CENIC Star Performer: Catherine McKenzie

Catherine McKenzie recieves her award for Outstanding Invididual Contribution from CENIC.Catherine Mckenzie, former Director of the Technology Unit, CCC Chancellor's Office, was recently recognized as a Star Performer by CENIC. In an interview, Catherine reflected on 13 years of working with colleges on the technology front.

Catherine was recognized by CENIC, the Corporation for Educational Networks in California, for network-related contributions to California's research and education community with the 2012 Outstanding Individual Contribution award. Catherine began working at the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office (CCCCO) in 1998. As Director of the Technology Unit, she oversaw the Telecommunications and Technology Infrastructure Program (TTIP), which distributes technology related funds to the California Community Colleges and oversees and funds several systemwide projects, including 3C Media Solutions (video streaming and Web services), CCC Confer (e-conferencing), CENIC services (networking and videoconferencing), the California Virtual Campus (CVC), and the CCC Technology Center.

In addition to her work at the CCCCO, Catherine has been dedicated to supporting CENIC and CalREN in multiple ways. She chaired the CENIC Conference Program Committee in 2007, and contributed as a member of the Conference Program Committee for several additional years. For many years she was a regular participant in discussions at DC-TAC and CalREN Video Services (CVS) Oversight Committee meetings, and she served on the CENIC Board of Directors from 2004 to 2011. At CENIC's request, she represented California on Internet2's K20 Advisory Council for a number of years.

In working with CENIC, Catherine consistently sought opportunities to engage in joint efforts between CENIC and the CCCCO. She was a key contact at the CCCCO in the transition of CENIC's video services to K20video.org, a collaborative effort that combined CalREN Video Services with K12video.org, lowering the cost of video services for all CENIC members.

In 2008, Catherine drew upon her knowledge of technology, her former elementary teaching experiences, and her knowledge of classroom teachers' needs, to create the K20 California Educational Technology Collaborative. Known for her zeal to do things, not just to have conversations, she created an entity within CENIC that allowed educators, agency officials and representatives from the business and non-profit sectors to work together on joint projects that addressed new approaches to teaching and learning with technologies. The K20 CETC launched several initiatives in a wide range of areas including e-portfolios, the CAHSEE Stepping Into Your Future project (a statewide effort to support 18 and 19 year olds pass the state's high school exit exam and earn a diploma), and more.

Recently Catherine responded to some questions from TechEDge regarding her years with the CCC Chancellor's Office and where technology in the colleges stands today.

TechEDge: Is there a single accomplishment in your time with the Chancellor's Office that you are most proud of?

"I am most proud of assisting in the ability of the colleges to more easily collaborate together. Beginning with connecting them through the Internet and growing their bandwidth needs over time, to videoconferencing and satellite delivery and then e-conferencing services with CCC Confer. By fulfilling these efforts, the colleges have been able to collaborate much more effectively. That has been a significant benefit to the system over time."

TE: What were some of the greatest challenges you experienced and how did you address them?

"The two greatest challenges began with initially gaining trust that we at the Chancellor's Office wanted to partner in solving systemwide problems, but not take over. We valued local control and the needs of individual colleges. The second challenge has been all fiscal. Doing more with less. Less people and less funding. This took a lot of strategic thinking and solutions."

TE: Any advice for the Chancellor's Office and its technology projects regarding how to thrive and grow?

"The success of many of our efforts was based on a model of solving problems centrally, but having the solution look and act local. Think CCCApply: the statewide common, electronic application that is branded for each college individually. It allows each college to have an individualized introduction greeting by each college, as well as unique questions at the end that the districts can customize. The other successful strategy is to have a strong Steering Committee (not Advisory Committee) made up of teams from representative colleges to make the strategic decisions about the solution's development and evolution. The committee should be made up of college personnel from the program side who have the specific area focus addressed by the technology effort—who usually also chair the committee—as well as personnel from the college that represent the technical side of the effort. This mix and strategies have been highly successful."

TE: Any general predictions about the trajectory of technology in education and how the colleges can best position themselves?

"I only see technology as becoming more strategic in nature in the future, especially as I read the Student Success Task Force Report. The economies of scale strategies in combination with the allowance for a local look and feel for the colleges may prove to be the most cost effective approach in these trying fiscal times. I think the California Community Colleges could be a national leader in solving these challenges."

To learn more about the CCC Chancellor's Office Systemwide Technology Projects visit the Technology Unit's website.

To learn more about the other Star Performers that CENIC has featured, please visit the CENIC website.<>

Janis Cortese is Manager of Communications and Publicity for CENIC. Portions of this story were published previously in the newsletter CENIC Today. Sandoval Chagoya is the TechEDge Managing Editor and a Project Manager for the California Community Colleges Technology Center and the California Virtual Campus.


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