University of Wisconsin–Madison

Enhancing our learning to drive innovation

From UW–Madison CIO and Vice Provost for Information Technology Lois Brooks


Recently I had the opportunity to join colleagues from DoIT Network Services at the BOREAS-Net meeting and participate in a productive conversation about the next wave of regional network capabilities. The team is investigating new architectures and technologies to meet the growing demand of our universities for capacity and functionality. As I listened to the conversation, I was struck by how much learning and teaching were happening in the room as experts posed questions, shared ideas, and worked together as a team to design possible solutions.

Learning is essential to our work and is more important now than ever before due to the dynamic growth of technology, innovative education, and research. There is a lot coming at us: continual advances in technology, expectations of the faculty, staff and students at UW–‍Madison for new services and capabilities, and increased regulation and cyber threats. These changes demand that we continually evaluate and evolve the technology, operations and services we provide. Each of us must continually learn to stay relevant in this dynamic environment. Given the pace of change around us, we must acknowledge the importance of learning in all its forms of exploring, trying and sharing. The ways in which we do this are varied and creative. These are some of the learning activities you’ve undertaken just in the past few months:

  • Attaining certifications
  • Classroom training
  • Researching new technology
  • Standing up prototypes to evaluate new technology
  • Peer engagement across the university and with colleagues around the country
  • Working with researchers and instructors
  • Vendor engagement for product information and engineering support
  • MOR Associates fellowships
  • Attending and leading IT Connects events and national conferences
  • Gartner and EDUCAUSE research

By doing, testing, engaging and reading, we’re all learning new things every day. This is essential if we are to be a driving force of change and innovation on our campus. Additionally, as educators we know that reflecting and practicing are essential elements of learning, taking time to think, synthesize and adopt what we’ve just learned. Writing, speaking and teaching are excellent ways to reflect. For example, taking the time to write this article and get good feedback from colleagues has allowed me to make the ideas clearer in my own head, and I hope for you as well. As you learn new things, consider how to pay that effort forward too by sharing your knowledge and insights with colleagues through presentations, publications, lunch-and-learn sessions, mentoring and more.

Technology is a transformative force at the university, enabling excellent teaching and research to go to scale, driving operational efficiency and meeting the expectations of our faculty, staff and students. As technologists, we are essential to the transformation. Hence, DoIT must be an organization that values learning and invests in professional development. We will continue to support the important activities above, including a commitment to sustain your work with IT Connects events and participation in MOR Associates.  

We are going to invest more in resources to support learning and professional development. Steve Krogull is leading an initiative to create and coordinate professional development opportunities, and Jenny Kvistad will provide additional training opportunities for managers. Also, we are extending our current Gartner for Technical Professionals license to include the full body of Gartner literature, which will be available to all university staff and students. This will allow you to research best practices and processes. Watch DoIT TechNews for information about how to access Gartner resources.

Finally, a tip of the hat to Pat Christian and Jeanne Skul for teaching me about our regional networks in preparation for the BOREAS-Net meeting. One of the most important ways we foster a learning organization is to share our expertise with others and answer their questions; Jeanne and Pat were generous with their time and knowledge to help me learn. Nicely done, colleagues.

Lois Brooks
CIO and Vice Provost for Information Technology