Hosts Cynthia and Jack talk with Keith McIntosh, Vice President and CIO for the University of Richmond, about his leadership journey and philosophy.
Jack Suess: Welcome to the EDUCAUSE Integrative CIO Podcast. I'm Jack Suess, vice president of IT and CIO at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
Cynthia Golden: And I'm Cynthia Golden, associate provost and executive director of the university Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Pittsburgh. Each episode, we welcome a guest from in or around higher education technology as we talk about repositioning or reinforcing the role of IT leadership as an integral strategic partner in support of the institutional mission.
Jack Suess: And our guest today is Keith McIntosh, vice president and CIO at the University of Richmond. Welcome, Keith.
Keith McIntosh: Hey, good morning, Jack. Good morning, Cynthia.
Cynthia Golden: Mac, you have been at the University of Richmond, and we were just hoping if you could take a few minutes to tell us about your background and the journey you took before you became the CIO at the University of Richmond.
Keith McIntosh: Yeah, great question. Love to share something with you. I enlisted in the Air Force in 1983 and I retired in 2008. So I served 24 years in the Air Force as an enlisted person, a person who got their degrees later in life. And then when I retired in 2008, I was stationed in a Air Force base in Tucson, Arizona, and I distinctly remember I had just come back from a deployment in Iraq and that's when I had made my decision that it was time for me to leave, spoke to my wife. I think the next day she sent me a job posting for a director of technical services at Pima County Community College district in Tucson. I applied, first time got hired. I was very fortunate to have a wonderful supervisor, Kirk Kelly. He was my CIO, and he was very instrumental in getting me pointed in the right direction, both on campus but in a wider spectrum in higher education. And he got me connected with different associations and different people, specifically EDUCAUSE, which has been a fantastic organization for me.
I was fortunate, while I was there, learned a lot. I got a lot of access to different things. And about four years after being there, my supervisor, Kirk, and our deputy CIO both departed the University of Richmond for other... I mean, sorry, Pima Community College for other opportunities within four months of each other. So immediately, it put a vacancy at the leadership and so myself and another person, another colleague were put into interim positions, and I served in an interim deputy CIO position for about 18 months, which was a great opportunity to learn and get access and exposure and show that I was able to lead and manage at that level. And then when they opened up the position, I competed forward and I was very fortunate to be selected as vice chancellor at Pima in 2012. I served in that capacity for about two years.
And then I was looking for a different challenge, and I wanted to leave the community college space and see if I can get into four-year college base. And I was very fortunate to be selected as a CIO at Ithaca College. It's a four-year private residential liberal arts institution. I did that for a couple years and then I came to University of Richmond in 2016, where I'm very proud to be CIO here. You quickly learn once you start working in higher education the different type of cultures that are in the higher education ecosystem, whether it's a community college, small or large, like Pima is, or a private liberal arts like Ithaca or Richmond. And so transitioning from Pima to Ithaca was another change. And I had to quickly, in both those situations, prove myself, but I was really excited and up for the challenge. And I think those two opportunities really gave me a lot of grounding in higher education, which actually allowed me to become CIO here at the University of Richmond.
Jack Suess: It's really interesting. Rarely do you see people move from the community college system to the private baccalaureate system. And so you're somewhat unique in having made that leap. One of the things that I'm sure it helped was you were the first recipient of the Rising Star Award that EDUCAUSE gives. And I was trying to remember what year that was, but is that correct, [crosstalk 00:04:27]-
Keith McIntosh: Yeah, that is. Yeah, that was a very fortunate blessing that hit me in 2011.
Jack Suess: I know what it takes to be the nominator, and it requires somebody to really believe in you. And it requires you to have built a professional network that you can get others to write letters of support. Can you talk a little bit about how you've been able, in a short time, to build what appears to be a very strong professional network?
Keith McIntosh: Yeah, I sure can. I'm going to take a little step back because I think I really want to make sure I recognize that being at the inaugural, just like you just described, Jack, about writing the nomination package. I was very fortunate... Again, I got to emphasize Kirk Kelly, who nominated me, so it takes somebody believing in you, but I also think it takes somebody... You have to be able to contribute and be that person that's worthy of being nominated. Connecting with people, that's something I learned it from my dad. As a young guy hanging out with my father, I could see how people would come up to him and they would just be so happy to see him. As a young man, I used to think, "God, this guy knows everybody and everybody knows him." It was funny how that just rubbed off on me and everybody he saw, he tried to treat those folks like it was the first and probably going to be the... or the last time that he would be able to see that person. And really, that stuck with me.
I'm not quite doing it like my father, but when I go to any event... And I'll describe my first EDUCAUSE event. I took all the business cards that I had with me, and my goal was to come back home without any of my business cards and a one-for-one replacement from anybody else I can meet and talk with. And I didn't quite get there, but I think I gave away three quarters of my business cards. And I really tried to make sure I meet as many people as I possibly can, get to know who they were, what they were about. Every time I met with them and they walked away and I walked away, I'd immediately tuck away and get their card and write on the back of their card how I met them, what the day was, and what we discussed. When I got back home, I spent a couple weeks just entering all those folks into my contacts, and then I tried to connect with as many people as I could via LinkedIn. "Hey, it was great seeing you." I could refer back to my notes to remind myself what we talked about.
And then, from there, I just kept doing that. And one of the things I try to do when I'm networking and connecting with people is getting to know them, but the most important thing to me is, "How can I help you, whoever that you is?" So when I network, it's not really trying to get information to help me. It's really trying to get to know people so I can help them. And I want them to see me as a resource that they can go to, and I think that stood well with me and it's something I did from my first day being in higher education, and I still do it today.
Jack Suess: That is incredible advice, the idea that you are so intentional about that process. I think I do it well, but I've never been as intentional as you describe. And I think that kind of advice is one that we really need to be thinking about. And especially as people are preparing for the EDUCAUSE annual conference, which is going to be coming up in two months, how to really make the most of it, what you just described, is I think one of the best ways I've ever heard. So, thank you.
Keith McIntosh: Thank you.
Jack Suess: I know how you reach out to every recipient of the Rising Star Award. We were fortunate enough that one of my staff received it. And he talked about the fact that you were one of the first people that reached out to him to congratulate him. Could you describe what you do, why you do it, and how you're looking to help those that follow you?
Keith McIntosh: Yeah. Thank you for that question. So again, the Rising Star Award is a unique... There's not been that many recipients, and it's a new thing. And to be the first person is still... I have to pinch myself. And when I won that award, I said a couple things... When I was selected for that award, I said a couple things in my acceptance speech. First thing I said, "I was very humbled to be the recipient," and I still feel that way. But I also said this was the recognition of my accomplishments to that time, but it was also recognition of, and the responsibility of, what I can contribute to higher education IT in the future. And coupled with that, something I'd learned from my father and you learn in the military, is that as you progress up the ranks of leadership, you need to look behind you.
And one analogy that was given to me by a senior leader once is, as you're climbing up the ladder, you need to be reaching down a ladder and have your hand on at least one other person helping them up the ladder. My goal is to try to reach down and grab as many hands as I possibly can to help folks up. So in everything that I do, that's my focus. And as the first, I feel like it was a privilege but also a responsibility to set a tone. "Hey, look, we're in a special, unique group. Folks are looking at us. I want all of us to be successful." And I know that my life changed after being selected for that, and that's something that I share. I try to make sure I always reach out and say, "Hey, if there's anything I can ever do for you, please don't hesitate to reach out."
But I just think it's incumbent upon leaders, aspiring and residing leaders, to... If you're not giving back to the community and you're not helping folks, and I'm really questioning, at least for me, what your contribution really is after all, because one day, I think we're all going to be onto something else. And I want to make sure that there's some type of legacy that folks can say, "Hey, Mac helped me once, and because of that help, I'm able to do X." And then they pay it forward and help others as well.
Cynthia Golden: Mac, I think you're making a really important point about the giving back. I remember, several years ago, there was somebody at a conference who was telling me that he just didn't get that much out of it anymore. And we ended up in a conversation about how, "Well, maybe at this point in your career, that's not what you should be focusing on. You should be focusing on giving back." And I think you made some really good points about that.
Keith McIntosh: Yeah, thank you for that. I agree. I think that's something where you get back, what you give.
Cynthia Golden: Absolutely. A lot of CIOs have a very strong social media presence today, and I know I see you a lot on social media. And I was wondering if you would tell us a little bit about how you use social media to support building and maintaining your professional network?
