Report on the 38th Annual ACUTA Conference, April 19-22, 2009

May 7, 2009

The Hyatt Regency in Downtown Atlanta was the place to be for higher education professionals if they were looking for a four-day surge of information-sharing on new technologies and cutting-edge developments in communication technology. I was among 400 other IT and communications professionals networking and exchanging notes at the 38th Annual ACUTA Conference and Exhibition, of which Emory University was the official host. ACUTA, the Association for Information Communications Technology Professionals in Higher Education, usually attracts double the amount of attendees to its annual convention, but there was enough evidence of energy and enthusiasm, despite the downturn in the economy, that made it all worthwhile.

UTS volunteers went the extra mile to help manage the Emory host table, where they welcomed IT professionals from across the country, answered questions, and directed guests to restaurants and sights.

This year's conference, themed "Changes and Challenges in Uncertain Times," covered such topics as: Campus Cabling and Termination Solutions; Going Green: Mobile University; Identify Theft, Cyber Threats and Internet Safety; Where have all the Women gone?

Expert presenters and vendors from all across the country were there to demonstrate and display new technologies such as unified communications, VoIP, emergency notification, mobility and wireless issues, and DAS. Perhaps the most popular among the presenters was keynote speaker, Miles O'Brien, CNN's Chief Technology and Environmental Correspondent.

I spoke on two panels at the event, one on the changing nature of the IT workforce and the other on IT financial models. During the IT workforce talk, participants had lots of questions about our Job Family System effort and I was happy to share the good progress Rhonda has made and our plans for the future. The talk on IT financial models produced interesting predictions from several of our peer schools including Penn and Duke. We share several challenges in common and are all looking at a variety of technology trends and associated personnel shifts as necessities during the coming years of flat or declining budgets. For our part, I said that Emory was especially watching circuit costs, the move to ubiquitous wireless, the pressure on phone rates from solutions like Skype, and the probability of adopting technologies to enable self-service phone moves as a way of reducing our work order volume.

Most significant to me as both conference host and participant, was the connection with other professionals in higher ed. I believe the opportunity to network with peers from across the U.S. is one of the most valuable benefits of ACUTA for all participants.

- Brett Coryell, Deputy CIO, UTS