Texas native Dr. Gary Wiggins was recently named the chief information officer at The University of Texas-Pan American replacing William Morris, who previously served as the executive director for information technology and is now University registrar in the Office of Records and Registration.
Wiggins, who is from Lubbock, served as vice president for information technology and chief information officer at Oklahoma State University. Prior to that, Wiggins was chief information officer at Texas Tech University, where he was employed for 14 years.
He received his doctorate in mathematics in 1978 from Texas Tech, where he also earned his undergraduate and master's degrees.
Wiggins said he plans to fulfill the broad objectives laid out by the University's new president.
"Dr. Cárdenas wants IT to be managed strategically and take an integrative approach toward technology problems. She wants a strategic plan for informational technology that fits with and is formed by the overall plans and objectives for the institution and that uses technology effectively to support teaching, learning and research," he said.
Another important objective, Wiggins said, is providing adequate exposure for University students to the latest technology.
"We need to make sure that our students have the benefit of being immersed in the same sort of technology-rich environment that they will have to live and work in the next 50 years. This is a very important obligation of universities," he said.
The completion of the Oracle Implementation Project will be one of Wiggins' most immediate challenges. Initiated in late 2003, this $10 million, multi-year project was planned to replace and enhance the current administrative and new student and visitor services computer systems at UTPA with Oracle-based software and capabilities.
The changes the project has undergone since it began, including the departure of its initial project manager, the choice of a different vendor for the student information system and the change in University presidents, present an opportune time to review the project in terms of the University's broad objectives and basic interests said Wiggins, who has overseen business software changes in both the public and private sectors. He said changes and delays in ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) projects such as this were not unusual.
"We are only a year or so into the project so we are going to take the opportunity to think, reevaluate and redirect. We want to make sure we are on track to get what we want from it when it is over," he said.
Wiggins said he has already met with all the Oracle team leaders and most of the teams and hopes the review now underway will be done by February 2005. However, he said, he is not setting any new deadlines at this time.
"The principle we are going to operate on is that we are not going to set deadlines for anything until we consult with the people who are doing the work and determine if they (deadlines) are realistic. We have to listen and plan and take advantage of everything that the people who have worked on the project have learned in a year. One desire I have heard frequently is the need for more communication," Wiggins said.
The large increases in enrollment that are anticipated present another big challenge for the University Wiggins said.
"We need to begin planning now in a very serious way for the management of the enrollment increase and growth. On the technology side the most immediate need is take action to help our people in admissions and student recruiting especially with the GEAR UP students soon entering college," he said.
Other IT projects underway include the president's initiative to equip 30 more classrooms with technology and the effort to make wireless access available across the campus.
Wiggins said he has been impressed with the talent and commitment of the IT staff here and has enjoyed the gracious, kind and friendly interaction with people he has encountered thus far in the Rio Grande Valley.
"There is one thing that jumps out to someone coming in from the outside. I am struck by the level of commitment that people here have to the organization and what it is trying to accomplish. The sense of this commitment is pervasive and that's a nice thing," he said.