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October 21, 2019

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Looking in on: Higher Education:

Third try: Tech guru needed for overhaul

New hire would ride herd over upgrade up to $100 million

How an overhaul of college computing systems statewide would benefit students

The search for a director to oversee an overhaul of college computing services statewide will begin anew for the third time.

Since last year, the Nevada System of Higher Education has been trying to find someone to skipper the project, the cost of which could approach $100 million. Officials have conducted two nationwide searches without success.

So regents on a committee dedicated to the computing enterprise asked their staff this week to launch a third search with new parameters.

The salary for the position rises from $150,000 to $175,000. Officials have until Feb. 11 to conduct an informal search for someone to fill the job. If that hunt yields no successful candidate, staff will open another formal national search, with the option of using a headhunting firm to help find the right person.

In an e-mail explaining why the search process has been fruitless, system Executive Vice Chancellor Dan Klaich wrote, “Number one this is a very technical and difficult position and I suspect that there are not a great number of qualified persons. Number two I am being very cautious about this hire and very picky and I don’t intend to hire until I am completely confident of the person because so much is at stake here.”

The computing overhaul, called the iNtegrate project, will allow colleges to replace antiquated computing systems in student services, human resources and finance. The budget for the first phase of the project — involving only student services — is $30 million.

As Klaich explained, “We are running on legacy systems that are largely going to be phased out and so it’s kind of like I’m driving a Studebaker and the Studebaker manufacturer is going to quit servicing and providing spare parts.”

Among other responsibilities, the director will manage planning, monitor performance of companies charged with implementing the new system, and work with campus leaders to ensure the project runs smoothly.

The slow search process has irked higher education leaders including Bret Whipple, chairman of the regents’ technology committee. The system has already spent about $1 million in fees to technology and legal consultants on the project.

Though the system’s technology consultant has provided valuable information, “every time we call him up it costs more money,” Whipple said.

“It’s unfortunate, and I think it’s also a shortcoming of us that we don’t have a project manager at this point.”

As iNtegrate moves forward, he added, it will become increasingly difficult for a new director to get up to speed.

Despite regents’ frustration, the money the system has spent on consulting has been worthwhile, Klaich said. Although a project manager could have completed some of the tasks the technology consultant has been performing, the consultant “has saved us more money with his advice than we have spent on him.”

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As part of the higher education system’s plan to slash its budget by 4.5 percent as the governor has mandated, regents decided to return to the state $10 million that was slated for iNtegrate. Giving that money back should not delay the project’s progress, Klaich and Whipple said.

That’s because the system already had $15 million more to spend on the project this biennium. Even if all goes as planned, the new student services computing system will not be online at all institutions for three more years.

• • •

A yellow Labrador retriever and an officer from UNLV’s police force will help provide security at Sunday’s Super Bowl.

Bea and her handler, William Burkett, will be among the teams searching for explosives, firearms and ammunition on game day.

The two usually spend their time patrolling UNLV’s Maryland Parkway campus. They also help provide security at high-profile school events, including recent visits from presidential candidates.

Bea and Burkett have been working together for several months. They received free training last year from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. In exchange, the bureau can call on their services for major events, with the university picking up the tab for the hours they work. Any other costs for the off-campus gigs, such as the expense of travel to Glendale, Ariz., are not paid by the university.

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