Editor's Note: The IT Leadership Awards, presented by Pride Technologies, celebrate local IT professionals who help local, regional, national and global businesses run better through engaged leadership and a commitment to innovation. For the next 7 weeks, check back each Tuesday and Thursday as we highlight one of the 20 honorees of this year's award.
When you think of the people leading IT, a grandmother who loves to knit might be the polar opposite of your vision. But expanding the mind is the entire point of higher education and for Annette Marksberry, combining education and technology is all in a day’s work.
A lifelong Cincinnatian, Marksberry started at Xavier University in December 2006 after a career in IT in the financial business sector, as "the" project office. Now as associate provost and CIO, she leads a team of 60 to serve more than 7,000 students, administration and faculty.
It’s not an easy balancing act to meet the needs of technology-infused students and a faculty with specific scholarly needs, but she manages the two by maintaining an open line of communication and a responsive help desk.
"We serve a community of curious, motivated learners," says Marksberry. "It’s up to our team to find innovative and seamless solutions to meet their needs."
One example of responsive leadership is when Marksberry attended her first student government meeting and a student said she wanted to be able to do everything through her smart phone.
"Although we had a mobile application in place, it was one that we had purchased from our learning management system vendor and was very basic," she says. "Our Director of Application Services, Mark Brockman, got busy looking at new vendors and their capabilities. We selected a new vendor to partner for a new mobile application. Mark and one of his developers have worked diligently since then to program functionality that allows students to register and add/drop classes from their mobile devices. Xavier is one of the few universities to have this capability."
Technology’s ability to change the landscape of higher education adds an air of excitement Marksberry is thrilled about.
"Technology is completely opening up the way higher education and the delivery of classes is envisioned," she says. "Through the use of technology, teaching has been changed more in the last decade than in many years."
Marksberry and her leadership team are also rolling out new initiatives to improve learning opportunities including new course evaluation software; the ability to capture audio and video of lectures for on-demand use, and, Canvas, a web-based learning management system.
"Higher education has traditionally been slow to change and is steeped in tradition," she says. "It is paramount in my role as CIO to help the campus community see the countless, positive possibilities and opportunities that technology brings, inside and outside the classroom."
And although change is the only constant with technology, for Marksberry, tradition is key. "Every year when our president, Father (Michael) Graham, puts his hands on students in prayer in his orientation speech, I get tears in my eyes. Or when (staff and faculty) rush out to cars to help our incoming (dorm) students carry their things and they’re so happy to see us. That’s community. And that’s why I love it here."
Previous honorees featured: Jay Brown, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer for UC Health; John Kellington, CIO and Senior VP, The Cincinnati Insurance Companies; Vinit Kohli, Vice President of Management Information Systems for Sibcy Cline; Anup Nair, Chief Information Officer of Vantiv; Nelson Vincent, Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer for UC Information Technologies