In-Depth

Randoph-Macon Woman’s College: Serious About Technology

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Travis Brown, MCSE, knows he could command top dollar working for a major corporation. But what would he likely see each time he stepped out of his office? A sea of faceless cubicles. For Brown, the current view from his office is much more appealing—the spectacular crest of south-central Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

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Randolph-Macon Woman’s College All-female liberal arts college; 700 students
Nominated: Lynchburg, Virginia
www.rmwc.edu
804-947-8000, 804-947-8103

As network manager for Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Brown feels lucky to work in an environment where, besides the mountains, he daily takes in a panorama of traditional red-brick campus buildings set on perfect lawns. Yet beneath this idyllic setting you’ll find an all-female liberal arts college that’s serious about staying on IT’s leading edge. In fact, in May, Yahoo! Internet Life magazine ranked Randolph-Macon 17th in its list of 100 most-wired U.S. colleges—the school’s 1,300-node Ethernet network serves 600 staff and faculty plus 700 students. This commitment to IT means that Randolph-Macon’s 11-member IT department and its responsibilities are never an afterthought for school administrators.

“Randolph-Macon has a strong financial commitment to IT,” says Brown. “The IT department receives recurring funds each year, and we’re set up with the latest equipment. For example, I have a fully loaded Dell OptiPlex desktop running an 866MHz Pentium III, plus a Dell Latitude notebook for travel.”

Adds Bob Wisler, Randolph-Macon’s IT director, “The college’s strategic plan specifically spells out technology’s role here. We’re not afraid to try new things, to use appropriate technology to find solutions to challenges, such as creation of the wireless classroom. And, we’re in the process of migrating from Windows NT to Windows 2000.”

The school’s commitment extends to actively encouraging its IT staffers to earn MCP status. While only Brown currently holds Microsoft certification, two of his colleagues are working toward their MCPs. Randolph-Macon pays all certification-associated costs—training materials and classes, travel, time off for training, exam fees—and publicly announces, via email blasts, when an individual achieves certification. As Brown has discovered, this support is “extremely important... Maybe I took Randolph-Macon for granted until I heard certification ‘horror stories’ from some friends” who are now MCSEs—how they struggled with employers, paid their own way, and took vacation time to attend classes.

“I realized then how lucky I am to be at Randolph-Macon. Even though working for a college isn’t as financially lucrative as working for a technology company, there are intangible benefits. There’s a great sense of community [here]. Everyone’s working toward the common goal of educating the students.” Brown has been at Randolph-Macon for five years, his longest employment tenure to date. Does he plan to leave? “Not at all,” he says. “School administrators respect the IT department and the knowledge we bring; they support the work we do. Would I find that working in a sterile skyscraper? I don’t know.”

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