Longtime Office of Information Technology strategist Marin Stanek will become CU Boulder’s chief information officer on Jan. 1. She’ll be the first female CIO in the university’s history.
Succeeding Larry Levine, who is retiring on Dec. 31, Stanek will assume the CIO position nearly 20 years from the day she accepted her first IT job at CU Boulder.
Interim Executive Vice Chancellor and COO Patrick O’Rourke offered Stanek the job last week after she emerged as the sole finalist following an internal search launched in October.
Under Stanek’s leadership, OIT will support the rapidly evolving IT needs of about 35,000 students and 9,207 employees amid a global pandemic, plan strategically for the future, and advance the university’s academic and research missions, O’Rourke said.
“Marin is a capable and talented person with the knowledge, steady hand and people skills needed to navigate this crisis and others that may arise over the coming years,” he said. “I have full confidence in her abilities and can’t wait to see what she will achieve.
“As Marin steps into this critical leadership role, I also want to thank Larry for all of his contributions as our longtime CIO and wish him well in the future,” O’Rourke added.
Stanek has been instrumental in leading decisions for building out and supporting the campus’s IT infrastructure, programs and other services to meet the needs of students, faculty and staff since the pandemic emerged last spring.
Since 2016, she has led OIT’s day-to-day operations as deputy CIO, co-leading comprehensive services for academic technology, research computing, enterprise services, IT operations and infrastructure, and enterprise architecture.
She said she “never grew up wanting to build a computer in my garage” and considers technology “part of the fabric of a larger business process that—when executed well—can lead to better outcomes.”
Neither a coder nor engineer, she is comfortable with the nomenclature of IT—wired, wireless, VOIP, system and software engineering, cloud architecture, data centers and more—but approaches the tech world she works in more strategically.
“Strategic planning allows you to have meaningful, future-forward conversations with others,” she said. “It’s the perfect orientation—to be grounded in IT with the focus on the pulse and needs of the campus.”
A native of Colorado’s Western Slope, Stanek earned a bachelor’s degree in international political economics at Colorado College and master’s and doctoral degrees in educational leadership and policy analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Her postdoc leadership training includes a Harvard Law negotiation program that became critical as she negotiated with Zoom for additional campus licenses last spring. It helped that CU Boulder was an early adopter of the video and web-conferencing platform.
Over the years, OIT has worked hard to build strong working relationships with its vendors and key campus partners such as the Center for Teaching and Learning—strategies that have served the team well this year, Stanek acknowledged.
“This approach really helped us come together quickly to troubleshoot and support academic continuity,” she said.
As the ups and downs of spring 2020 rolled on, Stanek and OIT staff also supported the campus’s first virtual commencement, a feat that had not been pulled off in the 144-year history of Colorado’s flagship university.
The annual rite of passage played out at a “safer-at-home” distance on computer screens across the country, absent the in-person regalia, iconic Flatirons vistas, and traditional pomp and circumstance of a graduation ceremony at Folsom Field. It was a virtual reality Stanek and other campus administrators did not take for granted.
“What I found so heartening in the chaos is that everyone continued to be focused on the right thing—what we do for students,” she said.
Marin Stanek, center left, with her husband, Matt, far left, and sons Eric and Jake following a climb near Berthoud Pass on the Continental Divide during the Walk to End Alzheimer’s on Sept. 19. (Photo provided)
As the campus shifted instructional modes over the past year, IT staff had to be nimble to meet the university’s technical and academic needs, an exercise Stanek likened to the concept of “dynamic stability”—staying grounded amid constant change.
“It’s like learning to ride a bicycle. You stay balanced and centered. You trust in the bike. You know how to ride the bike. You are not freaked out about bumping down the mountain with everything changing around you. You realize that, you’ve got this. It’s a powerful analogy for what we did in the spring,” she said.
Going forward, her priorities will include supporting research competitiveness through secure IT infrastructure, better use of data, and identifying greater efficiencies to curb the proliferation of “functionally redundant technology.”
She is also looking forward to working closely with other CU campuses and the CU System administration, as technology will be a differentiator for advancing the university’s mission.
Also top of mind among her priorities is a strong desire to use technology to accelerate and support student success and enhance the overall student experience.
Creating a secure, virtual learning environment through Zoom, Canvas, Proctorio and other digital learning ecosystems is essential, but so is helping students navigate the college experience when they register for classes, order books through the bookstore, or monitor their academic progress through the Buff Portal.
She’s grateful for the leaders in OIT, Finance and Budget, Data Analytics and in other key areas who will help her achieve these goals and build on Levine’s legacy.
Stanek is focused on the future, not only from a professional perspective, but as the mother of two high school sons, Eric and Jake, one a junior and the other a senior, who are making plans to attend college.
“This whole digital space, even post-COVID, has to come across in a very seamless, elegant way for what students expect on our campus today,” she said. “We have good building blocks. We just need to knit these building blocks together to build a better outcome.”