It’s All About the Digital Experience
When Becky Frieden joined the New York Tech Information Technology Services team just over a year ago, she was excited to join such a vibrant community. “One of the things that drew me here was the desire to see our students succeed,” she says. “Every single member of this community wants that for our students, so never be afraid to ask for something. You will be amazed at what people will do to help you.”
In addition to being passionate about traveling and animals, Frieden is also a football fanatic. “I love all things football, especially the New England Patriots,” she says. “I love the strategy of the game, and I like to study brilliant coaches to see how they brought teams together for championship seasons.” This interest in strategy and technique spills over into her work at New York Tech, where she is part of the team bringing significant overhauls to students’ digital life. She took some time to answer our questions about her background and her experiences thus far at New York Tech.
Tell us about your journey working in information technology (IT) and finding a home at New York Tech.
Growing up near Dartmouth in the Connecticut River Valley in New Hampshire, working in higher education was always in my blood. I graduated from Boston College with a B.S. in finance, and I received my M.B.A. from Clark University in Worcester, Mass.
My career in higher education began as a director of financial aid, but after a decade, I was looking for a change, so I transitioned into a position in IT supporting administrative offices. While in IT, I was lucky enough to meet Pennie Turgeon, who was the vice president of IT and CIO at Clark. She was such an incredible leader and strategist, and I happily followed her to New York Tech.
How does your work at New York Tech impact the student experience?
The thing I missed most after leaving financial aid was the student interaction. When I arrived at New York Tech, I was thrilled to be asked to contribute to a strategic vision for enhancing and improving our students’ digital lives. Our students are digital natives, and so their digital life on campus is of increasing importance. COVID really propelled this concept into the foreground, growing our understanding that a student’s digital life/experience is almost (if not equally) as important as their physical life on campus.
This is one of the reasons I am so excited to be able to bring the new Student Service HUB to our students. What was NYITConnect is now a new, mobile-friendly, accessible, and personalized experience called Student Service HUB. We launched it on February 14—Valentine’s Day—because we love our students! It brings a newly designed, more intuitive interface that is accessible on any mobile device, and it adds some rich new features that we hope will help students with the “business side” of their experience. There is a new communication center called “My Messages,” where students see pending messages from administrative offices (Registrar, Bursar, Financial Aid). There are new Activity Guides in their “To-Do” lists that help streamline things they have to do periodically, like update their emergency contact or sign their Financial Aid Disclosure Statement. The HUB also stores those items for students’ future reference. Lastly, we have updated the underlying technology for “Class Search,” allowing students to search using general keywords.
What would you like students to know when it comes to using technology at New York Tech?
They should explore, explore, explore! Just like you would get to know a physical campus, figuring out where the good study spaces are, where the great snacks can be found, which spaces have great light, we encourage students to explore our digital spaces. The student portal my.nyit.edu is the next digital ecosystem to undergo a major transformation, so make sure to start there and learn what exciting opportunities there are in our digital spaces. For example, Cub Hub has great information about all of our student clubs and activities. Students should also know there is help available in Harry Schure Hall or on the seventh floor of 1855 Broadway if they have issues with technology.
There are also some IT services and technology that are underutilized. The beauty of higher education is that a lot of software and services are provided to students for free or low cost. For example, students might not know that they can get free antivirus software or programs like Adobe Creative Cloud or AutoDesk for their personal devices. I also recommend that students really explore our digital ecosystem. There are so many rich resources like advisor appointments via EAB [education advisory board] or connecting personal devices to our WiFi that many students don’t take advantage of. We also offer free training to faculty on how to use various classroom software offerings. Our technologists are so enthusiastic about our resources that we are always willing to talk to others about them.
Can you define what digital transformation means to New York Tech students and other stakeholders?
We like to think about this as digital acceleration. Innovation during the pandemic revealed possibilities at New York Tech for how digital solutions can enable new approaches to teaching, learning, research, student services, and administrative operations. Although the upgrades in technology have delivered digital benefits, the cultural and behavioral changes required to realize true digital transformation have largely been unaddressed. Empowering people to work and learn in new ways, across traditional departmental silos, and with actionable data and digitally enabled processes is key to a transformative result. Ultimately, leveraging data and technology to enhance the student experience and elevate New York Tech’s reputation will require a focused, intentional, and integrative approach to deliver sustainable and transformative results.