It was July 27 when the two were appointed to succeed Vice President for Information Technology Kathleen Warner, who had resigned, and the start of a new academic year - and the return of thousands of campus users - loomed only a few weeks away.
"Our first priority was to make sure that there would be no disruption to any services in September," said Spang, a former Marine who has worked at BC since 1983 and served most recently as director of Enterprise Computing Services.
"With thousands of new students with new computers and software coming to campus," he said, "it was critical that we could deliver."
Fortunately, the academic year began with little disruption, and the pair were able to shift their administrative focus from addressing more immediate needs to assessing IT's role in the larger mission of Boston College.
Interviewed last week, Corcoran and Spang said one of their first priorities is to develop a new operating philosophy for IT, one that will enhance the department's working relationship with its many constituencies on campus. This philosophy will be outlined in a mission statement IT will release by the end of this month.
Spang and Corcoran say one aspect of the department's role is clear: Gone are the days when IT might be regarded as a team of computer programmers who had little occasion or need to interact with other departments. No longer simply stewards of technology, IT personnel are extensively involved in how technology is applied to solve problems and economize operations within the University.
The spread of computers to most every office and residence hall room on campus, the advent of network computing and the development of the Internet, Spang and Corcoran said, mean IT's role has become far more complex and diverse.
"The concept of an isolated IT does not work anymore. We cannot be on a divergent path," said Corcoran, who has worked in a number of capacities at BC since 1985, most recently as project leader and service strategist in the office of Executive Vice President Frank Campanella. She also has served as associate director of IT.
Information Technology co-directors Mary Corcoran and Jack Spang. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
Spang, a part-time faculty member in the Carroll School of Management, said, "We are not a monolithic operation, just as the population we serve is not monolithic. IT is a catch-all for a whole host of needs."
Information technology encompasses not just computer hardware and software applications, Corcoran said, but the content and data users are asking the technology to manipulate. This new model of information technology requires a partnership between those who understand the machines and those who are creating the intellectual property.
"IT doesn't own the content and we never have, but IT and students and faculty and administration must work together to build a partnership," she said.
Spang added, "Our goal is to have technical excellence, but we also have to give people what they need so they can use technology properly, whether that is in terms of consultation, training or services."
At the same time, Spang and Corcoran said, the distribution of computing power brings with it an increased responsibility for the end users. They hope, however, that this increasing reliance on technology will foster an open dialogue between IT personnel and the rest of the University community.
"We have a greater need to communicate with people and assist them with their work," said Spang. "But they have to be willing to listen to our experts as well. It's a two-way street."
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