Episode 008 – Ben Beachy – CIO Florida Polytechnic University

Anyone who has driven between Orlando and Tampa has likely noticed that “futuristic building” near Lakeland and asked “What is that?”. It’s Florida Polytechnic University‘s Innovation, Science and Technology (IST) Building, and I was fortunate to grab a conversation with Ben Beachy, Chief Information Officer of the 5-year-old institution. Ben has been with the University since 2018, and has taken on the challenge of connecting the faculty and students in a uniquely innovative environment.

Ben talks me through his perspective on technology as part of the learning process. Creating a balance of the technology tangibles with those intangibles of how students use, apply and make a difference with those technologies. We both agree that the transition from this is evolutionary, but Ben would be interested to see a comparison between students using paper-based books and the University’s fully digital library, and it’s ubiquitous bring-your-own-device policy, and how over time the newer model affects learning. Florida Poly is, under Beachy’s direction, piloting a wider reaching access for students both on and off campus while maintaining the proper security and robustness for the networks involved. He talks about how the University’s Information infrastructure has similarities to health care, finance and business institutions, along with the education space, and how there are different rules, regulations and procedures in context to them all.

As the University grows, while developing enough server power and cloud-based Enterprise Resource Planning systems to meet the demands of students and faculty alike, one of Ben’s unexpected focus points is, believe it or not, the challenge of making sure adequate conduit runs are planned into the construction designs to allow for future needs while adhering to the budget constraints of Florida’s public University system. He understands that while wireless technologies are becoming more and more important to student daily life, the hard-wired infrastructure.  Another part of the pilot program involves application streaming solutions such as AutoCAD and Adobe Suite programs, requiring internet connectivity bandwidth the single most important resource from an IT perspective. Ben sees the Internet of Things and the connection to data collection as a bridge to improve academic productivity and student life in ways that are positive and transparent, ultimately supporting student success.

Connecting with the business community is an important part of the University’s mandate, and Beachy is looking for more opportunities to grow and foster relationships with local and regional industries. The research institutions being grown at Florida Poly make the transition between academic and commercial research more seamless and productive.  The student population serves a as a huge potential resource for University’s success, notably from the Data Analytics program. Beachy would be interested having the students and faculty work together to collect the myriads of data available regarding campus life, create programs which can use it to improve techniques for developing and improving both curriculum and the student experience.