Technology, Revenue Generation Tasks Forces Meet for the Third Time

BATON ROUGE – Two task force groups of LSU Transition Advisory Team met on Friday, March 22, in Baton Rouge. The Technology Task Force group of the LSU Transition Advisory Team met at the Fred Frey Computing Center, with the Revenue Generation Task Force following at the LSU AgCenter.

The Technology Task Force meeting featured a tour of the center, led by Sheri Thompson of LSU IT planning and communication.

The Frey Center houses LSU IT Services, and opened in 1996. It features the university’s 24/7, 365 network operations and the university data center, which houses multiple servers as well as SuperMike II, the university’s supercomputer.

The Technology Task Force is looking at the changing culture, promoting efficiency and encouraging innovation. Academic research, administration and leveraging data to drive innovation are being reviewed.

Following the tour, LSU CIO Brian Nichols discussed the email and telephone services sub-task force’s conference call from March 12, which focused on the idea of creating one email system for all of LSU’s campuses, as well as a telephone structure. Some of the challenges involved with such an idea include managing so many accounts, sharing calendars and the appropriate branding. Task Force members with expertise in building the systems have met between meetings to collaborate and find innovative ways to address these challenges.

Shawn Usher, president of Sparkhound and Technology Task Force member, commended the group for its collaboration, “The progress you’ve made already is tremendous. In many cases, you see a lot of resistance, and this is completely the opposite.”

In group discussion of key findings, other challenges such as cost, and the administrative challenge of meeting the needs for all of the system’s various administrative concerns were discussed. In addition, a system that could properly serve academic and student concerns would be a major challenge as well.

G. Lee Griffin, co-chair of the Transition Advisory Team’s Finance and Revenue Sub-Committee, encouraged the task force members to think with a fresh slate.

“Imagine that we wanted to start a university with several campuses and two medical schools,” he said. “What kind of IT system would we need?”

The Task Force will continue to discuss these issues in future meetings and conference calls.

The Revenue Generation Task Force is focusing on identifying new revenue streams. Areas of revenue generation include self-generated streams, governmental (primarily federal) sponsored research and monetized assets. Its meeting featured a presentation by T. Gilmour Reeve, vice provost for academic programs, on online learning and its potential for the university system.

“From a historical perspective, LSU has been involved in distance education for years,” Reeve explained, noting the university’s four graduate degrees offered in online capacities – master’s degrees in social work, library and information science and human resource education, which also has an online doctoral program.

Reeve discussed the new LSU Online program, which adds master’s degrees in business administration and construction management to the list, as well as the recent collaborative programs LSU has formed with LSU-Shreveport.

He believes that online programs can also help a university by increasing enrollment but not over-taxing on-campus resources. Students may be able to enroll at a community college for general education requirements, while taking major-specific courses online, and thus reducing student congestion in LSU’s own general education courses.

“These programs not only offer more accessibility for students,” he said. “They also generate revenue.”

David Kurpius, associate vice chancellor for enrollment management, noted that these programs can also help build graduate programs and improve teaching.

“You can fill these courses with teacher’s assistants, which helps fund more graduate programs,” he said. “Plus, while faculty are coming up with the best methods for creating these connections with students online, they’re becoming better teachers themselves.”

Additionally, the task force discussed other ideas for enhancing alternative revenue ideas. These included capturing high-growth student populations and instructional services, such as international students and customized corporate training; creating better academic entrepreneurship infrastructure with things like business planning support and cost-effective marketing; developing a better branding, licensing and affinity through increasing merchandise demand, better affinity programs for parents, alumni and the community; diversifying campus operation revenues from university athletics and other university facilities; and increasing demand for auxiliary services, while charging for on-campus convenience.

“LSU is an organization of not only human assets, but also some physical ones that we need to take better advantage of,” said Christel Slaughter of SSA Consultants, who are facilitating the Task Force meetings.

Task Forces have been formed to focus on specific areas of priority in the realignment process. During these meetings, testimony is provided by national and local subject matter experts. Reports and findings are discussed and input from the public is heard. Information from the Task Force meetings will become part of a final report to be submitted to LSU’s Transition Advisory Team and ultimately to the LSU Board of Supervisors.

Live streaming video of the meetings will be available at www.lsu.edu/tat.

Agendas for this and all LSU2015 sub-committee and task force group meetings can be found at www.lsu.edu/LSU2015/subcommittees_meeting_schedule.shtml.

More information on LSU’s re-organization process can be found at www.lsu.edu/LSU2015.  Also, visit LSU’s reorganization Facebook page at www.facebook.com/LSU2015transition.