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From wired to wireless, first CIO keeps RIT online

When "Technology" is your name, there's an obligation to keep key campus systems up-to-date and running smoothly.

That enormous task rests on the shoulders of Diane Barbour, RIT's first chief information officer. Barbour directs the essential Division of Information and Technology Services, which includes telecommunications as well as computing services.

Since she arrived in 1997, the campus has been completely wired for the Internet, providing students, faculty and staff with excellent service virtually anywhere. This effort has been recognized by Yahoo! Internet Life magazine, which ranked RIT 14th among the "most wired" in the magazine's survey of 1,300 universities.

"We have top-of-the-line infrastructure in place," Barbour states. "We've invested very heavily in that."

RIT has never required students to have their own computers, but these days, more than 75 percent do. A growing number of students own laptops, and tote them to class and study sessions around campus. Now, demand is growing for wireless service. "Surveys show that students would like wireless capability in åsocial spaces' such as the Student Alumni Union, Crossroads, and outdoors," says Barbour. Service is already available on a limited basis in Wallace Library and a few other areas on campus.

Meanwhile, RIT last year joined the research and education network known as Internet 2. RIT is one of 180 research universities participating in "I2," which provides improvements in speed that greatly benefit researchers working with large quantities of complex data.

"Our research faculty, especially those involved in our First in Class efforts, are communicating with their colleagues at other institutions via Internet 2," says Barbour. "It's a tremendously powerful tool."

Down the road, Barbour predicts the merging of voice and data communications, with the computer and the telephone virtually becoming interchangeable - and probably wearable.

"RIT is now poised to take advantage of the tremendous investment that's been made," she says. "Our extensive to-the-desktop networking is allowing us to get everyone connected to the people and the information that they need to do their jobs."

Most of Barbour's professional life has been spent in the corporate arena. Immediately prior to coming to RIT, she was director of information systems and planning for the David Sarnoff Research Center in Princeton, N.J., for nearly a decade. She has more than 20 years of experience dealing with all aspects of information technology including mainframe operations, client server applications, data/telecommunications and Web applications.

She received her B.A. in mathematics and an M.B.A. in finance from Rutgers.

Although the responsibilities of her job are challenging, Barbour says she's enjoying her duties at RIT. "There's not been a dull moment."

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