David Dodd walks into his office on the seventh floor of Schott Hall, introduces himself and apologizes for being late. Someone, he explains, grabbed him to talk a minute. A lot of people want to talk to Dodd these days. With Xavier in the midst of major leaps in technology, Dodd, the University’s vice president for information resources and chief information officer, is at the epicenter of the action.
“In literally 18-20 months from now, Xavier will have technology on a level very likely equal to any university in the nation,” Dodd says. “But it will not be because we’ve spent the most money, it will be because we’ve made the best choices.”
Those choices have been kicked around for a while, but they reached critical mass about a year ago when Xavier found itself in a bad competitive situation—it was virtually the only university in the region without comprehensive wireless capabilities. Only a limited number of buildings were wireless, with some bleed-over from those buildings to areas of the academic mall—a situation that persists, but only for the moment.
“More and more, students are making technology a primary decision point for where they go to school, and that’s a simple reality,” Dodd says. “If we don’t have it, they’ll go somewhere that does.”
This summer, the University took a giant step toward righting the situation when it began transforming the entire campus—inside and out—into a wireless environment. That means students will be able to use hand-held computers and wireless-compatible laptops anytime, anyplace on campus.
It’s all part of the major initiative to significantly strengthen the University’s competitive position across the country—a charge directly from Xavier President Michael J. Graham, S.J.
“The University’s vision is to be the leading comprehensive Jesuit university in the nation,” Dodd says. “We want to make sure that the technology is there to support that vision. And specifically what we want to do is make sure that we have the technology to support Jesuit education for the 21st century.” Not that Xavier has been standing still in the technology race—two years ago, the University completed installation of a new, $7-million enterprise-planning resource system that covers all administrative and student information systems. But from a competitive standpoint, as viewed by potential students, the University’s technological advances were either invisible or barely relevant.
That began to change in a very major way last January when the University unveiled its accepted student portal, Roadto.Xavier.edu. “It took us from far back in the pack to being among the leading institutions in the country with regards to that kind of portal,” Dodd says. “In terms of operational efficiency, in terms of strategic competitive advantage going after students, in terms of really quantum leaps forward in our internal technical capabilities, this was a major accomplishment.”
And the interactive site uses technology that may soon surface in other ways. The goal, Dodd says, is to create a sustainable sense of community where people can stay connected to each other. “Once we have the technology that allows us to form these virtual communities and allow these things to happen, we can take that same technology and apply it to different areas,” he says. “That level of knowledge and experience and technical capability we can take and apply to different areas, which is a tremendous strategic advantage for us.”
One thing is certain: Much of the future is based on technology. And the University continues growing in this arena. On the immediate horizon, next year the University is installing a new network operating system, using what Dodd calls the best products in the industry, giving Xavier online collaborative capabilities equal to any competing institutions.
“In the use of technology, we are on the road to excellence,” Dodd says. “One of our greatest challenges is stay on top of those developments in new and emerging technologies. For us, it’s anticipating where technology is going to be and making sure that we are agile and adaptable enough to be there.”