Professional News

UK's Tech Chief Named a Dell 'Transformational CIO'

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 17, 2012) — Vince Kellen, chief information officer for the University of Kentucky, has been selected as a Dell Transformational CIO. Kellen was one of four CIOs globally selected to receive this honor by the computer manufacturer.

Kellen was recognized at Dell’s Field Readiness Seminar in Las Vegas Feb. 9, where he met with senior Dell executives and other information technology (IT) professionals to discuss emerging trends and challenges facing the world of higher education enterprise computing.

The concept of the "Transformational CIO" is an emerging leadership model that emphasizes the role played by executives who oversee the technological infrastructure of large organizations and are able to fundamentally change their IT units and impact their organizations. Through his leadership at UK, Kellen has embodied the spirit of the Transformational CIO.

"Universities run on information," Kellen said. "Information technology is central to each of our core missions: teaching and academics, research, and service. Yet there has been, historically, a tendency to segregate IT as its own entity, concerned largely with administrative computing issues. Today, the issues facing higher education are integrated and technology has to address the full mission."

One of Kellen’s priorities upon becoming UK's CIO was to make the UK Information Technology (UKIT) department more outward-looking, and to better integrate IT priorities with those of the various departments and colleges on campus. Toward that end, Kellen established governance and practices committees, and he worked to create an internal structure to support more robust communication, both within the IT department and throughout the university.

"Part of that means getting people out of the office, going to meet with the people who we serve and finding out what they need, what do they want, and how IT can help them be more effective," Kellen said. "We want to be accessible, and we want to be responsive. But more than that, we want to apply creative problem-solving solutions to be able to anticipate future needs and demands as the university continues to grow. As our institution gets larger and more complex, reliance on IT becomes even greater."

Kellen said that great strides were made under the leadership of former President Lee T. Todd Jr., and that progress has continued under President Eli Capilouto, who has given crucial support to the development and deployment of broad, forward-thinking IT solutions.

"A number of new technologies have been introduced and installed throughout the campus," Kellen said. "We now have systems that capture lectures and allow us to archive them for later viewing, and we use Adobe Connect for video-conferencing and distance learning. One area that continues to grow significantly is our wireless infrastructure, and this is another area where President Capilouto's support has been instrumental, so early on in his administration."

Under Kellen's leadership, UK has been on the cutting edge of emerging national trends, developing and now deploying some groundbreaking applications ahead of many of the

university's peer institutions.

One area where UK is slated to be ahead of the curve is the field of high-speed analytics, or "Big Data" applications. This technology enables the university to aggregate huge amounts of data from across the enterprise, continually update that data, and perform high-end analysis in real-time, 1,000 times faster than conventional data processing. Reports and analysis that would once have taken weeks or even months to compile — only to be out-of-date as soon as they were completed — can now be generated “on the fly.”

UK will be the first institution among higher education or government globally to implement high-speed analytics in its SAP data management system. Kellen says that this technology will help the university to improve retention and graduation rates by enabling educators and administrators to have smarter interactions with students.

"For example," Kellen says, "let's say you want to look at six-year graduation rates among first-generation college students, and then you want to correlate that with the students' test scores and engagement in first-year classes. Or you want to break down that data by home county, academic major, or any other variable for which we have data. Not only will you be able to retreive that quickly, but your analysis will be based on the latest, most complete data that exists anywhere on campus. And if any single piece of that information changes — say a student changes her major — the analysis can be instantly updated in real time, to reflect those changes. We can bring together data from disparate sources and quickly analyze them."

Another exciting innovation being launched at UK this spring is "clickblue," a video learning module delivery system. UKIT has developed a beta test of the system with the UK College of Pharmacy. The system comes complete with credit card authorization, instant enrollment and links to other learning materials.

"Clickblue is a consumer technology platform for developing video-based learning materials that can be accessed on-demand, using a Web browser or a television set-top device such as Roku," Kellen said. "We see this as a powerful tool for content distribution with many possible applications. Colleges and departments can produce content and the institution can realize revenue from the distribution of this material through clickblue. The goal is to get content distributed to those tablets, cell phones  and Internet TV channels that people use regularly."

The clickblue team is working to develop an updated consumer interface and administrative tools in preparation for an April 2 launch of new Pharmacy courses, and UKIT is ready to partner with other colleges and departments to enhance and grow clickblue, Kellen said.

Cloud computing is another hot topic in IT circles. Kellen and his team have been looking for ways to take advantage of the flexibility that "the cloud" affords, offering extra capacity on demand without requiring long-term investment in additional servers. The university has already conducted proof-of-concept tests with Dell and SAP to use cloud computing and storage capacity for SAP, high performance research computing and desktop computing. Over the next year, the university will be negotiating with several cloud providers on how they can accommodate the university's peak usage needs.

The university has also recently joined a higher education consortium of top research universities to start designing and building a shared cloud storage repository for disaster recovery and long-term curation. UK Library and UKIT are collaborating with the consortium, led by University of Virginia CIO James Hilton, to link the new UK research data repository to this community cloud storage service, called DPN (Digital Preservation Network). When completed, this architecture will replicate critical informational assets across three different geographies.

"The university's needs for computing resources are cyclical," Kellen said. "They ebb and flow, like everything else. If we're operating within our 'comfort zone' most of the time, it doesn't make the best economic sense to invest a lot of resources in additional hardware to cover occasional spikes in demand, only to sit idle for the vast majority of time. It's a bit like buying a second house to live in one week a year, when you could rent a nice hotel room."

Cloud computing can also assist with disaster recovery, in helping the university to restore data quickly, and get back up and running in the event of a natural catastrophe.

"The cloud provides another layer of redundancy for backing up our crucial data," Kellen said. "Data is fragile. And when you deal with as much data as the University of Kentucky does, redundancy is a good thing."

Kellen has served as a faculty member since 1998 and has taught graduate and undergraduate courses on IT and strategy, enterprise architecture and information systems. In his CIO role, leads a staff of 250 supporting 28,000 students and 13,000 employees within a multitude of colleges and units, and he manages the planning of and support for enterprise software, academic and research computing, data centers, cloud services and regional network architecture.

Kellen serves on advisory boards to top IT companies including Dell, AT&T, Apple and Blackboard, and he co-hosts with IT futurist Thornton May a regional Kentucky CIO forum called The CIO Practicum. Kellen received the CIO Magazine Top 100 award in 2007. He is the author of four books and author of more than 200 articles and presentations on IT and business strategy topics. 

MEDIA CONTACT: Keith Hautala, (859) 323-2396;