When Zink describes the University of Nevada, Reno’s (UNR) Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, his excitement is contagious. The $105 million facility, a massive 200,000 square feet in total, was the culmination of Zink’s time as the vice president of information technology and the dean of university libraries, a position he had served in since 1993. Before this he served as the director of public services for UNR from 1980-1992.
“Eventually I was in charge of almost everything digital, including all of the academic and administrative computing, the networking, libraries, public broadcasting, instructional technology - the true combined digital initiative,” says Zink.
This focus on digital is what led the university to consider building a new library and what would become the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center. Zink, who says part of the reason he never took a job at another institution was because of the quality of his peers at Nevada, cites willing participants in leadership and collaboration of incredible and creative people as the reason the project was successful.
The Center is a monument to digital and evolving technologies. It was built so that all of the books in the library could be placed in robotic retrieval and the first floor features new media technology, which Zink believes will permeate up through the rest of the facility eventually. “It’s a stunning, incredible building and it has changed the face of the campus,” says Zink. “It is so in tune with modern students, the digital natives who are coming to campus.”
After the completion of the Center, Zink was selected to be vice chancellor for information technology for the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE), a position he says is quite different because it focuses on strategic thinking about technology for the system as a whole, which includes all public institutions of higher education in the state.
When he arrived, NSHE was just completing the implementation of a student information system. Zink focused on an extensive business process reengineering project for the system to standardize processes and combine efforts to reduce duplication of effort prior to the selection and implementation of new statewide HR and financial systems.
“Nevada had tremendous growth before the recession, but during the recession there were some huge cutbacks,” says Zink. “The opportunity to do business process review is tremendous. If we can combine processes, it releases more money for students and the mission of education and research.”
Zink says his biggest piece of advice for education leaders - though it may be cliche - is to hire better people than you already have and hire people that are smarter than you. “A lot of people are threatened by that, but if you do that, you will not come up short.”