and really one of the first people to give me a chance to do some exciting things in higher ed IT, so he will always be a valuable mentor, and who is doing well as the CIO of Florida A&M.  Also saw my colleagues @kingfox and @windexcowboy as they had just gotten in to  Indianapolis that afternoon.  They were two of my 5 Drew colleagues who came this year, no doubt due to the excellent program the program committee prepared (cough cough).

Wednesday morning the conference opened with a great keynote by Daniel Pink, reminding us that motivation comes first and foremost from being happy and being able to do important things.  An excellent talk–Pink is a great speaker, with comic’s timing.

After a quick lap around the vendor floor (and you can look back through this blog at my thoughs on last year’s conference to find out how I feel about the relationship with our vendors), I went to a talk on unconsious bias given by fellow committee member Cathy O’Bryan (@cobryan) and some of her colleagues.  A lively and important discussion ensued as people shared their experiences, and all of us thought of the ways we both harbored unconscious biases and have been the subject of same.  It is very important to be aware of this in all of our interactions.

Then it was time for my first session of the conference with Bill Allison.  We started by saying this was in fact an experiment that could be doomed to failure but it went better than we anticipated.  The discussion was lively and the open Google Doc we used to capture people’s input was filled quite well by the end of the talk–even with a screencap of a talk from a talk from my very good friend @yesthattom–which I assume was just an amazing coincidence.  The feedback from the session was great and we have a promise to shape the discussion into an EDUCAUSE Review article–so stay tuned.

Lunch and then my other session–this one on “The Last Buggy Whip–Envisioning the Future of IT” with Chris and Janet above.  For this session we had a thought experiment about a university reopening with a fresh $300 million endowment, and the question of how would you design the IT services of that institution, if you had no legacy stuff to worry about?  A lot of wireless, outsourced everything, mobile devices everywhere, no landlines, etc.  It was interesting and again people felt the discussion was good.

Once both of the sessions I was participating in as a presenter were over, I felt I could lighten up quite a bit.  But that’s a good point to stop at, and I’ll discuss the rest of the conference in another blog post soon.

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Mike Richichi

I'm an inveterate geek who's somehow become a leader in higher education information technology. These are some of my thoughts.