How technology is advancing Cultural Heritage Scholarship and more at Leadership Team meeting

December 22, 2020

The Leadership Team met on Wednesday, December 16 and reviewed the following projects and updates:

The Cultural Heritage Project

Jeff Campbell and Yale’s Cultural Heritage Metadata Project Director, Dr. Rob Sanderson, provided an update on Yale’s Cultural Heritage IT collaboration, which includes four core organizations: Yale Center for British Art, Yale University Art Gallery, Peabody Museum of Natural History, and Yale University Library.

Culturally and organizationally these units have operated in silos, but recent structural changes have provided opportunities to collaborate. The development of new positions, the introduction of a Cultural Heritage IT Pillar, and the cultivation of cross-organizational Cultural Heritage IT collaborations have been fruitful. Accomplishments include the introduction of a cloud-based Digital Asset Management (DAM) system as well as digital perseveration, a forthcoming Cross Collection Discovery system, called LUX, a Content Delivery Service, v2 (CDS2), and other enhancements. Continued planning for LUX, which was delayed due to COVID but is anticipated to launch in late Spring 2022, has enabled IT to deliver a proof of concept, incorporate bias and awareness initiatives (including dismantling bias that exists in metadata through historic cataloguing), and UI/UX work.

Dr. Sanderson shared an example of how the LUX system will add value to scholarship and research. Currently, when trying to answer the question of “How did European artists paint the American West during the 1800s?” there are search limitations within Yale’s catalogs. As the system is developed, he hopes to make queries like this much easier by doing the following:

  • Provide a flexible schema and a usable format—from homegrown to standardized formats
  • Harmonize vocabulary—from localized strings to information shared across units
  • Reconcile entities—from local people, places, events, and objects to shared entities
  • Enrich the data—from local information maintained separately to global information located across the web

When these improvements are made, collection searches will provide much broader and narrower information about Yale’s holdings. Content concerns, such as systemic oppression, unknown history of ownership, and unclear rights for usage can also be addressed.

Looking ahead, LUX will be enhanced to facilitate engagement with the audience, such as allowing users to be collaborators, creators, and curators, to support better communication and discussion.

The dissertation process at the Graduate School (DPRS)

Tim Hinckley provided an overview of the new approach to Dissertation Progress Reporting and Submission (DPRS), which allows students to track their dissertation from admittance to dissertation submission. Initiated at the request of the Registrar’s Office, this project facilitated a shift from 800 paper-based dissertations to an entirely online experience for students and faculty.

Vijayshree Erodula, whose team developed the DPRS, shared that the following business process improvements, were made:

  • Eliminating the queue: students were typically in a line to submit their dissertations
  • Reducing costs: students formerly needed to pay for printing, mailing, and binding
  • Eliminating technology debt: two separate legacy apps, built in antiquated technologies, were used for dissertation progress reporting (DPR) and online notification of readers (ONOR) respectively, and DPRS is one app that covers both functions of DPR and ONOR
  • Reducing manual processes: the Registrar’s Office formerly sent manual reminders and communications and reported from two different systems, which created administrative overhead; DPRS is automated

Deepa Thomas, a member of Vijayshree’s team, explained the new dissertation journey, including the following steps: candidacy, progress report (DPR), degree petition and dissertation submission, notification of readers (NOR), readers review, degree awarded, Proquest (a vendor product offering a single point access to the dissertation), and archiving the document in the Sterling Memorial Library.

While developing the DPRS, UI/UX and accessibility analysis was conducted, legacy apps were decommissioned, tools and systems were added, and other analyses were conducted. Through this great work, the goal of shifting the dissertation process from a paper-based to a digital process was achieved.

Lessons learned from taking a temporary re-assignment as Program Manager

At the start of the pandemic, an Operations Implementation Taskforce was formed to support the University’s COVID-19 response efforts. With significant work to be done as part of this effort, Jack Callahan and John Barden asked if Lisa Sawin would support the group as its Program Manager. Key objectives for this role included: identifying and tracking key issues across each workstream, better understanding dependencies across efforts, helping leaders focus on key decisions on a timely basis, supporting the development of agendas, and selectively supporting the tracking down of certain areas of mutual concern.

In her role, she supported the following groups:

  • Operations Implementation Task Force (OITF), comprised of 30 operational and academic leaders
  • Operating Policy Group, supporting Jack Callahan, Alex Dreier, Tim Pavlis, Stephanie Spangler, Scott Strobel with key decision-making
  • Health and Safety Leaders (HSLs), overseeing adherence to COVID-related public health and safety measures in schools and departments

Throughout this process she aimed to align priorities, clearly document decisions provide formal change control, ensure that there was accurate information to support decision making, and escalate issues which would benefit from high-level input.

