Q and A with UCSB CIO Matt Hall

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Matthew Hall

Since serving as Vanderbilt University’s CIO, you worked for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and Microsoft. Why did you come back to higher education?

I’m passionate about higher education and learning. The University of California is the best educational system in the United States, if not the world. Our mission - creating and disseminating new knowledge – energizes me personally and is important for enhancing the economic development of California and the United States as a whole. In the IT space, we contribute to the mission by delivering critical tools and infrastructure.

How are you spending your initial weeks on campus and what are you learning?

My initial approach is listening and learning. I have met with over 200 faculty, staff, and students so far. I am learning about the unique cultural landscape and context that is UCSB. Shared governance and interdisciplinary collaboration make this campus unique, and it’s important to honor those traditions. I also began conducting formal assessments of the IT ecosystem, beginning with Enterprise Technology  Service s.

In your opinion, what’s the next big change in the way in which universities engage with their students, faculty, and staff?

It’s a cloud first, mobile first world. In the mid-2000’s, we focused on using podcasts, blogs, and learning management systems to digitally enable teaching and learning. Now with increased mobility, we can reach students anytime and anywhere using modalities that weren’t available 5 – 10 years ago. These new digitally enhanced learning platforms provide data analytics we can mine to better observe and understand teaching and learning behaviors. In partnership with our faculty, we can use these tools to improve the learning experience for our students.

Data breaches are all over the news and research universities are major targets. What are we doing to improve UCSB’s information security posture?

President Napolitano recently asked all UC campuses to promote a more secure environment by establishing campus Cyber-Risk Management Plans. At UCSB, I convened a small group of IT leaders from across the campus to propose information security best practices. The group currently includes the leaders of Student Information Systems & Technology, Letters & Science IT, Administrative & Residential IT, Academic Affairs IT, the Library, the Marine Science Institute, and Enterprise Technology Services. The best practices will inform how we develop the Cyber-Risk Management Plan, which is based on the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) framework. Based on discussions over the past couple weeks, the group would like to offer formal security training and education to campus IT professionals, and subsequently to the community at large, including our students. We are starting with core IT professionals who have the largest impact on campus, the most staff, and the largest scope of operations. Expect to see more communication and engagement in the coming weeks and months.

At Vanderbilt University you taught Computer Science and English courses. Which course was your favorite and why?

That’s like asking which kid is your favorite – you’re not going to get an answer. One of the courses was called “Beyond the One Way Web: From Publishing to Participation”. The course explored both technological breakthroughs and the underlying social changes that enabled the shift from publishing to participation. I also taught “The Worlds of Wordcraft: Narrative Forms in the Digital Age”, which allowed students to explore the fundamentals of game design and digital narrative. Both courses dealt with the intersection of tech and humanities, which is a fun place to be.