Students Thank IT Solutions for Continued Support and Innovation
Vice President and CIO Mark Johnson receiving 2019 Administrator of the Year Award.
Helping students succeed with technology is the cornerstone of the IT Solutions division at Minnesota State University, Mankato. We love everything tech! From 24/7 support resources online to face to face tech help at our IT Solutions Center and Quick Stop Kiosk, making technology on campus as intuitive and easy as possible is our mission. We’re always up to something new, whether that be behind the scenes magic to improve things like Wi-Fi and connectivity, or campus-wide upgrades to popular services like Zoom and LinkedIn Learning. From helping brand new students settle in at our orientation pop-up shop to providing direct consultation about our services with returning students, IT Solutions strives to make lasting connections with the people who matter most. Every semester brings new opportunities for us to get involved.
In 2019, IT Solutions was recognized with a special award given to our Vice President and Chief Information Officer (CIO), Mark Johnson. The award is given out at the annual Student Government Inauguration Ceremony and it honors outstanding administrators in the University who are committed to helping improve the lives of our student community through positive change. The recipient of the Administrator of the Year Award is chosen by the Student Government executive board. Anisa Omar, the current Student Body President, says Johnson’s frequent communication with Student Government and his continuous support of senators led the executive board to choose him as the 2019 recipient. “…Vice President Johnson ensures that students are at the center of the wonderful work IT Solutions has done and continues to do,” says President Omar.
Johnson is an alumnus who studied Business and Computer Science, graduating from Minnesota State Mankato in 1981. From 1978 to 2000, he worked in IT positions for General Mills Inc. and Brown Printing Company before returning to the University in 2000 to head the IT organization as an administrator. In 2006, Johnson decided to leave Minnesota State Mankato and the United States to embark on a new journey. He moved to the United Arab Emirates and worked as the President and Chief Administrative Officer for the Higher Colleges of Technology. During his time in the UAE, Johnson worked to implement positive changes to students’ college experience, for example, the men and women in the field of engineering. From this experience, Johnson says, “I learned to empathize with the needs of students.” When he returned to the U.S. in 2010, he held a handful of different positions, but eventually returned to Minnesota State Mankato for good in 2016, embracing his role at IT Solutions. His motto is, “to have a positive impact on people’s lives.”
Connecting with the student body is a crucial way to start making those positive changes. “We do a lot of work to engage at the student level,” says Johnson. For example, the student consultation process that IT Solutions completes on a regular basis has been one of the most helpful ways for us to get to know the community and gather feedback on how to improve our services. This process takes place over a period of six weeks each year and focuses on a learning exchange between students, faculty, staff, and the IT Solutions team. Students get the chance to meet and gain insight from our specialists as well as an in-depth look at our facilities. Tours of computer labs, video production areas, makerspaces, and even underground tunnels are all a part of helping inform students about what we do. In return, students offer IT Solutions their honest feedback about what they like and dislike about our services and what we could do differently to improve student technology resources.
To help keep another direct communication line open between the student body and the division, Johnson also meets with the Student Senate often to present new resources and updates and to directly address any concerns they may have. “Vice President Johnson’s constant communication with Student Government has been impactful in building and cultivating the current relationship we have with IT Solutions and for that we are grateful,” says President Omar. Additionally, monthly Technology Roundtable meetings are held, where faculty, staff, and students are invited to share their concerns and input with members of the team.
From the feedback gathered from our community, IT Solutions continuously pushes to make information technology available and beneficial to everyone. This includes implementing accessibility features in video communications, improving public transportation by partnering with the City of Mankato to develop the live bus tracking app Bus Mankato, exploring new opportunities for telepresence technology in psychiatry and medicine for students, boosting accommodation of our graduation live stream by incorporating translation to five languages, and more.
President Omar lists the Mav Life mobile app as an important tool that IT Solutions has provided to students. Launched in August 2019, Mav Life is the University’s first official app. From helping students catch the bus and find their classes to bringing friends together for clubs and events, Mav Life is an all-in-one app to help students feel at home at Minnesota State Mankato. “… [it] has had a profound impact on our campus and was substantial in connecting our current students with our new incoming students,” notes President Omar.
Through resources like Mav Life, our ultimate goal is to help reduce barriers to student, staff, and faculty success. Our division is made up of many crucial facets that help us achieve this, including asset management, information security, instructional design, academic technology, software development, wireless networking, and many more. We always keep the big picture in mind when providing various services to our community – to improve the campus experience for all, help people learn, teach, and work both on and off campus, and adapt University technology to fit today’s fast-paced and everchanging needs.