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Gmail, other upgrades coming to SMC

Jillian Barwick | Sunday, December 2, 2012

Saint Mary’s students who are frustrated with Zimbra or tired of not having Wi-Fi in their rooms can look forward to a series of technological advancements over the next few months.

Michael Boehm, chief information officer for Information Technology (IT) at the College, said the campus will be switching to Gmail as soon as possible.

“One of the first responsibilities I had when I got here was to solidify the email situation. I got here at the tail end of fixing Zimbra,” Boehm said. “We don’t have a firm date yet, because we are working on all the pieces and parts as far as the technology and resolving some of the issues, but we are migrating to Gmail.”

Boehm and his staff explored a number of options for an e-mail provider and determined Gmail was the best choice for the College.

“Gmail is really the front-runner for higher education,” Boehm said. “We started the process about two months ago where we had our Saint Mary’s domain name registered through Google.”

IT made several additional advancements over the summer, Boehm said, including the installation of more wireless points on campus.

“One of the things we wrapped up was wireless for the last two remaining halls, which were Holy Cross and Moreau. We replaced wireless in McCandless and re-did some of it in the Student Center,” Boehm said. “I think the number is about 165 wireless points that we added over the summer. This represents about 50 percent of our wireless footprint.”

Boehm said he and the IT staff are working on renovating the older 50 percent of wireless points.

Faculty technology requests were also due to IT for the rest of the year recently. Boehm said around 25 forms were submitted, with requests ranging from new projectors to new markers for the white boards in classrooms.

“This week, a committee made up of stakeholders across the campus will meet to go through the newly submitted requests and try to put some cost estimates to them, then try to figure out where do they fall on the priority list for this year,” he said.

Next semester, Boehm said IT will be looking into creating new places for students to access information.

“The alumnae resource network will be another big thing next semester and how that ties back to the Career Crossings Office and networking,” Boehm said. “Also, I am hoping to have a mobile app rolled out around February. It’s not meant to be the end-all, be-all app for Saint Mary’s, but the idea behind it gives students access to course information, Blackboard, email and access to social networks all in one place.”

While this is not a definite, Boehm said he is excited about a potential mobile app because of the amenities it could offer students.

“We are looking to maybe put in the athletic schedule or maybe the shuttle schedule to go along with the core pieces for the app,” Boehm said. “We are working with different vendors to hone in on what we are looking for. They all offer somewhat of an out-of-the-box solution that comes with this core functionality.”

Boehm has also been working alongside students from Steven Broad’s Systems, Analysis and Design course. The class is completing projects on the technological advancements that campus will be seeing.

The students have an equal say in the process as the rest of the team, Boehm said, and they are able to represent the interests of the College students.

“[The students said] their friends reach out to them through text message or Twitter or Facebook. So the vendors jumped right on it and thought that those would be the better ways to send out information from Registrar or Student Affairs,” Boehm said. “The students, however, said that if that were to happen, they would be less likely to check as much and pay less attention.”

The team is now working to determine the most important notifications for students and how the team can stop messages from flooding the inbox through the mobile app, Boehm said.

While there are no specific dates for the mobile app or the migration to Gmail, Boehm said the most important task right now is naming a director of network services infrastructure.

“Our two finalists will be coming to campus this week for the final interviews for the position,” Boehm said. “One of the main goals I hope for that person to get accomplished next semester is an architecture for a network for Saint Mary’s.”

With the solidification of his IT team, Boehm said the advancements for the College will be able to get underway next semester.