August Miller, UVU Marketing
The phrase “digital transformation” may conjure up images of sparkling new technologies, but for Christina Baum, vice president of digital transformation and chief information officer at Utah Valley University, digital transformation is more than that.
“It’s also about the culture,” said Baum. “It’s a willingness to try new things and be adaptable. It is a strong partnership with our faculty, staff and students.”
As a mother of three and a golf, ski and music enthusiast, Baum officially took up her position as Vice President of Technology on June 1st. She and her team immersed themselves in the work and developed a mission statement and plan: “To drive UVU’s digital transformation to provide reliable, state-of-the-art solutions for our teaching, learning and work environments that are intuitive, transparent and enjoyable to use. “
“I really want UVU to be seen as a thought leader in higher education for innovation or cutting-edge technology,” Baum said. “And what we can do to break down barriers for students to make things faster, more efficient and easier for them to succeed.”
A wealth of educational and work experiences have prepared Baum to be an effective leader of UVU’s digital transformation. She majored in history with a minor in business administration at Brigham Young University with the goal of going to law school, but her schooling changed and she earned her MBA from Washington State University.
Jay Drowns, UVU Marketing
Baum never envisioned a career path in technology, but after her MBA, she started as a project manager at Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories in the Research & Development department. It was there that she realized she had a talent for technology.
“I learned a lot,” said Baum. “I remember thinking everything was numbers, letters and acronyms, and it was Greek to me, but I just dug into it and realized how much I really love technology.”
Since then, Baum has held several challenging positions, including solution manager of the database platform team at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and CIO at Ensign College, formerly LDS Business College. Each position offered her an opportunity to learn, effect change and delve deeper into the realm of technology.
While leading digital transformation at Ensign College, she landed a position as Associate Vice President of Academic and Student Digital Services at UVU. “I’ve watched UVU and admired the growth and focus on inclusion and jumped at the chance to be a part of what’s going on here,” Baum said.
As Associate Vice President, Baum worked on end-user technologies, the university website and mobile app, data warehouse, classroom technology, student computers, labs, and institutional research.
Nathaniel Edwards, UVU Marketing
Every project in the Digital Transformation department relates to UVU’s vision to be inclusive, to provide students with engaging and flexible learning opportunities and to help them reach their full potential. Students come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, but Baum believes technology can be the great leveler as UVU helps enable access for all.
“I know that in our demographic we have a variety of students from different walks of life and situations,” she said. “The more we can engage them with technology, make that experience simpler, more intuitive, more transparent, and break down barriers, the more successful they can be.”
The digital transformation team plans to hire students for internships and part-time jobs. Students become part of the “little army” that helps deliver faster and better products, while enhancing their education and representing the student voice in product development. The team also plans to establish a connection with Silicon Slopes in Lehi to offer these students – with their practical experience – good jobs after graduation.
“I can see that UVU really stands out because of the focus on technology,” said Baum. “I love our mission. I love our focus on students. I love that we have a double mission – that we can really focus on their needs.”
Other digital transformation plans include strengthening the new UVU student mobile app; Redesign of the university website to make it easier to navigate; Improving cellular coverage and network on campus; and the development of an artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot for the service desk, allowing students to find answers to their questions outside of class. Later, the goal is to have lecture notes and transcripts that students can search through a chatbot to support their studies.
Dx also plans to help faculty and staff become more efficient by replacing several paper-based and manual processes that have not kept pace with UVU’s growth. The department also plans to enhance current predictive analytics tools so counselors can quickly identify which students are at risk and help them with the click of a button.
“I have a feeling the next five years are going to be amazing,” Baum said. “We will see extraordinary technological growth that is critical to UVU. We are at a crossroads where we need to step on the gas and push this digital transformation even harder than we have already done.”
For more information, see Digital Transformation on the UVU website.