Jeanne Casares joined RIT in September 2008 as our Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Assistant Vice President in charge of Information and Technology Services (ITS). With a campus the size of RIT, it can take time to get acquainted so I thought that everyone might like to hear more about Jeanne and where she hopes to take RIT regarding information technology.
A lot of people don't realize the great background that Jeanne brings to RIT. Jeanne is from New Jersey and has a BA in History with a M.Ed in Higher Education. Early on (in 1983), she spent time as a Residence Hall Director for Syracuse University. In 1987, Jeanne formed her own company called "Personnel Systems." It was at Paychex, Inc. where she was assigned a project to put together the original Paychex.com website in 1996. According to Jeanne, that project was so influential on her career that she feels that she wouldn't be here at RIT without that assignment. She "fell in love with the internet." It was a "life changing" moment whereby she immediately saw the tie between business and IT. Still to this day, she loves the infrastructure and change management components which are definitely emphasized in her management approach. After spending 15 years at Paychex leading Web Technologies, Enterprise Support, Implementation Services, and Change Management activities, she decided to come to RIT. According to Jeanne, she took the RIT job since "RIT wanted someone to take IT to the next level and implement change."
I asked Jeanne about her thoughts on the differences between running IT in a university environment and a corporate environment. "A university environment is much more distributed when compared with the commercial and centralized nature of corporate IT," according to Jeanne. She indicated that university IT is much more "organic" and innovative. Commercial business focuses on sales, operations and support. Universities will focus on many dimensions and they have their customer base (the students) turn over every so many years as they come and go. New freshmen typically arrive with the latest technology and they have expectations of being internet connected wherever they are.
Jeanne is very passionate about her work and it definitely shows. She clearly enjoys the collaborative university environment while remaining focused on the big picture and IT strategy. One thing I noticed over and over as I talked with Jeanne is that she believes in people development. Recently several ITS personnel attended training on ITIL (an IT Service Management framework) and obtained their ITIL certifications.
In the short time that Jeanne has been at RIT, she has already made a difference at the university. Her team has focused on reaching out to the various IT groups on campus and is working on aligning IT goals amongst groups. Jeanne views the biggest ITS success stories at RIT over the past couple of years as a tie between the new wireless network and the email system upgrades.
Some of the most notable ITS projects under Jeanne's watchful eyes include:
- Deployment of new state-of-the-art wireless network (includes over 3,400 wireless access points)
- Email server upgrades for faculty and staff that provided much needed mailbox space
- Migration of the student email systems to Google
- Integration of the former FAST computing systems and personnel into ITS
- Establishment of an ITS Project Management Office
- Implementation of new helpdesk management software (called Footprints)
- Current projects include:
- SIS Replacement
- Building a Green Data Center
- Future projects include emphasis on mobile computing and mobile applications
Jeanne’s future vision for ITS includes:
- Delivering key IT services
- Continuous process improvement
- Making ITS a great place to grow and succeed
- Focusing on alignment with RIT's core business functions
- Moving ITS from being response-focused to being more pro-active in helping and advising the business
On the personal side, she enjoys family, reading, cooking, social events and gardening. Jeanne was recognized as the 2010 IT Woman of the Year by the Upstate New York chapter of the Association of Women in Computing. She also has made contributions as a Girl Scout leader and a participant in Habitat for Humanity.
All in all, I am convinced that Jeanne will move ITS forward here at RIT. She is a wonderful person with the right leadership skills needed for the job.