Keith McIntosh: Yeah, that's a great question. First, I'll have to say I love social media. Social media came around at a perfect time for me in my life. I will say that I think there are many others who are much more prolific than me, but I described earlier, I still pass out and collect business cards. So in addition to coming back and putting information in my Outlook context, I connect with people via social media. And so three things I think I do is, I make sure I connect with folks. I try to join as many different groups that interest me, either on a personal level or something that's a necessity for me or my team are aspiring to get accomplished. And then I try to share information that I think it might be useful to others. So that's the most simplistic way.
And then I think, after that, it's just the volume. Sometimes I'm just re-sharing something. Sometimes I'm going, "Hey, I have a strong opinion about this type of stuff. Here are my thoughts. I'd love to..." And I try to do this: I try to put a little bit of my opinion or my thoughts about what I'm sharing out there, And then I really want to get people... I try to encourage a dialogue. So I try to prompt people with questions. I don't do it all the time, but just enough to where I just don't want to feel like I'm posting, posting, posting. I want folks to actually engage and have a conversation because that's where I learn and others will learn as well.
Cynthia Golden: And you're building your professional network when you do this.
Keith McIntosh: Absolutely. Social media is not a real... It's not a passive activity. I think you have to make the plunge to be active in it. I think you have to make the commitment that you're going to share. To me, it's an extension of what I try to do face to face. If you're an introvert, doing this exact same thing via social media, where you don't have to have the pressure of meeting people and doing whatever that small-talk conversation to get to cultivate a network, there's ways to do that via social media as well, whether that's LinkedIn, which I'm primarily in and Twitter, but I also use Instagram and Facebook and Snapchat and just about everything else and try to message, in an appropriate way, for the social media channel that you're on.
Cynthia Golden: So how does this feed into your professional network in your work at Richmond, and has social media or other professional networking approaches been particularly useful to you as a CIO?
Keith McIntosh: Oh, absolutely. I try to expand my knowledge as much as I possibly can, but I know there's only so much capacity that I can retain. And I think my collective is going to be much smarter than me as an individual. So I'm fortunate to be involved with organizations... Like here at the University of Richmond, the University of Richmond is part of the Association of the Colleges of the South. When I got here, I looked up the listserv for that, but it was kind of dead and so I've been reactivating that. And we've been able to share a lot of good content back and forth with one another about similar challenges amongst us. Sometimes I might be able to share something about what we're doing at the University of Richmond to help one of my colleagues in the Association of the Colleges of the South or they can help me.
So those are the ways I try to reach out. And they're helpful. For one example, when I first got to the University of Richmond, an ERP replacement conversation popped up, and the first thing I did was reach out to my select contacts. So I was fortunate to go through the Leading Change Institute. It was The Frye Institute, at the time, in 2012. So I reached out to a small cohort of my colleagues that were part of that group. "Hey, this is what's happening. What do you know? What thoughts do you have? Any resources? Who would you point me to?" And then, after that, I just started working a list of other folks. And so once I found out there are folks who had been on our ERP system who had successfully transitioned or were transitioning to the ERP we were looking at, I just worked that list and sent those folks an email and gave them a call, but all of those folks, it wasn't a cold call because I had relationships with them prior. So that's the importance of building those networks because you never know when it's going to happen.
Jack Suess: Keith, you're really hitting on what I think is one of the key imperatives for CIOs. So many problems pop up that others have already dealt with. If you're leveraging and building strong relationships with other CIOs, it's one thing to post something on the CIO list, but it's another thing to be able to pick up a phone and call someone and have a much deeper conversation with that person, where it's not something that's going to publicly be on a listserv, because a lot of people are going to hold back on that. But if you can have a relationship and talk with someone one on one, you can really find out what worked, what didn't work, what to watch out for that I've used over the last 20 years as well. I'm curious, you mentioned you are on some other CIO leadership groups that are not necessarily higher ed related. Do you use areas or outside groups, or do you use mostly your internal network to be keeping up to date when questions come?
Keith McIntosh: I do a little bit... I would say it's probably about 80/20, Jack. I think 80% is higher education colleagues, but I'm always telling folks that higher education seems to lag a little bit sometimes, especially in the IT area when it comes to what's happening next, what are he challenges, what are the new opportunities? So I always like to look elsewhere. So I sneakily just follow the medical CIO associations, and I made some connections there. And every once in a while, when I see something, I might ask one of those folks a question, not that I'm going to implement those things now, but it's just a curiosity to help me inform my thinking when that situation might occur at my institution. Also, I have a lot of folks... My former background was the military, and so I have a lot of colleagues who were either enlisted officers who have gone on to work for the defense industry. So there's some things to be learned there and so I try to keep those connections live. And the best way to do that, since we're all distributed in many different places, is via LinkedIn. I follow what they post, I comment on what they post, and then when I need to, I might reach out to ask them.
Jack Suess: So, Keith, on the CIO commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion... And I know that you chaired the DEI task force for EDUCAUSE. Can you talk about what you're hoping to see as the next steps, short, medium, longer term as EDUCAUSE makes DEI a priority?
Keith McIntosh: Yeah. Great. So I want to take a quick step back. I remember when I first came into higher ed, that was 2008, and my first EDUCAUSE conference was 2009 in Anaheim. And when I walked in, that's an overwhelming thing. In the military, I've been around a lot of folks, but I had not been in such a concentrate... I think it was probably six, seven-thousand people were there. And, at one point, I was like, "Man, I need a break. It's just a lot of folks." And I remember walking... I mean, if you ever walking today at the Hynes Convention Center, right when you walk up the front door, you can hang a left and just go up to the top steps and look down and get a great perch and a good view. And I remember walking through there going, "This is a lot of white people." And then I started thinking, "Where are the people of color? Wow, I don't see hardly any."
And I had made a connection via social media. It was the person I'd never met before, but we became buddies, and that was Melissa Lou. And we had made it a point that we were going to connect at that conference and it took us a while. I was a newbie, so trying to understand what's a good physical location to meet. We jokingly used to say, "How hard could it be for a six-foot black man and a five-foot-six Asian woman to be able to find each other in a sea of white people?" It took us a while, but I jokingly say that because that's when it hit me.
And I'd already been active in diversity space when I was in the military. It was something that, as a person who grew up as a military brat, living all around the world, I found it deeply enriching to my life to have had all these different diverse experience, whether I was a kid living in a Philippines or a kid living in Italy or just living in different parts of the United States. I went from Louisiana to Illinois to California to North Dakota. And, in each of those situations, I'm an odd man out. I have to learn how to recreate myself. I have to learn how to connect with folks. And I think those were different muscles and different skill sets that I had to learn.
When I rolled into higher education and I described that story, I thought, "Man, okay, I think there's something to be done here." It was curiosity at first. And then I was really pleased, when I first got to meet our current COO, Dr. John O'Brien, that he was very interested in this. And so when we finally had the opportunity, the DE&I task force, I was like, "Fantastic." There was several other colleagues. It was a really great group. It was one of probably the best highlights of my life working in higher education.
And we were very fortunate to put together a report, which you can find online, but we had 10 recommendations, and I won't read all of them, but some of the things that stood out to me that I just think my summary of that DE&I task force, it has to be an active activity, and it has to be an active activity for leaders. So when we came out for... When we had the CIO commitment... And I had to give a lot of props and a shout out to Rachel Clemmons because it was her idea. We tweaked it a little bit as we always do when you have group conversations, but the main thrust of what was in the CIO commitment came from her. And it was something when we all read it, we were like, "Yes, this is something we have to do." And it's a testament to the document and what is in the document, the number of people who signed up, and how quickly we signed up. And that's why Ray is the first... She's the first signature on that commitment.
To me, I strongly believe that leadership is about helping people accomplish a mission, and the key thing is the people and the mission. And the mission doesn't happen by itself. So if I'm going to focus on something, I'm going to focus on the process and the people to help them get the mission accomplished. And so for me to be successful, I want each and every person on my team to be as successful as they possibly can. And the best way to do that is to help them be their fullest self at work, try to remove as many barriers as possible, so not just them individually but them collectively with one another. So I think set the stage, set the example, model the behavior that you want to see in your team, and then encourage and support, and then be vocal about it. So, on my campus, I'm extremely vocal about diversity, equity, and inclusion. And I think everywhere I go, I'm vocal. And I think it's the right and responsibility and a privilege of a leader. You are at a level that has a platform where you can and should speak up about such things to try to set the environment, inspire the next group of people, and help that group that's coming up, and the current group that's in place, be the best they can be.
