Grayson College Board talks about technology and student success

Grayson College’s Board of Trustees Tuesday evening spent time hearing about planned improvements to the college’s technology infrastructure and discussing ways to help with student success and retention.

Gary Paikowski, vice president of technology, took the Board through the plans to upgrade the college’s network to 10 Gigabit. He said the increase in demand on the college’s network has been growing over the years as the school changed to more and more Internet-based applications and systems. As a result, the college’s fiber network configuration has been maxed out.

Paikowski said the current plan is to upgrade the network in three phases, the first of which has already been completed. The cost of the project is expected to be around $200,000. The school’s IT department has already changed out the core switch units in the Central Data Center. That brought the network speed up to 10 Gigabit on the school’s two internal networks that serve the VoIP, client Internet, file services, printing and ERP needs. He said costs have been kept down on the planned upgrades by purchasing certified, pre-owned equipment and having college personnel do the installation themselves.

That work included upgrading the college’s two “live” Internet networks to 10 Gigabit, including the servers used for the college’s BlackBoard, Portal, DNS, mail and web-related applications. Paikowski said since those upgrades were made, the college’s telephone system is working better and internal network servers response times have been reduced.

The next phase, he said, will increase the delivery capacity from 1 Gigabit to 10 Gigabit to the highest volume areas, including the Administration Building, library and nursing labs. He said $50,000 worth of equipment for this phase has been purchased, but installation has not begun. He said the installation will require those areas of the college to “be down” for four or five days in row. He said some people just don’t think it is possible to do without their computers for that long, so they may have to look at working in one-half of a building at a time.

The last phase of the upgrade will include replacing the base switches in the remaining buildings on campus. Doing this, he said, will increase Internet traffic speed. Once all three phases are complete, Paikowski said, the college should be on firm technological footing for six or seven years.

In addition to hearing about the upgrades, the trustees spent some time watching a film that showed college students talking about what made them want to go to college and what helped them succeed or what could have been done to help them succeed. The Board then talked about surveys taken by GC students that pointed toward areas where the college is doing well and areas where it is not doing so well as far as attracting and keeping students is concerned.

The Board was adamant that the college’s main goal is the success of its students. Then they discussed ways in which the college might help students meet that goal. For instance, GC President Jeremy McMillen said the college has a basic skills course that will help students figure out things like time management and study techniques, but that is not a required course. It might be that GC should make that course required of all entering students, McMillen said. Additionally, he said, entering students are required to meet with an academic adviser. He said it might be that students should also be required to meet with that adviser at pre-set points along their educational journey. The point, McMillen said, is to find ways to help students stay the course and succeed.

McMillen told the Board that English professor Melinda McBee recently received the American Literature Award, given for the best paper in American literature, at the Conference of College Teachers of English. He also said the college’s Phi Theta Kappa chapter recently attended the Texas Regional Convention in Fort Worth and brought home a basket full of awards. The chapter won the top chapter award, a five-star certificate, Honors in Action Award of Distinction and a Horizon Award for the group’s adviser Dr. Mary Linder. Students Katie Turner, chapter president, and Genia Shipman, vice president of special projects, were recognized in the Texas Region Hall of Honor.

Turner will be going to Phi Theta Kappa’s International Convention in San Jose California in April to run for the international office of Division II vice president. The Board wished Turner much success in her run.