2019 EDUCAUSE Leadership Award: Linda Jorn [video]

min read

A conversation with the 2019 EDUCAUSE Leadership Award winner.

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Linda Jorn
Associate Vice Provost for Learning Technologies and Director of Academic Technology, Division of Information Technology (DoIT)
University of Wisconsin–Madison

Gerry Bayne: Linda thank you so much for joining us today. Very much appreciate it. How do you feel about winning the leadership award from EDUCAUSE?

Linda Jorn: Wow, first of all I'm extremely honored. It's such an honor to be recognized by my peers and my colleagues that I worked with throughout my career across the nation. EDUCAUSE has been very important in my career, so to be recognized by EDUCAUSE and my peers is a humble experience and I'm honored.

Gerry: Well, how did you get your start in the higher education IT profession?

Linda: Yes, like many people, I've done several career changes. I started out as a registered nurse working at University of Minnesota Hospital and in nursing there's a lot of teaching. I saw how technology can actually save lives, a lot of change and really helping people adapt to changes when they've been diagnosed with an illness. And I always liked communications and journalism, so I went back in the late 1980s to get a Master's in Rhetorical Theory, Scientific and Technical Communications. And I caught the wave of microcomputers and the internet entering higher ed at that time. My Master's was on the impact of technology and computers on the collaborative writing process. At that time, there was some concern that it might hurt that process. So, I just caught that wave where grant money was available for faculty to start to incorporate computers into teaching and learning. And I fell in love with teaching, learning, research, course redesign technology and I've been involved with that ever since.

Gerry: What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment in your career or accomplishment that means the most to you?

Linda: The greatest accomplishment, I feel they're several but one I feel is related to helping higher education institutions build academic technology units. When I started in this career, academic technology in the IT area was just emerging. My background was in communications, curriculum and instructional design. So, I think it's very important for IT organizations to have people in the organizations that have backgrounds in teaching and learning science and theory, research methodology, design methodologies and professionals who know how to build, plan, create and support teaching and learning ecosystems. So, throughout my career I've been fortunate to work with other leaders that have allowed me the space to help create new services, initiatives and programs in the academic technology area. And the other area I've really enjoyed is just mentoring really smart people and helping them design their careers and celebrate their successes and that's been very rewarding for me also.

Gerry: So, looking towards the future, how can we prepare ourselves for the higher ed IT challenges ahead? What do you see coming in the next five years?

Linda: I think, thinking out ahead five years, one thing that's really important is that we think about our collaboration and partnership skills as we help higher education institutions leverage technology for teaching and learning purposes. I also think it's important as we think about collaboration and partnership that yes we're designing new technology ecosystems, infrastructures, but along with this we need to concurrently work on policy issues, cultural change issues and workflow business processes. So, as we partner and collaborate, it's working on these things concurrently, developing relationships with our academic peers. So, we're at the table as higher ed is deciding on strategic initiatives in the teaching and learning place. I also think that learning analytics is important for the future. We now have professors that are specializing in learning analytics and we want to build out. So, in IT, when we're building out our data infrastructures to make sure learning analytics and our teaching and learning data is core to that conversation moving forward. And also moving forward, just really in IT, focusing on the career developments and professional opportunities. In my area, I'm especially focused on our academic technologists. I think these are great skill sets, I think new design methodologies, usability experts, research experts, people that can sit down with our academic leaders and talk about technology infrastructure are going to be core for the future.

Gerry: That makes a lot of sense. Well, putting your mentor cap on, what do you think about. When you think about your career, what lessons learned would you pass along on those starting out in this field?

Linda: Yes, I think as you're thinking about your career, it's always a great idea to follow your passions and to build off your strengths. That's what I did and it's just landed me some incredible learning opportunities and work opportunities, a fantastic career. I also think, people need to think about being active in designing your career. So what new initiatives can you get involved in? Making sure you have a constellation of mentors. People that can help answer your questions. And then I think the sooner in your career that you can develop your work philosophy, I call it my leadership philosophy, the things that will ground you so you can maintain an intellectual and work-life balance will be clear. So, I have some principles like I always do my best, I work to be mindful of the words I use. I try to be gracious, show gratitude, be flexible but think about what are some core principles or philosophy that you can wake up every morning and say to yourself before you go to work and to make sure that you have a great day.

Gerry: That's such a good piece of advice and sort of not the one you would expect to hear and I appreciate that very much. Well, congratulations on your award. Is there anything else you'd like to add? Any sort of IT issue that you think about a lot that is pressing in your mind?

Linda: I spoke about several IT issues. I do think issues around accessibility and usability are key in the future. That as we design our technology environments whether it's for research, administration, teaching and learning, making sure we have the user or the learner always at the center of everything we're doing and using these techniques to make sure we're designing for our users so that they're experiences are good when they're in these digital environments.