Jack Suess: That's great, Keith. One of the things that I know that we've started to do here is we have really focused on DEI and our student workforce. And the reason we wanted to think about the student workforce was because 80% of our staff were students here at one point. And so if we're going to ultimately change who we're recruiting, we've got to be thinking about how do we generate a more diverse set of candidates who are going to be applying for positions? And since so many of the people who end up coming in and working here were students, we thought to start with our students. And it has really been amazing to see the transformation that you can make over a three-year period with students because students are more fluid and just being intentional about say saying, "No, we're not just going to let students make recommendations of other students to hire. We're going to be intentional in reaching out to different groups on campus to be encouraging them to give us names."
And so we go to the Center for Women in IT, or we go to the Scholar's Program, where we talk to faculty and say, "Give us recommendations of candidates where we could be helpful to having them have an experience here." And so it's been really an amazing thing that I think has helped, but your point about action, I think, is really a key thing because I hope that as we are thinking about this problem, we're all doing what you talked about, reaching back and trying to pull others into the profession. And for that to happen, we've got to be thinking about DEI. So I really congratulate you.
Keith McIntosh: Yeah. Can I say one comment there, if you don't mind?
Jack Suess: Please.
Keith McIntosh: Yeah. I love what you said. You said a word probably about five times... You didn't even know you did it, but it was intentionality. And I think that's the thing. I think if we're going to do better when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion, diversity is just being invited to the dance, and inclusion is being asked to dance while you're there. I think being intentional is where we really need to be. And to be intentional, we do strategies for a lot of things, but should we or should we not have... And I'm a proponent that we should have a strategy and targets and goals to move the needle when it comes to DEI. And there are things we can do, and I know we're probably going to talk about some specifics about something I'm doing here at the Richmond, but I want to share something that I think anybody could do at their own home institution.
When I was at Ithaca College, we had a good mix. I think we were about 60/40 men to women, and there were some dynamics that weren't really playing out well amongst the team. And so we convened a workshop for the IT organization, and we were very fortunate to reach out on campus because most campuses have a resource, like a young lady that we work with, Dr. Belisa Gonzalez, who does multicultural research. She shared and convened a committee that I put together with two men and two women to walk the IT team through what it's like to be man or woman in IT and have... And it was much deeper than what I'm describing now, but there's just something to reach out to local experts, get a group of volunteers, "Let's have discussions." And as a leader, you can say, "We're going to do this."
Jack Suess: Yes. I think, as your high highlighting, I think that we, in IT, really need to be forming tight partnerships with our student affairs organization, thinking about how we can collaborate because there are things that we can help them with, often in bringing data to the table, but there's a lot of these issues of interpersonal skills that they are very excellent in and can help us build better teams ourselves.
Keith McIntosh: Absolutely.
Cynthia Golden: I was just going to comment on what you're saying, Jack. I also think partnerships with our own diversity, equity, and inclusion offices on our campus have been, and can be, very critical because those folks are really... They're focused on helping us, and those can be good relationships to form, certainly have been for me at Pitt.
Keith McIntosh: Yeah. And I would add HR too. HR has been instrumental to me, especially in my last two institutions. When I restructured IT at Ithaca College, we put together... I didn't think about it at the time, but when we created this group, it was mainly an application's infrastructure group and it was all men, and it was probably ooh, 20, 25 men. They're now women in the group now, but the leader of the group had been a man and we went to recruit, and the first pool was not what I liked. And then I worked closely with our HR and I said, "Let's get specific about where we want to try to reach." And we were very fortunate to find a young lady who was a fantastic hire, and she did really, really well. And we're also proud to say that she had a highly-competitive salary to go along with that.
Jack Suess: So, Keith, you mentioned some of the work that you're doing at Richmond. Could you talk about some of the work that you're doing at Richmond in this space?
Keith McIntosh: Yeah. Thank you. This is something I was really excited about this question. So, as you know, I said I'm very passionate about DEI. And while I was here, I think it was in September of 2017, we had those tragic events that happened in Charlottesville. And Charlottesville is not that far from us. We have a lot of people on my staff who live there. And when that happened, as you can imagine, it was all the discussion on our campuses the following days and weeks. And I remember coming in, and my assistant, Melody Wilson, was saying that "Man, many people are talking about this, but they don't know what to do with it." And I described something to her and I said, "Well, when I was at Ithaca College, my supervisor, Gerald Hector..." Ithaca was one of those few institutions, if you remember, when the Black Lives Matter movement really was taking off, that students were protesting because of social injustices were happening on campuses.
