UMBC’s Jack Suess and instructional tech team earn national awards for leadership, innovation

Jack Suess, vice president for information technology at UMBC, has received a 2021 Capital CEO of the Year ORBIE Award. Suess ‘81, mathematics, M.S. ‘94, information systems, has been part of the UMBC community for more than 40 years. As a university leader, he has spearheaded transformative technology initiatives. His work includes advancing the use of technology in courses, operational systems, and student success initiatives in ways that have fundamentally reshaped the UMBC experience for all community members.

“What makes this award special is that it truly recognizes the work of our entire Division of Information Technology (DoIT),” Suess says. “Our team’s work, particularly in helping the university quickly shift to remote learning last year, due to COVID, reflects a spirit of empathy and collaboration. This spirit has made IT true partners in the university’s success, not just technology experts.”

“I won this award as the leader of the division, but really this is an award that belongs to everyone in DoIT,” he shares.

Innovative solutions advance opportunities 

Under Suess’s leadership, UMBC’s Division of Information Technology has developed innovative solutions to a very broad range of technology needs. The COVID-19 pandemic in particular significantly changed how faculty, staff, and students utilized and relied on technology to teach, work, and learn. 

Jack Suess, right, at the 2021 Fall Opening Meeting.

“Our leadership relied on robust data Suess’s team had collected to provide the information and insights needed to safely reopen the campus for research and in-person learning opportunities,” says UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski. “Without his forethought and his team’s commitment and creativity, we could not have provided the level of education, innovation, and critical research for which UMBC is known.”

In 2020, Suess received the EDUCAUSE Leadership Award for his success as a leader in the field and for advancing UMBC’s reputation as leader in higher education.

Honoring a transformative online teaching initiative

DoIT’s instructional technology team recently received an award specifically recognizing this essential, innovative work during the transition to remote learning. The Online Learning Consortium (OLC) is honoring the team with an Effective Practice Award for the UMBC’s Planning Instructional Variety for Online Teaching (PIVOT) program. 

Victor Adebanjo ’23, mechanical engineering, was a student worker in the Division of Information Technology during the pandemic.

The PIVOT program was developed last year in collaboration with faculty across all three colleges and UMBC’s Faculty Development Center to help faculty provide students with engaging online courses. The program guided faculty through the elements of course design for the virtual space, as well as how to teach effectively online. Faculty who participated in PIVOT also connected with peer mentors who provided insight into pedagogy and the technology used.

The OLC is recognizing the DoIT instructional technology team for developing digital educational tools that elevated UMBC’s efforts to continue to offer exceptional courses to students throughout the remote learning period of the pandemic. The Consortium evaluated UMBC’s PIVOT program against its five pillars of quality in digital education, and sought out peer reviews. They found that the PIVOT program was strong in all five areas: learning effectiveness, scale, access, faculty satisfaction, and student satisfaction. More than 70% of UMBC faculty utilized the program, and it received positive feedback from the participants.

Mariann Hawken, acting director of instructional technology, led PIVOT program development and will accept the award at the OLC Accelerate conference in October. 

Banner image: Jack Suess, right, and a few of his colleagues. All photos by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC.