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Brown University’s CIO Touts the Digital Classroom

Peter High

4-28-2016

Excerpt from the Article:

Brown University has a stated goal to be the leader in appropriate use of technology among its peers and beyond. Ravi Pendse serves as the vice president and CIO of Brown University, and in that role, it is his responsibility to enact that vision. He is also a Professor of Practice in Computer Science and Engineering, and therefore is the rare CIO who also teaches students. As he tells CIO Insight contributor, Peter High, he is a technology evangelist through the multiple hats that he wears.

Peter High: Ravi, please describe your role as CIO of Brown University.

Ravi Pendse: I have the privilege and honor to serve as the vice president and Chief Information Officer at Brown University. My areas of responsibility include academic computing, network and telecommunications services, infrastructure services, enterprise applications, desktop and support services, and information security. I also oversee research computing which encompasses high performance computing, a state-of-the-art visualization CAVE, and data science practice. It is our goal to make Brown University the leader in appropriate use of technology among its peers and beyond.

While I have a strong team of 225 reporting to me, I really see myself as working for them. I ensure that they feel empowered to do their job by setting the vision, creating opportunities, assisting them when needed, and getting out of their way when not needed. In addition to our centralized IT staff, Brown has around 160 additional IT staff who work for different units and schools. Some of these positions have dotted reporting lines to me. Overall, yes, we have a federated model. We work collaboratively and strive to add value.

High: You are also a Professor of Practice in Computer Science and Engineering. How much time do you spend teaching versus your role as CIO?

Pendse: I am very passionate about teaching and sharing ideas. Typically, I teach one class every year, advise both graduate and undergraduate students, and conduct research. While most of my time is spent being the technology evangelist, I find time to be in the class and with students. I guess sleep is optional when you are a CIO and a passionate teacher.

High: You have worked extensively at Brown and at Wichita State before in the design of the digital classroom. Please describe some of your thinking relative to that topic.

Pendse: I believe that classroom design should involve partnership and collaboration with faculty, students and applicable staff members. Staff such as instructional designers and media support professionals should play a key role in this process. It is very important to partner with facilities management to enable a collaborative classroom. In my opinion, flexible learning spaces should replace all bolted down chairs and tables. Of course, this means a smaller capacity classroom. Research shows that proper classroom configuration, mood lighting, just-in-time technology, and a well-trained instructor will result in an incredibly conducive learning environment. Technology also powers anytime, anyplace learning; one should always ask the question “If you want to go to class, is a room (classroom) really necessary?” Thoughtful collaboration between all stakeholders will provide an inviting classroom to empower learning.

High: How does your work as a professor inform your insights as a CIO?

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