Here at Wake Forest, 2022 offered a year of forward movement, new discoveries, and strengthened connections throughout our internal and external communities. The 2022 Information Systems Year in Review shares a sampling of the collaborative progress and efforts IS put forth to ensure fresh, innovative, dependable, and accessible technology services and support for our faculty, students, and staff.
Information Systems’ commitment to Wake Forest and our greater community remains in 2023, a year already filled with exciting possibilities and continued momentum. As you review the report, I trust you will see the many ways digital transformation continues to evolve at Wake Forest.
Thank you, as always, for your sustained partnership.
Best, Mur Muchane Vice President for Information Technology & CIO
HPC at Wake Forest
In a temperature-controlled room located in a quiet part of campus, rows of computers hum, blink, and whir in a Center called DEAC (Distributed Environment for Academic Computing) Cluster. This is the home of High Performance Computing (HPC) at Wake Forest University.
The DEAC Cluster leverages the processing power of HPC to offer our student and faculty researchers access to rapid, expansive and complex calculations, without the cost, expertise, and maintenance required for traditional computing systems. In this way, HPC resources offer Wake Forest a competitive distinction as an institution seeking top tier researchers. A centrally maintained HPC Facility frees departmental and grant funds to be invested in teaching and research rather than computing infrastructure.
In 2022, the DEAC Cluster processed over 18 million core-hours from more than 300,000 tasks submitted by Wake Forest student and faculty researchers. It also hosts an enormous amount of centralized data supported and maintained by the HPC Team within the IS department. At the enterprise level and in its current iteration, the DEAC Cluster is running its most smoothly over the course of its twenty year history. It offers a centralized resource that is more robust, yet yields to one on one support, which the HPC Team, who have over 40 years of combined expertise in this work, specializes in.
In addition to leading through research, the HPC Team is also leaving a mark through classroom engagement, teaching a CSC191 Special Topics course within the Department of Computer Science. While some students take the HPC class with project plans and faculty-mentored research experience, a large portion of students who enroll are new to research computing. Students are drawn to this class due to its reputation as being challenging, dynamic, and engaging. Not least of all, students gain access to the DEAC Cluster itself. Throughout the course, students become trained on and deeply familiar with the DEAC Cluster and its capabilities.
Through teaching, the HPC Team also recruits students for the national Student Cluster Competition. At the competition, students solve real HPC scientific calculations and build their own “mini cluster” while up against rigid power constraints and limitations. Students don’t need to understand all the science behind the work they are doing but they do need the skill set required to read instructions, follow through on them, and interpret things on the fly. The HPC Team’s classes and mentorship prepare them for just that. Mutually beneficial, when the Wake Forest team participates in this competition, they receive free hardware in return. This benefits Wake Forest and Information Systems in general, as these free resources are installed within the DEAC Cluster and shared with the campus community.
Cluster research impacts many classes beyond what the HPC Team teaches. Statistics classes utilize RStudio Pro, a statistics platform that runs on computing resources that are managed by the HPC Team. Various Data Analytics classes, the MSBA program, Physics, Engineering, Sociology, and many others utilize the cluster as well. The DEAC Cluster offers students and faculty the capacity and resources needed to run calculations and store the data sets that personal devices can not.
The HPC Team seeks to make High Performance Computing an equitable, well utilized resource for anyone who needs it, removing as many barriers of entry as possible. As researchers continue their work on the DEAC Cluster, and mention the usage in their publications and grants, promotion of these HPC services will continue to spread and multiply. The HPC Team seeks to provide a stable, robust, and accessible resource that allows education and research communities to focus on their primary mission; reflecting Wake Forest’s teacher-scholar ideal today and beyond.
Data threads through almost every aspect of Wake Forest. The University broadly uses crucial data sets to access, support, and enhance processes and decisions across student, employee, and administrative processes. Over 2022, Information Systems worked in partnership with a Core Team of University leaders to begin building a University-wide Data Strategy. Efforts began in late February with numerous listening stakeholder sessions spanning most of the year. This work encompassed extensive benchmarking conversations with other institutions, including Notre Dame, Princeton, Vanderbilt, and William and Mary. Discovered findings underscored the need for a systematic approach, notably implementing the appropriate organizational structures, aligning people and processes, and reforming a culture of siloed data ownership.
