What do you say to someone you haven't seen in a long time?
I'm at that age that I'm regularly bumping into old friends, school mates and the like that I haven't seen for many years. That first encounter is always a bit awkward when it's been a long time. So it is with getting back to blogging. I've set a goal of one per week (I know, weak in the eyes of the daily writer) but I think it's a goal I can manage.
And - to answer the question, "Why have I/we waited so long to chat when it is so easy?" - I truly haven't seen my lack of blogging as an abandonment, just that I filled up that time with other kinds of communication. It is most definitely time to get back to this platform, stick to it for awhile, and see what happens.
There is much to write about. There are many conversations that have been started around the university's strategic plan and those goals which information technology figures prominently. Now that the plan is official, I suspect and expect activity to pick up and formalize. The conversations to date, and even some of the real work to date on the plan, will serve the Penn State IT community well. Not a moment of it will be wasted.
As someone who likes to digest bad news before good, I'll serve it up the same way.
I've been unpleasantly surprised that coming out of almost every conversation, I hear a reflected wave - to varying degrees - that the plan and my reaction or ITS' reaction to it is some sort of "grab." I know how I'm thinking about it, I know how people in ITS are thinking about it and I'm also intensely aware of how I've been talking about it. If anyone thinks or talks about the plan as some sort of grab, it is on the way they are listening, not in the way anyone is thinking or talking. Please help us all get this reflected wave on top of the table so it can be talked about openly, or we'll have to wrestle this silent killer in our attempt to plot an improved course for IT planning every inch of the journey. The complexity of doing this is sufficiently difficult in its own right, the fiscal times make it even more so.
I've also been pleasantly encouraged that there seem to be a lot of us who are genuinely starting to think about what we do as information technology for Penn State, and that we do this as partners as opposed to competitors. We're all dealing with innovation spaces in our viewfinders and in those spaces there should be a friendly sense of competitive spirit. Being a good forecaster of technology and picking winners is a part of our ethos and skill set. Most of our portfolio, however, is in working together to solve the problems of all academic, administrative units regardless of longitude and latitude. When I encounter that sense of partnership, it is really energizing. It is in this collaborative space that we'll be working dominantly in the coming years - so getting past this stage of conversation in as healthy a manner as possible is important, really important.
Now on to something that I think will be more typical as I get back into the swing of blogging.
Last week, I had the opportunity to visit Hershey campus again. I've been there many times over the last 18 months to talk about a wide variety of issues. This most recent visit was representative of the many dimensions in which the two campuses (Hershey and UP) are rapidly getting closer together. There were conversations around the support of different kinds of research, managing identity in the ridiculously complex world of a teaching hospital, improving the boarding process for new medical and nursing students, being more hospitable to our students who receive prestigious fellowships off campus, and a very long conversation about almost everything you can think of in the technical layers of information technology.
I was very fortunate to receive a back stage tour of the Cancer Institute, only 6 days before they moved patients into the new facilities. The space was visually appealing and the instrumentation mind boggling. Most memorable, however, was the enthusiasm our tour guides (Joni PItcher, Rich Rauscher) had for the value that the new building will have in the lives of cancer patients and their families. It was really inspiring and one of those moments that had me remembering why it is I love working at a research university like Penn State. It is easy to get disconnected from how Penn State makes a difference when you're working at the information technology layers but when you get reminded, it is both liberating and energizing.