Chief Information Officers in Higher Education: Role, Leadership and Career Reflections

Viswadoss, Aruna , Department of Leadership, Foundations and Policy, University of Virginia
Kellams, Samuel, Cu-Leadshp Fndns & Pol Studies, University of Virginia
Covert, Robert, Cu-Leadshp Fndns & Pol Studies, University of Virginia
Kinzie, Mable, Cu-Curr Instr & Sp Ed, University of Virginia
Lampkin, Patricia, Sa-VP Office, University of Virginia

This dissertation was conducted to examine the complexity and diversity of the role, leadership and career-paths of Chief Information Officers in select higher education institutions in Virginia. Six informants from different Carnegie classification institutions, some of them regionally or nationally respected scholars and practitioners, were interviewed and asked to share their experiences and perceptions relating to what it meant to lead information technology in higher education. Aspects of CIO experiences relating to assumed roles, CIO challenges, skills, rewards, frustrations, success, failure, leadership, management, involvement, perceptions about IT’s role in higher education, CIO future, and the role and future of IT in higher education, were discussed apart from the CIO career-paths and backgrounds.

Generally, the study CIOs believed IT to be a tool that can provide alternative, promising, and cost-efficient methods to realize the higher education mission, rather than as an end in itself. From the interviews, the following CIO roles emerged, indicating the complexity of IT leadership: Educator; Advocate; Visionary; Facilitator; and Manager-Executive. The challenges CIOs faced were resource related, or relationship related. The scope of the CIO role, challenges, and involvement differed in public and private institutions, as well as in big research institutions as against smaller liberal arts institutions. To be successful, CIOs had to have relation-building skills, managerial skills, a broad knowledge of technology, higher education, and management, educational degrees, certain key personal traits and backgrounds. The informants had a wide variety of backgrounds and life events that led them to their current positions. They believed IT to be indispensable in effective realization of the higher educational mission in a global, information-intensive civilization, and that IT can positively impact the quality, cost and access issues of higher education.

Throughout the interviews three overarching themes related to IT leadership emerged, irrespective of institutional type. These include: Collaboration, Reconstruction, and Concordance. These mutually influencing themes form the basis of the “Dynamic CRC Model of IT Leadership” developed by the researcher. This study adds qualitative information to the existing body of IT management knowledge, and adds a tool to assess CIO leadership through the above emerging model.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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