Overall, Lisa learned a lot about COVID-19 and relevant public health information, and gained a new respect for the many units and teams which have been stretched in new ways to help the campus continue to operate. At the last OITF meeting before the undergraduates left campus for Thanksgiving break, Provost Scott Strobel praised the team, saying “Thank you for helping ensure the academic continuity of Yale.” Lisa remarked that she felt delighted to contribute to this effort. As she returns to her role in ITS, she is partnering with Jack Callahan to bring this program management approach to his leadership team.

Lessons learned from an interim slot on the SLT

While she served as an interim IT SLT member, Apriel Biggs-Coker observed three predominant conversations taking place within the SLT, including: tackling the largest and most pressing problems and ideas at Yale, helping colleagues drive the right set of priorities and work, and discussing and developing talent. Her experience allowed her to understand when and how to approach members of the SLT, to make the most impact on projects and initiatives.

She shared that there are three meeting opportunities you might be able to leverage, including:

  • The Stand-up Meeting (SUM), which occurs every day (except Tuesday) and provides opportunities to exchange immediately relevant information and updates
  • The Strategy Meeting, which occurs monthly and facilitates focused discussions about initiatives and objectives
  • The SLT Meeting, which occurs weekly and is structured to support continuity and progression on organizational goals and priorities

She also summarized SLT members’ leadership styles, which can be useful when trying to galvanize your efforts:

  • John Barden: Focuses on bringing the leadership of the University together to collectively and cohesively think about technology.
  • Blanche Temple: Ensures we “color within the lines” and reminds the team of broader organizational/university implications and historic events.
  • Lisa Sawin: Focuses on facilitating and enabling the good work of our colleagues across ITS; frequently inquiries about trade-offs and overarching impacts.
  • Frank Matthew: Focuses on teaming and collaboration. Will largely ask about the impacts to students or those who power key touchpoints at the University.
  • Sandra Germenis: Process focused; wants to ensure systems and processes are simple, clear, and repeatable.
  • Karen Polhemus: Process and people focused; consummate believer in ensuring all perspectives are heard.
  • Kiran Keshav: Keenly aware of what is happening around campus and interested in how this affects partners.
  • Lou Tiseo: Inquiries about the fidelity and reliability of the solution posed.
  • Ted Hanss: Represents a broader spectrum of colleagues across campus and beyond.
  • Paul Rivers: Examines our operational risk profile and ensures we can attest to the processes we have in place.
  • Ryan Schlagheck: Inquiries about connectedness to broader strategic goals and initiatives.
  • Mark Manton: Focuses on being good stewards of Yale’s fiscal resources.

She closed with a few words of wisdom, including: it’s important to “lead your own your career journey,” understand your leadership currency (meaning, what do people say about you when you’re not in the room?), think about how you can help ITS meet its fiscal objectives, and consider how can you aid the SLT in making the best decisions.

Ask John anything

John Barden opened the floor for questions, including the following:

What is your thinking on the vaccinations? Is it something you need to consider in your role, or as something that the SLT will need to address?

We have great experts who are supporting is in making those decisions, to make sure that we prioritize the distribution. I think it’s going to be a while before the majority of us see that vaccine—best case late Spring, most likely early Summer. I’m not involved in conversations about requirements yet, but this may be a discussion I’ll participate in when it arises. The more of us that get to the stage of taking the vaccine, when it’s available, the better in terms of us all being protected. I’m not sure if vaccination percentages will be tied to our return to campus.

Regarding the work that Lisa started, is there a longer-term vision for how that might evolve over time?

The beauty of Yale is how collaborative we are while also acting so individually. However, having shared objectives that can be operationalized is important. COVID-19 has been a great exercise in collaboration. People saw a lot of value in having Lisa Sawin as the connective tissue between these silos. As we continue our conversations about things like Belonging, we might be able to connect big ideas to actions. This can only advance our Diversity and Inclusion goals, for example. There is a need to try and create clarity around how we move initiatives forward that are in support of strategic goals. Lisa is now working with Jack directly to help hold the Operations Leadership Group together in a new way—to operationalize our long-term goals.

It’s important for us to be involved before decisions are made, correct?

Yes, we need to be involved early, so that we can consider how to put processes in place, identify the best approaches, determine the thresholds, and develop strategies in partnership with those departments.

The next meeting will be held on January 27, 2021.

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