“It’s a phenomenally vibrant community of colleagues in the area,” Siesing said of the NorthEast Regional Computing Program (NERCOMP), the event host. “Everyone comes together to grapple with today’s IT challenges and opportunities on campus.”
The theme of this year’s conference, held March 28-30 in Providence, RI, was “Developing Our Strengths, Leveraging Our Talents, Inspiring Our Campuses.” The various keynotes, workshops and roundtables looked at how to continue to meet increased expectations of IT service and delivery during a challenging economic climate.
Siesing said her colleagues also addressed the perception of whether the evolving role of IT–and the IT organization–on campus is as a commodity service provider, strategic partner in academic and administrative planning and leadership, or some balance of the two. Also, how can emerging technology opportunities and organizational capabilities inspire meaningful changes to the way our schools deliver on their core missions?
What is NERCOMP?In 1956, 20 New England colleges and universities were invited to share the second shift of the IBM-704 computer installed at MIT. For many institutions, the affiliation with NERCC constituted their first exposure to a large computer and they continued to make extensive use of the facilities until they were able to obtain their own equipment. The collaboration had a lasting impact on computing in New England and launched a cooperative effort that continues to this day as NERCOMP. (The organization has undergone a number of name changes through the years as detailed in its organizational history.)
As institutions adopted their first personal computers in the mid-to-late 1980s, NERCOMP's educational conferences became a showcase of new technology, while also providing a platform for much-needed training. In 1997, NERCOMP became an association partner of EDUCAUSE, a nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher education by promoting the intelligent use of information technology. EDUCAUSE partners with NERCOMP on the annual conference, providing significant infrastructure support and working with the conference Chair and Vice Chair on planning throughout the year.
Today, NERCOMP enables the informed use of information technology by providing affordable access to educational opportunities, software licensing discount programs, professional networking and collaborative opportunities to its member network. When the 240-member organization gets together for its annual conference, Siesing said the keynote addresses serve as a collective “State of the Union” for what’s happening in IT at educational institutions around the region. The various workshops and roundtables cover the most pressing issues facing IT professionals in every category, including security, enterprise applications and infrastructure, educational and research tools and leadership, client support, and organizational development.
Siesing led a roundtable on Women in Technology: Leadership and in years past has moderated discussions in the area of instructional technology and strategic planning for large-scale projects, her areas of expertise at Tufts as head of UIT’s Educational & Scholarly Technology Services.
“A primary focus of my position is communication and collaboration with academic deans, faculty, and other academic resource colleagues to understand academic technology goals and to envision best approaches to meeting these goals,” she said. Working with colleagues at Tufts and beyond, Siesing researches trends in teaching, learning, and scholarly technology and makes determinations about the best places to introduce new resources and initiatives.
Prior to Tufts, Siesing worked for six years with the Instructional Computing Group in Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences. She earned a Ph.D. in English from the University of Texas at Austin, where she served as Associate Director for the Computer Writing and Research Labs.
Her current professional interests focus on cultivating robust communication channels and collaborations among faculty, educational technology specialists, and university colleagues to support work toward shared academic technology goals. From 2008-2011, she served as a member of the Board of Trustees of NERCOMP and served on the Annual Conference Program Committee, the SIG Committee, and the Membership/Institutional Representatives Committee. She worked with a core team of Board members to articulate the most recent NERCOMP strategic plan based on a planning process that was critical for the Board of Trustees in a period of drastic economic changes and evolution in the vendor licensing arena.
As for next year’s NERCOMP conference, Siesing said she looks forward to attending alongside other colleagues from Tufts. She will participate on the Program Committee ex-officio, providing support to the new annual conference Program Chair. Representing UIT at this year’s conference were Janet Hill, Manager LMS Services , and Kara Bilotta, Client Relationship Manager . Bilotta echoed Siesing’s assessment that the conference is one of the best professional IT forums in which all the relevant information is presented through the filter of higher education.
“It’s a place where you are surrounded by colleagues from peer institutions who are facing similar challenges. We all benefit from sharing our collective knowledge,” Bilotta said.