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Dr. Fred Chang Takes Over as Associate Dean of Information Technology

Dr. Fred Chang Takes Over as Associate Dean of Information Technology
“At the most basic level,” says Fred Chang, associate dean for information technology, “parents and students ought to know how the IT fees they pay are being used.”ChangDr. Fred Chang, the college’s new associate dean for information technology, expects that much of the challenge of the job will involve finding the right balance between managing the college’s current IT infrastructure and anticipating the future of computing and how it will affect students.

“At the most basic level,” says Chang, a research professor of computer science, “parents and students ought to know how the IT fees they pay are being used.”

This summer, for instance, three of the college’s undergraduate computer labs were completely overhauled. Five new high-capacity printers were purchased. The college launched a new website in August. Five more classrooms were outfitted with recording technology, which will enable more students to access webcasts of lectures they may have missed or would like to see again. The college’s wireless network was upgraded so that the coverage is both more comprehensive and faster.

Over the longer term, says Chang, major initiatives include the development of a online student portal, more instructional computing software like the Quest Learning & Assessment System, and more attention to possibilities of what’s known as cloud computing.

“The basic idea right now,” says Chang, “is that you’ve got your desktop or your laptop, and you’ve got applications that you bought at Best Buy or WalMart. You get software on a disk, you load the disk on your computer, the disk spins around, and it loads software on your computer. Cloud computing turns that model on its head. It says that you no longer need to run client applications on your computer. All those applications are in the cloud, being run on remote servers that are accessible through the Internet.”

The advantages of cloud computing, says Chang, also dovetail with another emerging trend in personal computing – the very inexpensive, lightweight laptops known as netbooks. Chang expects that more and more students are going to show up on campus with netbooks, which are much cheaper and lighter than typical laptops, but also much less powerful, and incapable of running powerful applications. In order to serve these students, says Chang, the college will need to have architecture and infrastructure in place.

Chang, whose own area of research is in information security, also expects to spend a lot of time improving the security of the college’s systems, and educating students on their own role in protecting their information.

“We’re committed to making sure the entire computing experience is a secure one.” says Chang, “We’re going to do everything we can, for instance, to make sure that people can safely access our website, can look at their course information, can feel safe interacting with our systems. But we’re going to need a lot of help from the students as well. Behaviors are going to have to change somewhat. You can get your computer infected merely by surfing the web. Cybersecurity will get worse before it gets better.”

For many initiatives that he undertakes as dean, Chang says he plans to involve or consult with students. To prepare for the development of a student portal, for instance, he’s convening a team of undergraduates to advise him as to what they’d want in such a portal. He plans to have regular meetings with the Student Advisory Council, and to have lunches throughout the year with diverge groups of students from across the college. Meeting with students, believes Chang, is an absolutely necessary component of the job.

“My daughter just started her second year of college and my son is a senior in high school,” says Chang, “and although I like to think that I’m staying current with what students want, I don’t pretend to understand all the things they’re interested in. When I chat with my own kids about their IT experiences, it’s always refreshing, and I want to formalize that here, to talk to students about their experience of information technology in the college. That’s the only way I’ll be sure I’m providing the services that are most valuable to students.”

This article originally appeared in the October 2009 issue of Insight.
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Friday, 22 September 2017

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