Academic Chair, then Director, Faculty of Arts Instructional Support and IT

In 2013 the Dean of Arts asked me to lead the Arts ISIT unit. I was always a geek and into learning technology. But the position really opened my eyes to all the challenges of management: helping a team of 25 people work together on a wide range of projects and services to help Arts faculty, staff, and students use technology for teaching and learning, research, and administration. In 2017-18 I served in a Staff position as Director of ISIT while also working as CEO of WeVu.

Arts ISIT is a service unit and one of the few in a big university at the faculty level that combines Instructional Support and Information Technology.

Here are some of the things accomplished at ISIT while I have been part of the team:

  • Renewal of 30+ Faculty of Arts (FoA) unit/department websites.
  • Renewal of Arts computer labs, spaces, equipment, and software.
  • The continued building and maturing of the Collaborative Learning Annotation System, with a Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund Grant, so that the CLAS system now serves 12,000 UBC students a year and is now a UBC spin-off venture called WeVu.
  • Supporting Arts users in the transition first, from Vista to Connect, and now from Connect to Canvas as the core of UBC's Learning Technology Environment.
  • Publicity, Education, and Deployment for improved privacy and information security in Arts.
  • Testing and eventual support of many learning technologies, including Peer Scholar, Crowdmark, TopHat, Learning Catalytics, CLAS, UBC Blogs, Piazza, Scantron, Mattermost, etc.
  • Building and deployment of the eportfolio platform to all Arts students.
  • Continuing the building of the Arts Learning Analytics capabilities, which are at the forefront of progress on Learning Analytics worldwide.
  • Operating over 250 mostly virtual servers for institutes, research teams, student services units, media repositories, and more.
  • Developing or deploying numerous applications to make work in Arts more efficient: Meeting Room Booking System, Sendy for newsletters, UPAS for student hourly pay, Personnel Absence Tracker, Qualtrics survey software, Tandem for language learning pairing, Tableau for data visualization, OAMS for management of Academic Advising, etc.
  • Building and deployment of the Arts Intranet, AIR.

Here are some of the ways I contributed to the value provided by Arts ISIT:

  • Continual improvement of ISIT's organizational structure, reporting relationships, employment contracts, terms of employment, team members' responsibilities,
  • Overall oversight of the ISIT budget.
  • Liaison with both Arts departments and central units like CTLT and UBC-IT.
  • Strategic vision to identify where technology can best help Arts faculty, staff, and students in their activities.
  • Insisted on the need for an Arts and unit intranets.
  • Supported team members in the building or deployment or support of new services. Leadership to allow staff to take risks and worry less about 'failure'.

Share this learning activity with others

Learning Significance

  1. Moving from an academic role to a management role was a wonderful progression in my career. There is so much to learn about how to lead a team and help them do their best work. While I was learning on the job, I wish I had done a bit more formal training on HR, budgeting, and so on.

    I believe the experience leading ISIT has enabled me to take a risk and co-found with two ISIT colleagues, Ricardo Serrano and Thomas Dang. The entrepreneurship involved has fed back to my ability to lead a small, diverse team like ISIT.