Well, Ithaca College was one of those campuses. We actually had all the student bodies walk out one time and sit on the grass. They left all their classes from freshman to senior walk out. It was very powerful to see that. And it was actually a rainy day, never forget that, and he said that something similar was happening there on our campus. And so he convened a weekly meeting, come as you are, and we built it as we went and it grew organically. And it was something that I mentioned to Melody. And I said, "Do you think we could do something like that here?" And she said, "Sure." And since I know I have the ability to facilitate such a discussion, we started doing that. And the key for us was we picked Wednesday 12:00 to 1:00, same location, same date, same time, and we've been meeting every week since... give or take a few weeks because of holidays and vacations, things like that since late 2017. And we've discussed a lot of different discussions.
We started off as just a race and racism conversation. And for the first two or three months, I was picking topics to walk people through. I was curating information off the web, either articles or YouTube videos. And when folks came, it was good. Folks were curious, they came, but everybody was very silent and they just listened. And I said, "Man, this has got to be a dialogue. I just can't be coming to this event and speaking to folks." And that's when I introduced the books. And we were very fortunate, one of my staff, Althea, she had been to a Women in IT event in Virginia and heard a local DEI consultant named Dr. Tiffany Jana, and she had just written a book called Overcoming Bias. And so we decided to get that book because it was very short, it was very simple, and we wanted to be able to divide it into chapters and have different people facilitate the chapters, which is what we did.
And we did that for successive weeks, and then the conversation really took off because folks were probably, I think, afraid to share either their ignorance about a certain topic or their fear of how they might be received if they speak up about something that they weren't really knowledgeable about. But when you went to a text like this book, we could all just reference the book, and it allayed everybody's fears and made everybody more comfortable discussing. I was very proud that probably one of the most quietest people on our staff, who had been regularly attending, raised her hand first to be the first person to lead the first chapter, which was outstanding.
Since then, we've gone on to take on different difficult topics. We've done the MeToo movement. We read all of Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria by Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum. We read White Fragility. And we're now working through reading a book, What If I say the Wrong Thing by Vernā Myers. We've watched films, such as Crash, and then what we do when we watch a movie is I tell people to just take as many notes that you can, and then we'll have at least two weeks of the next two weeks will be talk-back sessions, where we can just unpack what was pivotalable about the movie and what did we see and what did we learn from it? Because we had read Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum's book, she had a section in there, although the title says, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria, she talked about the plight of the Native American. And even myself, I was like, "Well, you know what? I don't think I really know enough about the Native American experience in our country." So we made that a focus for this year.
And so we watched a documentary film called Dom Land that just got nominated for some awards. And it was about the first truth and reconciliation commission in the United States, which focused primarily on Native Americans in Maine. We do deep dives into topics, and we try to keep flexibility in the air, so if something pops off, we can jump on that. So for example, this year, when all the scuttlebutt went around about our governor and our lieutenant governor, we were able to stop and spend a couple weeks just talking about that. What does it mean to have had been associated with a KKK outfit or a noose? What does that mean? And then we sit here and we reside on land at the University of Richmond that was once worked by slaves. So there's a lot to unpack in the seat of the Confederacy here.
This year, we revisited Charlottesville. So I was very fortunate... Talking about relationships and you never just know, I go to a barber shop in town, very random. It was the third barbershop I chose, and I randomly picked a barber, and I've been using him ever since. And every time I come in here, I'm usually reading something and he's always asking me about it. And then I was telling him, "Hey, we're revisiting Charlottesville, and we're going to have a discussion. And I wish I can find a speaker to come in and really talk about what they thought." And he says, "Really? My aunt is the superintendent of Charlottesville schools." And so I asked him and he asked her and she said yes. And she came and gave one of the most eloquent inside looks of what it's like to be a leader in that town. And she was connected with the governor, the senator, the FBI, and having to work with parents and students. So it gave us a whole nother perspective that wasn't covered in the news.
So those type of things, plus on-campus resources have been fantastic to help us all learn and grow in our journey and was something I said to the team, and I got this from Dr. Belisa Gonzalez at Ithaca college. She says, "We have a tough time facing things that we're unsure or unaware of and uncomfortable with." And she says, "The fruit of growth happens when you go through the uncomfortable period." And her quote was "You have to get comfortable with the uncomfortable." And that's what I keep reminding myself, and that's what I keep reminding my team. I share that I love what we're doing, and we've been picked as an exemplar in our institution, but there have been folks who've come and just this was too much for them. It's not an easy thing, to be honest. I think when you start talking about all the different type of isms that we have in this world and where you were raised and how you were raised, your beliefs, your values, and then you bring it in and you bring all those mixes in, it can be tough. What I try to do is create a safe space, where people can have an open conversation, without fear of anything, and just hope that we would learn and grow. And I think a lot of learning and growth have gone on.
