The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) is a critical gateway to higher education and career success for young people across the state of Texas.
For Kendra Ketchum, UTSA Vice President for Information Management and Technology, helping students advance from classroom to career starts with an understanding of what they need and then building reliable technology services to meet those needs. Ketchum knows that to deliver a world-class student experience, you need the right people and the best technology.
Working closely with CTO and Deputy CIO, Nassos Galiopoulos, Ketchum set out on a six-year mission to transform the university’s IT function from an outage management operation into a center for innovation to make UTSA’s student services accessible to all.
Bridging the digital divide
Ketchum and Galiopoulos were determined to bring high performance and availability to UTSA’s student services, especially during peak registration periods, and to ensure that students attending remotely — including those without internet access — could enroll and stay in courses required to build their careers. UTSA was already one year into its six-year digital transformation when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, forcing the university to pivot and focus on remote access for students who could no longer attend classes in person.
“San Antonio is the gateway to the Rio Grande Valley, where many families don’t have the internet at home. COVID-19 really surfaced this digital divide, and we had a responsibility to ensure UTSA students didn’t pay the price,” says Ketchum. “In addition to enhancing our Student Information System so it would run reliably, we distributed hotspots and devices to students so they could stay connected from anywhere.”
These improvements were just a taste of the team’s passion for student success. As UTSA’s technology change agents, Ketchum and Galiopoulos presented three themes to guide the university’s IT transformation:
- To be a model for student success through infrastructure excellence and IT innovation.
- To become a world-class public research university, fueled by a culture of innovation in application development.
- To set an example for strategic growth and innovation in higher education, particularly in the fields of cybersecurity and strategic services.
Outage-free student services fueled by proactive application performance management and business observability
AppDynamics gave UTSA visibility across the school’s Ellucian Banner Student Information System (SIS), empowering IT teams to untangle a complex web of applications and make its services easily accessible to the university’s 34,000 students. SIS integrates with dozens of critical processes, including onboarding, matriculation, financial aid, recruiting, student affairs, compliance, registration, and security.
“It was a challenge to pinpoint performance issues in this enormous haystack, but with AppDynamics we have visibility into every process in our SIS and how well it’s executing in real-time,” says Galiopoulos.
What this means in practice is that teams can identify and address performance issues across UTSA’s key student services, including the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, DevOps operations, and PeopleSoft financial management solution. Application performance management is core to UTSA’s digital strategy. The ability to spot and proactively fix bad code before going live with new services or updates helps Galiopoulos’s team ensure online and mobile services run optimally and continue to improve.
Enhanced infrastructure and IT performance mean students can access the resources they need to succeed at home, on campus, or from any other location. “We mapped out ambitious performance metrics to meet the university’s key strategic goals with student success as our guiding light,” adds Ketchum. “The insights we receive with AppDynamics are the golden nuggets that help us gauge our progress and stay on track.”
Building trust through reliability
One of UTSA’s first priorities was to optimize its ERP system, which underpins essential student services such as financial aid and matriculation. With AppDynamics, the university can access a complete view of the user experience to inform its ERP enhancements, helping it build a reliable and secure system students can trust. In addition to making UTSA’s IT environment more scalable and responsive during peak usage periods, Galiopoulos’s team optimized the user experience across the student journey. Whether on a computer or mobile device, students can find any service they need with three or fewer clicks (or taps) and get a consistent experience across the board.