The draft plan describes a multi-part approach to improve the quality, availability, and relevancy of administrative and student data used in decision-making. The plan aims to make routine reporting easier, build analytical capabilities to inform complex issues and decisions, and assure that data is consistent, protected, and used in ethical ways. Through this approach, we seek to strengthen capabilities to gather accurate data, transfer it among systems, and make it available to improve University operations.
In addition, the proposed plan includes several high-priority University actions. One of these is the implementation of a data governance structure to prioritize strategic data projects, coordinate efforts to improve data capabilities, and make decisions about data used across the University. Additionally, we have identified a need for a University-wide function to oversee the implementation of the data strategy, build organizational capacity, and develop data consulting services. Further recommendations include appointing and empowering coordinators for major areas of data to convene data stewards, identify data issues, implement policies, and take action to improve data quality.
Moreover, the proposed Data Strategy plan aims to develop the capabilities of staff who provide data management and analysis, and support them with training, tools, and professional communities. The proposal also suggests a transition to a data analysis platform—one that incorporates data from Workday and other University systems of record—with associated reporting and visualization tools that facilitates the incorporation of structured and unstructured data. Finally, the plan calls for targeted investments to replace systems of record that aren’t able to capture data important to operations and analytics.
Institutional conversations continue as we seek to further refine and develop the proposed strategy.
In May, Wake Forest embarked on a strategic effort to transform the student experience through a modern Student Information System (SIS). Students use our SIS to search for and register courses, track degree progress, and monitor grades. Academic administration and faculty use our SIS to plan course needs, guide student advising, and enter student grades. We are pleased to charge forward in our multi-year effort in migrating our SIS from Banner to the Student Information System provided by Workday (“Workday Student”). Known as Project WakeDay, through this work we hope to more effectively meet the modern needs of our academic community, provide a smoother, modern, mobile-optimized experience on the web and in the app, and empower our programs with new, more elegant ways of connecting our systems and data.
After partnering with Huron and Workday Student, IS began its discovery phase of Project WakeDay in 2022. Through discovery phases, we began building the process with Workset A. From there we partnered with campus offices through listening sessions. In response to discovered community needs, we built the first prototype tested in November 2022. The second version followed and was built over winter break. Currently, almost all Wake Forest Undergraduate and Graduate students are included in the system as we move into work with other student services on campus along with our final workset, Workset D.
Technology Accessibility is a cornerstone of inclusion at Wake Forest. Proactively making technology and digital content more usable for all ensures those with disabilities have equal opportunities to thrive in our community while acknowledging accessible technology benefits everyone and acts as a foundation for future success.
Through the promotion of technology accessibility at Wake Forest, we create a more inclusive community that benefits all and influences lasting community change. Over the year, the Technology Accessibility team worked to offer resources, training, and tools across Wake Forest that promoted accessibility awareness. Such tools, like Grackle, a licensed accessibility checker for Google Workspace, assist in correcting accessibility issues while also illustrating accessibility best practices. With Grackle, exported materials (e.g., a Google Doc that is made into a PDF) have additional built-in accessibility features beyond what is possible in Google Workspace alone.
The Technology Accessibility Program (TAP) built innovative, inter-departmental accessibility support for campus through our digital communication channels and through campus engagement events. Sponsoring events such as the #NoMouseChallenge,Extreme Makeover: PDF Edition, and through teaching at TechX, the Online Education Summer Colloquium, and WakerSpace workshops, TAP highlighted the importance of making our digital ecosystem inclusive and accessible for our community and beyond.
Today, a strong and reliable network is more necessary than ever, as we collaborate on and off campus and rely on more and more cloud-based solutions. In 2022, our IT Infrastructure team took considerable measures to improve the strength and resilience of our network. Updated equipment and subsequent enhancements allowed our University to benefit from an adaptable and future minded network.
For our IT Infrastructure team, a successful network strategy focuses on supporting an ever more responsive, fast, and reliable network. Our network strategy is one of the many ways Information Systems supports the Pro Humanitate vision of student learning, research, and innovation across Wake Forest University. As we expand infrastructure access, we continue supporting Wake Forest as a beacon of learning and discovery, ensuring a vibrant community where informed ideas transfer easily.
Keeping Our Infrastructure Up to Date
We target a six-year refresh cycle for equipment supporting our network and its architecture. We distribute these refresh efforts so that every year, a different aspect or area is updated. In 2022, work we completed on our campus fiber paved the way for exciting network optimizations that took place during our summer working block known as magic week.
