“See a need, fill the need.” This axiom has fueled the entrepreneurial spirit across the country for generations now, no doubt inspiring many ideas whose time had finally come and disqualifying many whose hadn’t. To be sure, Lehman College had a website, but the consensus among the school’s administrators was that something was lacking. “We had information for students about their schedule, about their grades, about other related information,” explains Ron Bergmann, the campus CIO and vice president of information technology, “and the students liked it, but it was clearly not enough. And it wasn’t visually beautiful.”
Driven by a mandate from Lehman’s new president, Dr. José Luis Cruz, to make information available to their students that is actionable, contextual, personalized and relevant, Bergmann and his team — including Deira Pereyra, the school’s director of IT applications services — set out on the bold mission to fill the need. The result is Lehman 360, an online platform that delivers data from multiple systems within the campus network into a single location, available to students, faculty and administrators. The data is conveniently accessible on mobile devices, designed with student input and, by all accounts, visually beautiful, as well.
“It’s a system that not only unifies this vital information that previously existed in separate locations,” says Pereyra, “but it knows each student, who they are, their major, their GPA, whether there’s a scholarship available to them, if there’s an internship opportunity that’s appropriate to their academic journey and their status on class waitlists. It can send them targeted information, automated personalized information, ‘nudges’…” And all of this critical data that is available to the student is placed by Lehman 360 into a contextual look and feel that’s relevant to their experience.
As a public university, Lehman operates without the massive endowments of so many private universities, so Lehman 360 was fully developed in-house largely because of cost constraints. According to Bergmann, there was nothing in the marketplace that met the many requirements established for their potential new platform, so the decision was made to develop a solution internally.
“The ecosystem that’s out there doesn’t allow for the kinds of capabilities that we have in Lehman 360 for this kind of personalized, contextual and (application programming interface) API-driven approach to managing data in a personalized way,” he says. An invaluable element in the development process was listening to Lehman students, understanding their needs, and, knowing what the experience of dealing with school-related business online had been before, to provide a solution using more contemporary tools.
“Part of what we wanted to do — and, in our communication with students, what they were looking for — is holistic information all in one place,” explains Bergmann. “Most of our students live in the region. They are working. They may be parents. College is part of their lives, but it’s not their entire lives. So we feel that it’s our obligation to empower them to success by providing the support services that they need in a manner that makes the student experience as seamless as possible.”
For their efforts, Bergmann and his team have not only earned the satisfaction of knowing that their platform has “seen the need and met the need,” but they’ve also transformed a campus experience that was not nearly satisfying to the students, converting what was once a weakness into an overwhelming strength. Additionally, Lehman 360 was named the winner of CUNY’s IT Collaboration Award at the 2017 CUNY IT Conference, a distinction that Bergmann is pleased to share with his team.
“There are many people who are doing more modern things with artificial intelligence and machine learning,” he says, “but I think that what we’ve created is a new capability that has leveraged more modern tools than those we saw in the marketplace. Lehman 360 was built after a lot of planning and relatively quickly, too, and it has the capability to evolve and grow as we have access to other systems. It will, hopefully, serve the school for years to come.”
Interested in a peek at Lehman's preview of Lehman 360? View it here: lehman.edu/itr/lehman-360.php