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Meet Chris Kielt: NMSU’s interim Chief Information Officer

Release Date: 29 Jun 2021
Meet Chris Kielt: NMSU’s interim Chief Information Officer

As Norma Grijalva, NMSU’s Chief Information officer retires after 34 years at NMSU, Chris Kielt has been meeting with her and members of her team in June to ensure a smooth transition as he steps into his role as the interim CIO. Kielt will work with NMSU leadership and ICT managers to continue the high-quality technology services that the NMSU community has come to expect as the university begins its search for a permanent CIO in the fall.

Kielt has held a variety of administrative positions during his 34 years serving higher education. He began his higher education career at Yale, managing technology at the School of Management, and spent the next 23 years filling a variety of administrative leadership role while working in New Haven. His career took him back to his birthplace on Long Island where he served as CIO at Stony Brook University before being appointed the Vice Chancellor for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. There he oversaw a staff of 400 and a budget in excess of $80 million. Chris moved on to Washington University in St. Louis where he supported efforts to improve IT service and governance and more recently served as the interim chief information officer at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania during its search for a permanent CIO.

He shared his thoughts about the road ahead for NMSU’s Information, Communication and Technology Services:

What is your role as the interim CIO?

Whenever I come into this sort of role, I’m looking to get a strong sense of the capacity of the organization to take on technology initiatives and execute capably to support the needs of the university. For me the key is obtaining the necessary situational awareness so I can help guide leadership and the organization to both work through the projects in play and identify opportunities to improve technology services that the university depends on. During the pandemic, the importance of technology was never more important or demonstrated, and I think appreciated by our communities. We want to make sure we build on that strength as we look for new innovations and that we have an institutional mindset to select the right things to be done at the right time. We will need to continue to allocate the right funds to existing projects going forward so they are adequately resourced to provide successful outcomes.

What are your goals over the next few months?

One of the things I hope to do is continue the strong work of the retiring CIO and sustain the organizational capacity to deliver needed capabilities. I’d like to improve the teamwork among ICT and other technology professionals and functional partners, academic support, administration and schools and how they work together to produce strong outcomes -- making sure these bonds are capably producing good results. I also hope to continue to make improvements in robustness of the systems we use, and that includes everything from cyber security to software that people use day in and day out like Office 365. I expect we will continue to look to cloud technology as a first option when identifying new work, and leverage our staff’s tremendous expertise to help us in those transitions.  

What cyber security efforts are underway now and moving forward to protect the university against attack?

Two-factor authentication is standard use in commercial and higher ed settings. It is in wide scale use by vendors like Amazon, Google and the banking industry. It’s critically important that the NMSU community recognize that adopting 2-factor authentication is essential for us to reduce the number of compromised accounts. Compromised accounts can result in all sorts of issues, not the least of which are hundreds of hours spent in identifying, reaching out to users, correcting and remediating the potential impact of an account being used for underhanded purposes. Not only is 2-factor authentication a good security practice but it saves money because it allows us to continue to work on necessary services for our community and not waste the time and resources on unnecessarily remediating accounts. Our efforts so far have been very productive and if I could suggest anything to the NMSU community it would be to embrace it and heed the emails of retiring chief information security officer John Roberts and listen to requests in the future of the interim chief information security officer Carlos Lobato. The sooner we are able to fully execute 2-factor authentication, the better the opportunity we have to ensure we see fewer compromised accounts, are less susceptible to phishing attacks and not spending valuable resources that are needed elsewhere.

What else would you like members of the NMSU community to know?

NMSU has a strong foundation of software and services and we expect to continue to use them and to build on them. I’m very honored to have been selected to be in the position and looking forward to working with all the members of the NMSU community including Vice Chancellor Ruth Johnston and the ICT Futures Team to understand strengths and to recognize opportunities, to see and work toward improvements and to learn and listen to our community regarding their technology needs and interests. I welcome feedback and encourage members of the NMSU community to contact me at cio@nmsu.edu.

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