At Wake Forest, there are almost six thousand wireless access points, devices that connect our community to the campus network, compared to a typical home network of one. The simple click of “wifi” requires thousands of on-ground support hours and continuous monitoring. We monitor every access point and connection ID (SSID)—like eduroam, WFUwireless, MyDevices, and WFUguest—on an hourly, 24/7 basis. Infrastructure engineers provide careful maintenance for these advanced networks, while our six year refresh cycle ensures future-minded stewardship of University resources. The wireless infrastructure has layers of redundancy built in to minimize outages for all campus users: buildings connect to the central network over two physical connections, which are in turn connected to the core network over multiple physical connections. While certain variables are outside of our control, such as storm damage, a contractor’s excavator, or wildlife, our infrastructure team takes great precautions to guard our network against any issues that may come our way.
While network disruption can arrive in many forms, we are fiercely devoted to minimizing downtime and maximizing the priority of student learning. An ability to “fail over,” or fall back on ready backup equipment when in need is a feature of any well-designed network. As peer leaders in redundancy, we provision redundant networks to ensure reliable connectivity across our University. We test redundancy in every part of the network, multiple times a year, to make sure our failovers work as they should. These stress tests are performed during key low traffic times throughout our academic year. We test our infrastructure before the start of the fall semester, after students leave for winter break, when students come back from winter break, and once more after students leave for summer break—minimizing negative impact on instruction while limiting barriers to student learning.
In 2022, IS pursued substantial core and physical wiring investments, refreshing the entire fiber optic network interconnecting all of our buildings. Earlier in the year, Reynolda Campus embarked on campus traffic improvements, widening roads near the former transit hub. A portion of the fiber optic network overlapped with the new roadway path. However, due to our sophisticated redundancy, utilization of our cloud first strategy, and investment in the fiber core, we moved that wiring without disruption to our campus community.
Thanks to our robust network, we delivered remote connectivity seamlessly during the rise of COVID-19. And because of this adaptability, we stayed the course with remote requirements. Zoom, Google Meet, and other online communication platforms support the collaboration that we all rely upon. We are proud to offer connections to meet students, faculty, and staff as their needs evolve.
Wake Forest depends on its network more than ever. In understanding that, continuity becomes even more essential. IS plans to continue optimizing network segments, so when any function issues arise, in theory they will be virtually unnoticeable. Updating network speed is paramount as our use of video has gone from recreational to business critical. Information Systems and our network is prepared and will stay prepared as trends and needs continue to shift directions.
As part of a larger effort to modernize our digital systems, and in conjunction with the coming shifts to our new Student Information System, we sought a platform which could support our community by providing a dashboard for all of the sites and services we use, every day. After extensive research, polling, and focus groups, we identified OneCampus as this modern, comprehensive one-stop for campus, where students, faculty, and staff can explore, search, find and save online digital services. Known for its accessibility and responsive, mobile-friendly design, peer institutions University of Notre Dame, University of Pittsburgh, Villanova University, and The Ohio State University utilize OneCampus. The new platform features services from all over campus, in addition to the services that our community is familiar with finding on our WIN platform.
Part of the OneCampus launching process came through intentional socialization. Introducing this new platform with community members allowed us to collect further feedback and provide an opportunity for campus to interact with the new platform. In the fall, IS conducted user feedback sessions with students, faculty, and staff, partnered with a comprehensive student survey. Data gathered in these sessions generated a list of the most popular and important services to add into OneCampus.
OneCampus users can customize their experience, and through their log in, they can view curated content based on their role and most used services. The expanded search capabilities mean valuable resources are now a click away. The OneCampus rollout is closely tied to the implementation of new Banner 9 faculty services. OneCampus preserves the integrity of legacy networks that have an essential center in our institutional knowledge, while upgrading the functionality to be modern, personalized, and intuitive. Users can find one campus at one.wfu.edu.
At TechX 2022: Using Technology to Build Connections, Wake Forest’s technological, educational, and inclusive advancements were thoroughly displayed. Todd Taylor, Adobe Pedagogical Evangelist and Professor of English and Comparative Literature at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, kicked off the conference with his Keynote: Connecting Ideas, Data, Learners, and Communities through Digital Storytelling.
Taylor asserted “storytelling” as an emerging, coveted skillset, making the case for both “digital agility” and “creative problem solving” as necessary, advantageous qualities in the post-graduation marketplace.
Highlighted throughout the conference, community partnerships continue to be critical in our mission to support, enhance, and expand teaching, learning, and research across disciplines, departments, and between peers. 13 departments and offices were represented, 48 presenters shared work, and 224 individuals signed up to stay informed and/or attend a live session/workshop/virtshop.