Now, when we first started, we just started as a division only because I knew it was very important to at least have some comfort of known people that you can have a conversation with, but I do remember at one time, that a young lady on our team was coming and members of our team were sharing things and that person would have to work with that person and their views weren't aligned. And that was the first time that person had come to grips with that, and they backed away from coming to the group to protect the relationship. I encouraged them and they came back about eight months later, and they've been a very strong contributor to the conversation.
This last year, we opened it up to the campus. And so now we have a mix of IS folks and others. And other teams are thinking about having their own conversations. We convened a panel not too long ago, because we were picked as an exemplar. And we took me and four members of my team and we basically hosted a panel. About 75 people showed up who were curious about... Because they had heard about it, but they didn't all the details. "What was this group? How did you form it? What did you do?" And so it was really good because after that, not only did we get a couple different department people come ask me "Mac, can I talk to you? How can we start this?" I most recently had a student who wants to do the same thing for the student body, and she came... although I was at a conference a week ago, she came to our group to see it in action.
So it's funny how one small step of just trying to help my team get comfortable with something and have a space to have conversations has grown to such... I didn't see that happening but has grown to a place where others are wanting to do something similar. And I think we're going to be better for it. We just need to be able to have a place where we can dialogue about our differences and realize that we have more in common than we do differences.
Cynthia Golden: That's fantastic.
Keith McIntosh: I went too long on that. I'm sorry.
Cynthia Golden: No, I'm curious, though, do you have a steering committee or a group of people helping you from within your division?
Keith McIntosh: All attendees are my steering committee. So what we do is, at the end of each and every year... So the first year... So the first from September of 2017 to Christmas, it was all Mac. Mac laid out the agenda. I just wanted people to become and not really have to think about it. All you had to think about was showing up. I would make sure that I would curate information and send it out ahead of time, so at least you could go read it or watch it and be knowledgeable about the conversation. But like I said, a lot of folks wouldn't communicate. Even with my best ability to facilitate and draw people out, people were reluctant. So when we decided to do the book, that was in combination with, "Hey, I came back over the Christmas holiday. As I said, we got to do something different when we come back in January 2018."
So, in January, I said, "We're going to spend a month of January talking about what we want to talk about," because we'd also received feedback that we were switching topics week to week to week to week. And you really can't learn and understand something... If you're going to talk about Black Lives Matter and you're only doing it one hour, you really didn't do it any justice. So we said, "Let's spend time on a theme, so we at least have four weeks." So we said, "We were going to have monthly themes." So we laid out a calendar for 2018, and we did the same thing for 2019. And then when we did that, that was a collective. So we do a collective conversation. What are the things we think we're curious about we want to know? I try to guide and shape it, but I don't put my thumb on a scale at all, because I really want to be about what others want to learn. And we also do the same thing for the films we want to watch, and we also do the same thing for the books. So we curate a list of books, my assistant puts out a voting poll, and the top vote-getter, that's what we watch. That's what we read.
Jack Suess: So, Keith, one of the things, as you described this, that it reminds me of is this past year at UMBC, we ended up having some Title IX issues come up. And that created a whole set of conversations with the LGBTQ community, and I remember we had a... Freeman, our president, had organized a bus trip for looking around the campus. We were going to have many of the students from the student group who had raised some concerns, and it was open to leaders to come. And it was in the evening, so I said, "Oh, I'll stay late and just attend this." I didn't know much about the issues that were going to be raised, but what I found out is just by being present and attending and showing I wanted to learn, the students appreciate it. Leaders were prepared to come. It went 8:00 PM to 10:30 PM, where we looked at all different parts of the campus and where some people thought we needed better lighting or how we could improve other sorts of ways so that students would feel safe. And to be leaders in a university, you have to be prepared to step into all aspects of the university discussions that are going on and show that you're interested and want to be a part of the solution. And what you're describing just seems like an incredible experience for your staff.
Keith McIntosh: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Thank you.
This episode features:
Vice President and CIO
University of Richmond
Executive Director of the University Center for Teaching and Learning
University of Pittsburgh
Vice President of IT & CIO
University of Maryland, Baltimore County