President Teresa Amott recently promoted Steve Hall to chief information officer — a title that reports directly to the president instead of the dean of the college. It also highlights the growing role technology plays at Knox.
“There’s a huge amount of money tied up in technology, and [it is] as basic to everything we do as electricity,” Amott said. “If the power goes out, a lot of stuff shuts down here. It’s like a utility. It’s like electricity, or water, or heat, or power.”
Hall is excited at the prospect of finally being able to work directly with the president.
“The IT folks weren’t welcome at that table,” Hall said, “but moving in and being a regular part of that group gives us access to information that, at times before, would’ve been helpful to know.”
While Amott has been impressed with what Knox has been able to do in terms of its resources, she still believes that more could be offered and hopes Hall will be able to rise to the challenge.
“If we had more money, would there be things we could do differently? Probably, and that’s what I would turn to Steve to answer,” she said.
Hall believes that Knox’s prospective and new students, or at least their parents, have taken into account increased access to the wireless network, network services and availability of broadband.
“I perceive that in terms of those students shopping other competitors to Knox, that they’ve … found that their wireless network wasn’t as pervasive throughout their green space and buildings as we are here,” he said.
“Now I hate to think that becomes the primary reason for coming to Knox versus some other school, but I think in a very competitive marketplace, some of the things that we have done in that area and in allowing wireless devices to really roam the campus puts the thumb on the scale a little bit,” Hall said.
Hall first started working at Knox in 1993 after his sister sent him a newspaper article advertising that the college was looking to hire computer programmers. His first main task was setting up the Gensobar system, commonly known as my.knox.edu.
“We were undergoing that evolution from a glass house data processing shop where people sent information to the data center to be data-entered by employees that we had here to changing the entire model of administrative programming where people could serve themselves,” he said of the transition.
At the urging of then-president Rick Nahm, starting in 1995, Hall assisted the development of a network that has changed from wired to wireless Internet access, from 150 computers to 2,500 devices.
“It really started slow, and just in the last five years we’ve really packed on the devices,” Hall said.
Amott plans to challenge him with continuing to move the college to the forefront of the ever-changing technological landscape.
“I think it’s fair to say that if a president has charged someone to be the chief information officer, that person is now looking into the future and helping the president plan for the future,” she said.
Hall has strived to make technology help as open as possible, and while he would like to move the Computer Help Desk out of the basement of the Umbeck Science-Mathematics Center, for now he has only one goal.
“My biggest goal is just to listen and be accessible and hear what people have to say,” Hall said.