All Things Wakerspace
With over 6,000 documented visitor hours and supported by over 1,900 volunteer hours, The WakerSpace welcomed almost 4,000 student, faculty, and staff visitors in 2022. In September, the Wakerspace expanded its popular woodworking facility to improve access and user safety. Classic “namesake” events continued throughout the year such as Commit2Knit, textile workshops, and podcasting workshops, while new events were introduced like the Assistive Technology Makerspace workshop, as well as various webinars.
With the help of Facilities, the WakerSpace acquired a golf cart which assisted in the creation of the “Mobile WakerSpace” this fall. The Mobile WakerSpace will promote real time marketing and offer accessible, pop-up workshops in dorms, lobbies, community buildings, quads, and dining halls. Students will be able to engage with 3D printing, take-and-make-kits, and more.
Thirty one student volunteers and one student worker currently work within the WakerSpace. The facility serves as classroom space for academic courses across many disciplines. Instructors build maker activities into course curricula, enhancing student learning through creative, experiential learning. During orientation, the WakerSpace hosted three events in collaboration with Residence Life where students created ceramic coasters and stress reducing coloring books.
Supporting curricula advancements through digital literacy and training, Academic Technologies (AT) continued partnerships with faculty on course learning goals, desired outcomes, and technology planning. AT took great interest in TechX 2022, highlighting the intersection of technology and creativity.
Academic Technologies taught 3 classes in 2022. Working as thought partners alongside faculty, AT resfreshed tools and teaching methodologies in line with modern pedagogical practices. Classes like Eng 175 supported students with digital tools to creatively pursue academic research. 54 students produced digital projects for the course in forms like podcasts and digital essays. One group produced a documentary short highlighting the impacts of fast food culture.
Presentations at conferences like ELI (Educause Learning Initiative), LTC (Learning Technology Consortium), CODEX, and the University of Miami continued to highlight Wake Forest as a national leader in Academic Technology instruction.
To support focused work flows without technology glitches, we employ a computer refresh structure for our faculty and staff. This ensures all devices across our enterprise are up to date, modern, and secure. We refreshed over 300 faculty and staff laptops in 2022. With our improved “exchangee” experience and new computer offerings, colleagues received assistance quickly, efficiently, and with a dash of fun.
Information Systems expanded WakeWare, Wake Forest’s student laptop program, welcoming Microsoft Surface to its lineup. Student focus group feedback influenced this decision, identifying a need for diverse features and functionality. Our selected laptops offer modern technology that guards against disruption and keeps up with cutting edge education demands (Adobe, software, e-books) etc. WakeWare continues to recommend insured and fully equipped personal laptops at negotiated prices while offering expanded access to device repairs and loaner laptops.
We empower Wake Forest to make informed decisions about cybersecurity safety. In 2022, we began training students in addition to faculty and staff within KnowBe4, our online cybersecurity awareness platform. While anyone is at risk for phishing schemes, new students are particularly vulnerable to them. KnowBe4 equips our community with knowledge needed to successfully avoid compromise.
Cybersecurity Month 2022
With a focus on student awareness, we shared the “superpowers” students need to protect themselves and their data during Cybersecurity month. At our tabling day, over 200 students participated in our prize wheel engagement events where they won hats, t-shirts, mouse pads, and pocket sized, “need to know” infographics.
SuperDeac saves the day! In this video, SuperDeac saves a student from a sneaky phishing scheme.
Student service drives our work in Information Systems. Throughout the year, engagement included a mix of in person and virtual interaction.
STAC, the Student Technology Advisory Committee, welcomed new members to our cohort, led by senior co-chairs Paul Braymen and Maddie Shaver. IS fellow, Libby Welborn, guided the group in partnership with IS colleagues. Various leaders in Information Systems met with STAC to discuss initiatives, listen to student perspectives, gather project implementation feedback, and offer insight about career potentials in technology and higher education.
TechBytes: An Information Systems Newsletter
IS launched our inaugural newsletter, TechBytes, in 2022. Shared with faculty and staff, each volume highlights timely tech resources, tools, and tips. Visit our TechBytes repository and consider subscribing in 2023!
Visit our IT Strategic Plan
Engagement. Collaboration. Commitment. Please visit our IT Strategic Plan to learn more about our initiatives. We reimagined the plan to ensure our multi-year priorities position the University for a future in which data, digital content, and technologies play an integral role in research and teaching support.