Columbus State Community College Examines the Future Impact of Increased Connectivity Across All Devices
Michael Babb - Columbus Tech Power Player Honoree
Columbus State Community College
Founder and President
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The CIO for Columbus State Community College, Michael Babb, examines the future impact of increased connectivity and merging of all devices.
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BK: Hey, we are here today with Michael Babb, who is the CIO at Columbus State Community College. Columbus State Community College is an organization based in Columbus, Ohio with approximately 2,000 employees, and they focus on providing educational opportunities for students. This is Bryan Kaiser again with Vernovis. I'm the Founder and President of the company and on the executive host committee for comSpark. Let's get started. Michael, you have been the CIO for about two years. At what point in your career did you decide that you wanted to be a CIO?
MB: Sure. Back in 2006, I made a career decision. I previously worked many years for IBM and AT&T. I decided to walk away from corporate America and take some time off. I didn't really know what I wanted to do when I left corporate America, but after quite a few months, my wife told me that you better find something, so it was literally happenstance that a position opened up at a large public college in Illinois and it was a director position in information technology. I literally, Bryan, thought, “I’ll give that a try!” So, I went to work at this particular college in Illinois as a director in information technology and at first, it was like anything else, I took it as, it was a job, a job to do, but over a period, a very short period of time, I really found that it became not a job at all, but it was a journey, and the journey was, uh, determining how we could use, best use technology to help students come to college, stay in college and complete college.
Ten years at Harper College – the college in Illinois – as a director, I, at some point I hit an inflection point and I knew I wanted to ascend to the top position, the CIO position, because I really felt like we were in the middle, in higher education, in the middle of transformative opportunities, that technology was going to be at the core of it, and the only way that I could really position myself to help best with the transformation was from the top role and having the opportunity to work directly with the president. So, it was really, in terms of when I decided, it was along this journey of coming to higher education after spending a lot of years in corporate America.
I applied for three or four, uh, CIO positions, one in Wisconsin, one in Michigan, one in Illinois. I was kind of the runaway bride. In each one of those positions, there was just something…I didn't feel like it was, that the college was thinking big enough. It was when I applied for the position at Columbus State and got the opportunity to interact with the board, our cabinet and the president, especially Dr. David Harrison – that I realized the Columbus state was thinking really big. And so it was an opportunity to continue to pursue to fruition two years ago, came to Columbus State and really I'm just continuing my journey to help students.
BK: That's fantastic. I love that. And, so how do you see technology changing in the next three years?
MB: That's a really good question. And, you know, anything that we surmise, us CIO type individuals, is just that. It's surmising. Because, there's just been so much change in the last decade, in the last couple of years, in the last, you know, 15 days, quite frankly. But in terms of how I see the evolution of, uh, technology, I think that Bryan, what we have today, we have a confluence. Well, today, we have these piece parts of disruptive technologies. We have this, this thing called, this construct called the internet of things. And what that is, is your, your pen basically can be on the network. Your, um, at home, your refrigerator, your thermostat, all of these things these days enabled by technological capability are connectable to the internet and they’re being connected.
So, you have this internet of things that was this, this entity, if you will, that kind of stood on its own for a while. But then, in parallel, in many ways, along his come, these, these technologies like big data, where now, today, I've got the systems and I've got the architecture to collect all of this information and, but where do I put it? Well, my data center is exploding! But now we have these big cloud-based data centers where I can put the data, another disruptive technology, and connecting all of it is AI, artificial intelligence and analytics and things like that.
Such that, from anywhere in the world using the devices I use, I can, through my experience with a particular organization, a particular company or particular entity – they know what I need when I need it and how I need it based on all of this information that they've not only collected, but they've got the systems and the architecture and the capability to know what to do with it. So, I really sense a technology change, the evolution over the next three years is going to continue to be this merging, this amalgam of what we have today, of disruptive technologies that I just mentioned, and then continuing to use them in much more productive ways.
BK: How do you think that's going to improve the experience of the student?
MB: That's a really good question. That is a really good question. So, at Columbus State Community College, the college, just contextually, higher education in the recent decades, not only have we undergone technology change in the world, higher education has undergone significant change. It used to be the case, Bryan, that a student would determine that they wanted to come to college. They would come to college, they would get a degree, and then they would figure out what to do with that degree after they got it. Well, through much work at the federal level, the state level, the local level, the institutional level, we, higher ed. has come under attack. It's not worth – the charge is, the allegation is, the cost doesn't equate to value. So, what has literally been a transformation in higher education is this idea of giving the student, giving members of our community, the tools to, before they ever come to college, see what the end in mind is, what's the end game? And the game is also, often what the end game is, is often a job. What job do I want? Before I ever commence a journey through higher ed. Where Columbus Day comes in and where our president has done a remarkable job, we consider ourselves a hub, a connector from people and students and members of our community to jobs.
And we’re really…it is a hub of this, this pathway, if you will, from a technological perspective where I think the change is starting and we're working very hard at Columbus State to get it going is using things like, using technologies in ways that today, the student, if they want to explore employment opportunities, they have to go to one system. If they want to know more about, you know, what the salaries are and things like that, they might have to make phone calls, things like that. If they want to know about what Columbus State offers that will help them get the experience, the credentials, the skills they need to get to the point, the end point of where they want to be, well, they got to, they've got to look at different things, go to websites and all that.
My vision for Columbus State, and from a technology perspective, is the student, the potential students starts with a cell phone. They know via very quick, easy exploration that in Columbus, Ohio, Nationwide, Huntington, JP Morgan Chase, White Castle, Battelle, all of these big concerns are hiring for specific jobs: cloud engineers, analytics people, data analytics people. I'm able to derive that, and then I don't have to go anywhere from there. From a technology perspective, I, at Columbus State will tell you, you're interested in this. Here's what we can offer, when we offer, where we offer and how we offer it. And oh, by the way, would you like to explore more? We can help you. Then we will be able to do this and if you continue to be interested, look at where the classes are offered, when they're offered, make a plan, book the plan, get on the pathway to completion, and oh, by the way, after you make your plan, push the button for apple pay, pay for your classes, and away you go.
BK: Now, that sounds disruptive and that sounds completely different than the experience I had 20 years ago when I went to college. So, that's, that's wonderful. Thank you for your passion and enthusiasm around that. I encourage you to keep walking down that path and on that journey. Um, thank you for your time. This is Bryan Kaiser and Michael Babb. To learn more about us, please visit comspark.tech and we'll see you next time. Thanks.
MB: Thank you.
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