Yale ITS is stepping out from behind the computer.
On Friday, Yale Information Technology Services will host its inaugural Yale Technology Summit at Evans Hall, the home of the School of Management. The all-day event — which includes keynote addresses, panel discussions and a vendor fair — is an effort to create a campus-wide discussion about the application of technology both within the University and beyond. Although Yale ITS is often associated with providing support services, this event is part of a broader effort to engage more directly with the campus.
“When you think of something as amorphous as technology, someone needs to pull the community together to share information about what is going on,” University Chief Information Officer Len Peters said. “I have often said — tongue in cheek — IT can be the ‘mud in the cracks,’ so if we can bring the community together, that alone would be a major accomplishment.”
The 37 events and over 75 speakers at the summit are divided into three concurrent tracks, which are centered around the categories of Teaching & Learning, Scholarship & Research and Entrepreneurship & Innovation.
Justin Kan ’05 and Emmett Shear ’05 will also provide a keynote address on the experience of developing Twitch — a live streaming video game platform they co-founded in 2011.
SOM Chief Information Officer Alan Usas said many of his staff members at feel like their efforts — while valued and important — are largely unseen. But events like the upcoming summit bring their work to the forefront, he added. Strategic Communications Associate Director for ITS Susan West said they estimate around 400 students, faculty and members of the tech community will attend the event. She added that the entire event — including the talks and lunch — are free of charge. ITS declined to comment on the exact cost incurred by the University in hosting the event, but Peters described the price to Yale as “minimal.” West added that the combination of receiving corporate sponsorship, speakers donating time and SOM providing space cover roughly 95 percent of costs.
Students and faculty participating in the event said they hope to exchange ideas with other members of the Yale tech community across various disciplines.
“I am looking forward to all the talks and cajoling with like-minded people and developers at Yale,” said Director of Entrepreneurial Programs at SOM Kyle Jensen, who will be co-hosting the keynote address. “[The summit] is a way for people to get together and celebrate technology.”
Ellen Su ’13, Co-Founder of 109 Design — a medical design start-up, said she accepted an invitation to be a panelist at the event because she thinks the summit will be a good forum to discuss the resources available to students pursuing technological ideas on campus.”
IT User Experience Librarian Katie Bauer said her team will use the summit as an opportunity to test and receive feedback on a “beta version” of a new search engine for the library system. She said while it is important to use analytics and data to gauge the effectiveness of a service, it is equally important to engage face-to-face as well.
“It is very easy when you are in IT to sit at your desk and work away,” she said. “But it is more important to listen to people to find out what they are using, their frustrations and directions they would like to go.”
Several other ITS administrators and faculty members from around the University interviewed said the summit will serve as a launching pad towards a broader outreach effort. Although headquartered out in Science Park, ITS is taking steps to make its presence known on the central campus as well.
“I think ITS is moving from being an infrastructure service provider to providing a format with which people can explore and test new ideas,” School of Architecture Director of Digital Media John Eberhart ARC ’98 said. “Their role is not just to provide a user net cable or connection, but to provides a way to better work with this things, put you in touch with this person or bring a group together to work collaboratively.”
Peters said the event also comes in the context of a series of initiatives to forge ties between ITS and the faculty. Earlier this year, ITS received a grant from the National Science Foundation to collaborate with the Computer Science department in developing software for research on campus.
“At the end of the day, the reason why we are here is to support the mission of the institution of teaching, learning, and research and the preservation of that knowledge,” Peters said. “The more we can understand the use cases from faculty, the better we can do our job.”
Although Friday’s Technology Summit is in its first year, Peters said he hopes this will become an annual tradition.