Monday, July 18, 2011

Georgia Bound

I have accepted a position at the University of Georgia, starting September 15, 2011, as their new chief information officer. The release from the University of Georgia went out this afternoon, and the following are highlights:

“Dr. Chester’s strong background is a great match with what we were looking for in a candidate for this position,” said Jere Morehead, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, to whom Chester will report. “He has demonstrated that he has the ability to develop and implement plans for future information technologies and to work well with faculty, administration, students and staff.”

As UGA’s chief information officer, Chester will be responsible for leadership and management of the university’s information technology strategies and programs, and will direct UGA’s Enterprise Information Technology Services unit. He will be responsible for the development and implementation of several ongoing and planned major IT initiatives in the areas of student information and financial aid systems, learning technologies management, financial and administrative systems, and research computing.

“Information technology development and support are key to the successful operation and advancement of a leading research university,” said President Michael F. Adams.  “With the coming institution of a new Student Information System, the CIO is a particularly critical leadership position at UGA.  We are pleased to welcome Timothy Chester to the team. His extensive experience in similar positions at Pepperdine and at Texas A&M will be a valuable addition to our UGA information technology efforts.”

The decision to leave Pepperdine was painfully difficult, as we have done some very significant work there and the future in regards to the effective use of information and technology is very bright. I sent the following out to my staff at Pepperdine this morning:

Colleagues, I am writing to you today, with difficulty, to inform you that I will be departing Pepperdine University in September to take up a position at the University of Georgia.

When both Gail and I first came to Pepperdine almost five years ago, it was always with the aspiration that at some point we would return to the south. The loss of Gail’s father, and the fact that both our remaining parents are now aging, have made us recognize that the time to return closer to home was probably nearer than we had once anticipated.

Earlier this year, I was approached by the University of Georgia regarding their need for a new Chief Information Officer. Through a series of conversations over the past three months, it has become clear that their needs and my background and approaches to IT were a very strong match. Given this match and the fact that UGA closely fits my family’s long-term aspirations, and that UGA is less than a day’s drive to our parents’ homes, it has become obvious over this past week that this is an opportunity that we cannot let slip away. 

It is incredibly difficult to leave Pepperdine. I had always thought that if this happened, it would be perhaps in four or five years. About four weeks ago, I sat with the provost and president of UGA and told them both that if I left Pepperdine, I would be leaving the best group of direct reports, and indeed, one of the best IT organizations, that I have ever been associated with, and that it would be very difficult to contemplate leaving. It is truly very difficult, but I have no doubt that under the present leadership you will continue each and every day on your present trajectory of making information much more than just a transactional service. Two weeks ago, I sat down with your leadership council and reviewed the fruits of their strategic planning efforts from this past semester, and the path ahead of you has been set by their recommendations. As I prepare for my departure, I will be working with Jonathan See and others to ensure that everything is in order and that your path ahead will be smooth and clear.

The last day at Pepperdine for both Gail and myself will be Tuesday September 13, 2011. Between now and that date, I look forward to continuing to work with you to make a great institution better.

The next eight weeks will be very, very busy. Home to sell in California, housing to locate in Georgia, jobs to wrap up at Pepperdine, responsibilities to transition to at UGA. I may not be blogging much, but will continue to do so as I think about the transition and how the IT organization at UGA can best take advantage of the very real opportunities it has in front of it. More to come.