Profile: Scott Thacher, Director of Information Technology for Campus Life & Student Services
Scott Thacher leads the overall business technology planning, implementation, and support for the division of Campus Life-- including infrastructure and architecture, networks, desktop integration, applications development, information security, and reengineering business processes.
Q. Campus Life and Student Services covers a lot of ground – literally as the departments and offices are scattered across the campus, as well as the scope of the various services provided. What are some of the challenges that you face in providing support and direction to this large division?
A. The biggest challenge is managing computing support for a large division with very limited IT staffing. Partnering with CIS for many aspects of computing support has been an enormous help. Besides that, I’d say it’s much the same as what many people wrestle with: managing the distractions and not letting the little stuff get in the way of larger goals. It’s all about smart prioritization.
Q. A great deal of information if managed by the division, including health and psychological records, room and board details, disciplinary findings as well as administrative data. What are some of the information security concerns you may have and how are you addressing them?
A. There is certainly a large amount of sensitive data within my division, some of which is governed by regulatory requirements. It’s important for me to work with ISG, other CIS staff, and staff within my division to insure the integrity and security of our data. It’s a team effort. Leveraging the expertise, tools, and depth of each respective group keeps a strong layered security model intact. I know it’s an often-repeated mantra, but I am always mindful of maintaining a layered approach to information security.
Q. FluWeb is a recent initiative by Campus Life that helped manage the impact of the flu by allowing students with flu-like symptoms to stay in their dorm rooms and login to the site to report missed class time and needs for assistance. Are there other computing initiatives on the horizon?
A. FluWeb is a great example of a collaborative effort between my division and CIS. It saved countless hours of staff time handling triage and service response for reported cases of flu-like illness during the fall semester. Future initiatives will be focused on process streamlining, mostly around moving paper-based processes to the web. Many of these will be internal to division business, but some will be student-facing services. One example is working with CIS to enhance the online meal plan balance summary page that they built for us in Banner last spring.
Q. What skills and experience do you bring to your position?
A. Prior to my current position I had eleven years of IT work in purely technical positions. I was lucky to be exposed to a variety of IT areas: systems administration, desktop support, data communication, and database administration, to name a few. I've held IT positions at other institutions of higher education, as well as the healthcare and software development industries.
Q. Were you always interested in computing? What drew you to it?
A. I have been interested in computers for as long as I can remember. My family had a very early Kaypro II computer – I spent countless hours playing games and learning how to program in Basic. The interest stuck, and though I studied Business and Economics in college, I still held on to my interest in computers and I decided to pursue IT as a career.
Q. What do you like most about your job?
A. I really like having opportunities to make people' jobs easier by the thoughtful application of technology. Early in my career I was much more focused on the technology itself; now I’m more interested how it can be applied at a macro level to increase efficiencies.
Q. What would be the most important piece of information security advice that you'd like to pass on to the average user?
A. Use strong passwords!
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