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SERC09 Opening Keynote: Leadership: The Key to a Sustainable Future

This session was recorded for podcast and is available at


EDUCAUSE Southeast Regional Conference Opening General Session Keynote – Leadership:  The Key to a Sustainable Future

Monday, June 1, 2009


Joel L. Hartman, Vice Provost, Information Technologies and Resources and CIO, University of Central Florida

Hartman spoke of sustainability now for the future.

We do sustainability for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it is the right thing to do.

The problem of sustainability is “us” - we live in a product-oriented, consumable, throw-away world – thus consuming enormous amounts of resources and creating waste including hazardous waste. Our society is a major contributor to the problem using 80% of the world’s resources.  As it happens we are not organized well to work on this issue.

The current predictions say half of currently living species may become extinct by 2100

Why?  Because we have had a failure to think and act responsibility – and a failure to lead.  We’ve acted on the assumption that the global ecosystem could handle anything we throw at it.  The Industrial Revolution damaged the planet and the damages are growing.

The role of Higher Education in working in this critical area are:

Research and creation of new knowledge

We educate the next generation of leaders, managers, teachers, and citizen

We have the freedom to pursue new ideas.

Higher education institutions are local and regional economic drivers

Our alumni are today’s industry, civic, and government leaders

We are good at long term planning

We own and manage a lot of land and a lot of buildings

The 4100 US institutions of higher education represent a $200 billion economy which is greater than the GNP of all but 25 countries.

Hartman said there are many problems and we (higher education) are working on solutions

Another challenge is the sustainable concept of what we do in IT?  What is the role of IT in the future?    Are we able to add value to what we do so we are still viable in the future? 


  • Cost of new investments
  • Awareness/knowledge
  • Business processes
  • Lack of leadership

Which brings us to “leadership!”

Leadership is a social process – it exists between people

We have to have a sense of community and social information with a goal to accomplish something – the ability to take people and organizations where they would not have otherwise gone

  • We need to move our institutions forward
  • We need to engage student groups
  • We need to work with and through leadership organizations
  • We need to support campus sustainability efforts
  • We need to promote organizations such as AASHE
  • We need to buy and dispose “green

Einstein said

The significant problems we have cannot be solved without thinking in a new way

Leadership - much comes from government & community leaders

  • Institutional leadership
  • IT leaders
  • You (we) lead from where you are!!

Commit to being the best you can be

  • Read everything you can
  • Attend training, professional development, even if you have to pay for it yourself.
  • Read outside your area
  • Find out “where the puck is headed”

Experts are in demand

  • They are called upon for advice
  • Tapped for recognition, promotions, re-assignments
  • Move you into leadersip ranks.


  • Volunteer for projects and assignments - even if you were not originally picked to be on the team
  • Learn how projects are run
  • Learn about group dynamics
  • Learn how to pay for things
  • Sign up to be a volunteer with EDUCAUSE


  • Find a mentor and learn how to act and make decisions, learn about how they process info, value system, information sources
  • Contribute - Don’t annoy people but be “outward” and voice opinions, ideas, and be known
  • Synthesize
  • Break out of your silo – participate between silos – cross-pollinate ideas

And always, training

Enroll in training programs at your institutions - in soft areas – not technical ones.  Most of us aren’t prepared to deal with people and finances.  Otherwise, you become a victim of the Peter Principle which is “employees rise to their level of incompetence”

IT leadership used to be about the technology but now it’s much more about strategic change, people managers, leadership,   Soft skills are the hard skills!  Find someone whose job you’d like to have and study (not stalk) them

Think about leadership.  It can be lonely at the top – many must make difficult choices.

Do you have the temperament? Can you make really hard choices and decisions?  Can you tolerate criticism?   You must have courage of your convictions.

About half of sitting CIOs plan to retire within the next 10 years.   Who will fill their shoes?  There is not enough talent in the pipeline to replace them.  The number of IT specialties is broadening but so are the opportunities to lead. 


  • What do leaders do?
  • Learn about your institution and its leaders’ goals and aspirations.
  • Strategic plans for the institution, colleges & centers
  • Read annual reports
  • Think about how IT could help the institution

Leadership is a chain and we are all links.  Your success is dependent upon the success of all and all levels.  Does everyone in the chain align, understand, and agree – to shared goals – this is essential

Key to Sustainability:

  • We have many years of history to overcome
  • We live within multiple ecosystems and these are all connected
  • IT can provide leadership and make a difference

The best way to predict the future is to invent it (Alan Kay quote) 

Current challenges – making tough decision re: outsourcing, cloud computing – what’s your advice - - Be Informed!


This session was recorded for podcast and is available at

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