Earlier this month, the 12th annual CANHEIT conference took place at UPEI in Charlottetown, bringing together more than 360 higher education IT professionals from across the country for five days of networking, presentations and seafood.
Blair Vessey is the Director of Information Technology Systems and Services at UPEI, and at CANHEIT 2014, he played host.
“We are a small university, small town and small province, so we really wanted to give this conference a down-home, maritime feel, with some authentic PEI experiences and lots of humour,” Blair said. “That said, it’s all about the program, and having great keynote speakers and a well-organized venue. I couldn’t have asked for it to go any better.”
Blair added that one key component of the CANHEIT program is the inclusion of content that is relevant to a variety of PSE audiences.
“We had quite a few sessions on IT governance,” Blair said. “That shows that there is a strong desire to ensure that our member IT shops are aligned with the strategic goals of their institutions, and that the appropriate stakeholders – including administrative stakeholders – have input into the decisions that affect how our IT resources are deployed.”
Hosting 360 colleagues for five days is a huge undertaking for any university, let alone a small one. Blair says there were a number of supports in place to help him and his team along the way.
“We knew we’d be hosting three or four years in advance, but work began in earnest about 18 or 20 months ago,” he said. “We got connected with the Ottawa hosts from 2013 and started participating in their planning committee, watching over their shoulders a bit. CUCCIO’s Executive Director, Lori MacMullen, was also a huge help – she provided crucial year-to-year continuity.”
Tamara Adizes is the ITS Portfolio Communications Officer at the University of Toronto. She works in the CIO’s office and is responsible for the development and implementation of integrated communications plans for the CIO portfolio and its various divisions.
Tamara was a first-time presenter at CANHEIT 2014, where she gave the talk K.I.S.S. Your Users: Increase Service Utilization with Simple Information.
“At CANHEIT 2014, I realized that all higher education IT portfolios have a great appetite to share and collaborate with one another,” Tamara said. “Plus, I always had the impression that it was a very technical conference and that communications initiatives did not fit into its program. I was pleasantly surprised to see such a diverse program, representing the entire spectrum of higher education IT, including communications. CANHEIT provides a well-rounded experience that can be highly beneficial to anyone in higher education, even those with non-IT roles.”
For Blair, the benefits of hosting were numerous.
“First off, there’s the opportunity to show off your campus, staff and, of course, the island – that’s a major morale booster,” he said. “From a practical standpoint, we can’t afford to send all our staff to CANHEIT, so to have it here on campus was a major benefit both financially and from a networking perspective.”
Similar to Tamara’s experience, the diverse program and collaborative spirit at this year’s CANHEIT impressed Blair.
“To me, CANHEIT is the key calendar event I want to get to every year,” he said. “It’s because we have representation from across the country at all different levels, from front-line to CIOs. The content is varied, coming from people who have been there and done that. People are also very honest, and willing to say what didn’t work – which often make for the most valuable lessons.”
Click here to access the full CANHEIT 2014 program, including links to speaker presentations.