By Roderick Macioch
College President R. Barbara Gitenstein recently announced via email that the College has a new chief information officer and vice president for Information Technology. Sharon Blanton, currently at Hawaii Pacific University, will assume this new position on Monday, Nov. 30.
Blanton’s position will make her responsible for “all of the network, the phone systems, the academic technology, the software. Pretty much anything with a button,” she said in an interview via Skype. Specifically, she will plan how the College will use technology, examine any problems that arise in the use of technology and look for ways to use technology more efficiently and effectively in the educational process.
One of the things Blanton is looking forward to is establishing a relationship with the student body.
“I want to hear from them. I can’t fix things that I don’t hear about,” Blanton said. “We’re here to help. Without a two-way conversation, it’s really hard for us to play a guessing game. We want to hear about any problems, but also things that we’re doing right.”
To establish this two-way conversation between herself and the students, Blanton plans to hold town hall-style meetings, where students can bring up questions, comments and discussions on the College’s use of technology. She also plans to meet with student leaders about once a month to further this discussion.
For the past three years, Blanton has served as the vice president and chief information officer at Hawaii Pacific University, where she “got a lot done in a very short time,” she said.
Being a fast-paced, private institution, HPU does not have to coordinate with the state and is therefore able to instigate change more quickly.
“We are responsible to the taxpayers and legislature, and we really have to be very sure of ourselves, and make sure we’re making the best use of the funds we receive,” she said.
At HPU, Blanton oversees Information Technology services at two campuses, seven satellite centers and a marine research center.
In addition to her career experience, Blanton holds “a BA in mass communication and instructional technology from Towson State University, an M.Ed. in instructional technology from the University of Virginia, and a Ph.D. in higher education administration from Capella University, and was a Frye Leadership Institute Fellow” according to the email.
“I am honored to be joining such an accomplished, selective institution,” Blanton said. “I look forward to collaborating with my new colleagues to build information technology as a strategic asset and continue advancing TCNJ’s tremendous student success record.”
However, Blanton is not planning on allowing the College to rest on its laurels. Instead, she intends to keep asking, “What can we do to raise the bar even higher?”
“I’m looking forward to working with high-quality students,” she said. “I really enjoy new experiences, throwing myself into a new environment.”
In summarizing what she thinks are the most important things to bear in mind as she steps into her new role, Blanton said, “You really have to take the time to learn. I think a little bit of humility goes a long way in a position like this. You can’t come in and assume that you have all the answers.”