The College of Literature, Science, and the Arts has worked to unite LSA Information Technology, Instructional Support Services, Management and Information Systems, and Web Services teams. These four groups have come together to form LSA Technology Services. Initial goals are to:
Provide patrons with easier access to services and support.
Enhance existing services and provide new ones.
Offer more opportunities to improve our teams’ skills and support professional advancement and development.
On April 24, 2018 Cathy Curley joined the team as the new Chief Information Officer for the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.
Cathy is known for her passion, strategic thinking, creating a collaborative work environment and being an innovative leader. Cathy has twenty plus years’ experience in various IT and leadership positions across higher ed and industry. Cathy led the effort to create the development of a university-wide IT strategic plan. She has extensive experience in process improvement, change management, IT portfolio, program and project management, coaching, and mentoring.
Cathy recently sat down for an interview to discuss her new role as CIO and share a little about her life outside of work.
Q: What excited you about the new position of CIO for LSA?
Cathy: Two things really excited me. First, the opportunity to help develop, build, create, and run an entirely new organization, especially here at Michigan. My career at U-M to date has been entirely in central IT, and they were great years, but there was something nudging me to be in a role more directly supporting the heart of UM—faculty, students, and staff. Also, I have a liberal arts academic background, and it was extremely gratifying for me to think about how I can give back and help advance liberal arts education in this role. I am a first hand example of how a Liberal Arts degree provides one with the skills and experiences to be prepared for a lifetime, not just a living. When I learned more about the Dean’s vision for LSA in terms of what a liberal arts education should provide students, I felt connected by my own liberal arts education in business and psychology. It was everything a liberal arts education taught me—problem solving, creative thinking, looking at issues and problems from different perspectives—that helped me get a job, and a career, in technology. I was not exposed to IT from my academic curriculum. The opportunity at LSA presented itself, and I couldn’t be happier.
Q: What are a few of the surprising things you have learned about the four groups?
Cathy: One of the biggest surprises was around the aspects of classroom design. I was well versed in understanding that we support faculty in terms of how to apply new technologies for their course work and that we provide technology in the classrooms. The big surprise for me, though, was just how much that extends to the way class is taught in that space, from the layout of the tables and design of the chairs, to the lighting and the sound. We help make the room functional for a specific course, creating a better experience for faculty and students. Also, I’ve been impressed by the loyalty and passion of our staff. Approximately half of our organization is an LSA graduate and another 25-30% are UM grads. I love that people want to contribute and continue to grow LSA. I am also excited by the diversity and expanse of solutions and services we offer and the level of detail that many of our staff put in to create a high quality experience for faculty and staff.
Q: What are the main reasons for merging these four technology groups together?
Cathy: The main idea is simply improved service for faculty, students, and staff. Faculty and staff have been confused about who to go to for help, what services are available to them and in some cases, received different types of engagement or help for the same service. We have a lot of small teams that provide many types of services that ultimately are a bit fractional. We don’t always have the right number of people supporting these services and some of our people are stretched really thin. So one of the goals we have is to look at what services we are providing, how we are providing them, and whether they are the most important services. We can also look at retiring services that are outdated so we can provide new services. If we do this realignment we can sustain and scale our service, create new opportunities for our staff, and have a stronger team backing us up. Bringing our four groups together strengthens our ability to meet the growing needs in LSA in a more sustainable way.
Q: What are you hoping to accomplish in the 2018-19 academic year?
Cathy: We are working to make service improvements so faculty and staff know how to get hold of us. I want to simplify our support and access to service so people don’t have to worry about who to talk to. We’ll have more cohesion as an organization and be able to say, “We can help, if I’m not the person, I can make sure you get to the right person.” I would also love to deliver new services and put together a stronger financial plan this year. I want to make significant progress on our staff development plan as well, to create opportunities for staff to grow and expand their skills. I also have a goal to know everyone in our organization by name and face. To do this, I do a lot of outreach and keep an open door. I encourage staff to find some time to join me at the regular “meet and greets” I hold around campus. If I can get to know someone on a personal level, that can help me better understand what they do for us on a professional level.
Q: What activities to you enjoy outside of work?
Cathy: On Saturdays, you may see me running through the Diag. My husband and I run half marathons and we usually do a couple of races in the fall and in the spring. I have a personal goal to run a race in 25 states. So far, I am up to number 19. It also helps that I love to travel. In fact, my last two races were in Utah and Alabama. And, of course, I follow UM sports and look forward to volunteering for the Women’s Golf program this year.
Q: What was the last good book you have read?
Cathy: Our family did a summer reading challenge this year, so I have a few to pick from. I enjoyed the autobiographies Let your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory by Deena Kastor (professional runner) and All the Gallant Men by Donald Stratton (Pearl Harbor, USS Arizona survivor). Both of these books were inspiring and amazing stories in their own right. Deena Kastor was an olympic athlete and her memoir was from the perspective that our mindset affects the way we perform. She shared the successes and failures in her running career and personally demonstrates how keeping a positive mindset can actually improve performance, no matter what kind of challenge. I picked up Donald Stratton’s book about surviving Pearl Harbor when I was in Hawaii. Stratton tells an incredible story. One of the themes that spoke to me was the commitment and loyalty people have when they are part of a team. The fifteen hundred sailors that were on the USS Arizona were part of the same team, and Stratton went into great detail around what that meant—the connection and camaraderie that developed between the men, even though they often didn’t know each other. The story gives me great gratitude for the county we live in and the sacrifice, commitment, and loyalty people have when they are part of a team.
Q: What gets you excited about coming to work?
Cathy: Lots of things! Right now, there is a lot of attention on our staff and their career development. I have really enjoyed interviewing internal candidates for open positions because it has given me the opportunity to learn more about people’s experience. I get excited about the opportunity to coach and mentor others. I enjoy when we collaborate about new service strategy and have “what if” discussions. I also look forward to getting to know more faculty members. I want to better understand their needs and challenges and learn more about what they are teaching and researching.
Q: Can you describe the culture you would like to foster with Technology Services?
Cathy: To me, it’s all about being a team. I have lived that from as far back as I can remember in my youth. I really want us to be at a high performing team level, where people will step in and help others and let go of personal need and all align to a common core goal and focus. The stronger we can be as a team, the stronger our whole organization will be and the college as a result.
Q: How do you keep up with new technology news and trends?
Cathy: First, I have to stay open to being a constant learner and never feel as if I know it all or know enough. From there, reading headlines, following Twitter, talking with vendors and IT partners to understand how they solve problems. I also try to attend several conferences a year. Educause has what is called Startup Alley, a vendor showcase that highlights startup companies. I spend more of my time in Startup Alley than I do in the existing product suites. I try to understand what is coming up and how it compares to other things in the marketplace, as well as how we might utilize those things. I try to use the technology and social media apps as much as I can and follow what and how my teenage step-children are using technology.