Seminars on Academic Computing Honored with EDUCAUSE Leadership Award

October 1, 2009

The EDUCAUSE Leadership Award acknowledges and celebrates leadership from those whose work has had significant positive impact on the contributions of information technology to higher education. This year, EDUCAUSE recognizes the Seminars on Academic Computing (SAC), an event held annually from 1970 through 2007, that was defined by extensive mentoring and cultivation of a generation of leaders across our profession. SAC was more than an event, it was an experience that fostered dialogue around shared knowledge and developed a community of practitioners who today serve and advance information technology within higher education. 

In 1968, the National Science Foundation (NSF) concluded that most of its directors were recruited from the ranks of faculty and that few of them had much, if any, administrative or management experience. NSF subsequently sent a mailing to selected individuals suggesting that directors of academic computing needed a training seminar. Although a formal program did not ensue, three individuals decided to initiate a program on a self-supporting basis: Bob Gillespie, then a member of the University of Washington Computer Science Department and director of the Academic Computing Center; Rex Krueger, director of computing at the University of Colorado; and the late Clair Maple, professor of mathematics and director of the Computation Center at Iowa State University. Bob, Rex, and Clair assembled a list of invitees and drafted a program. Forty-three academic computing professionals attended the first seminar held in 1970 in Snowmass, Colorado. The keynote was "The Computing Center Budget--Let's Hope Its Growth Is Benign," and the remainder of the program was devoted to open conversation around the challenges facing academic computing. 

Early on, SAC established itself as the place for those involved in academic computing to meet and discuss common issues. SAC evolved well beyond the technologies of computing and communications to deal with all aspects of the computing center director's leadership role in the management, administration, fund-raising, planning, application development, and other matters pertaining to the use of technology in supporting education and research. 

Most importantly, SAC was not about attending a seminar and being talked to but about participatory dialogue--sitting under the tent in Snowmass talking and listening to others in a collection of informal discussion groups centered on common challenges, with ample time for reflecting on and translating what was shared into one's own practice. As the profession matured, SAC responded by offering an executive leadership program to parallel the one for new directors. A governing board was formed to guide strategic directions, and faculty were appointed to facilitate leadership programs. The core value of mentorship through community dialogue remained as hundreds of professionals attended SAC over a 35-year period. The Seminars on Academic Computing is honored as a model for mentoring and cultivating a generation of leaders across our profession. 

With this Leadership Award, we celebrate both an experience and the community of leaders who created it and whom it served. This award is an important recognition of the remarkable way that an experience and a community have been able to advance leadership in the profession. 

This award is sponsored by SunGard Higher Education, An EDUCAUSE Platinum Partner.