By Stephen Neukam
Since Douglas McCrea began his job as the associate vice president for information technology and chief information officer at Rider University on Sept. 3, he has embraced his role on the campus and predicted a “transformative change” in the university’s technology infrastructure.
McCrea, who worked at Rutgers University for 19 years prior to his move to Lawrenceville, accepted the role at Rider as it was elevated to a position in the president’s cabinet.
McCrea said that his job was to oversee the Office of Information Technology (OIT), but more importantly, to connect the office’s operations with the rest of the university community.
“IT is about people,” said McCrea. “It is really getting everyone on the same page and there is a lot of pieces to that.”
McCrea said he embraced the challenge of getting people on board for technological change and advancement. Rider’s smaller campus and community, when compared to his experience at Rutgers, is an advantage, according to McCrea.
“[In my job interviews] there was almost some sort of apology like, ‘Oh, I know it’s not as big as Rutgers,’” said McCrea. “I said, you know, that is actually a really good thing. We have the ability to move much more quickly on things.”
“Rider can experience transformative change like Rutgers could never experience because Rutgers is 65,000 students. To move that type of institution, and I have done it over the years there, it can take decades.”
McCrea said that one element of his new job he was unfamiliar with was connecting with the classroom but said he looked forward to the challenge.
There were two issues that McCrea wanted to first address at Rider. One is a two-year project to fix structural issues in OIT, which would include changing the way individuals log into computers in classrooms. The other is increased engagement with the academic side of the university. He stressed that the school needed to further adopt technology in the classroom.
“Rider really needs to embrace newer technology, such as robotics, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, computer science — those are areas that are just starting up at the university, or about to start, and those are areas where I am going to engage heavily.”
The transition of Westminster Choir College to the Lawrenceville campus in September 2020 is also something McCrea has worked on, saying he wanted to make it “as comfortable and easy as possible for the people coming over from [Princeton].” The work includes a lot of construction projects, according to McCrea.
Given the university’s investments into infrastructure and technology, including the fact that his position was raised to the cabinet, McCrea admitted that there were expectations for his performance but said he felt no pressure from the administration to “do it now.”
“I think they understand that there is a lot to do,” said McCrea. “I have been in environments where things have been pressure-filled. In this case, everyone is saying, ‘Hey, we know you’ve got a big task ahead of you, we know things are going to change, we know we need you to do these things,’ and it has been more accepted that not everything is going to get done all at once.”
McCrea reflected on the pride he has felt in the Rider community in his first months in this position.
“People really care about what they are doing and they feel it very strongly. They don’t just feel like they are a tiny cog in a big machine. People feel like they can make an impact and I feel that from people at Rider,” McCrea said. “That is exciting. That is an advantage.”