Author: Tina Wadhwa
Sharon Pitt serves as Vice President for Information Technologies and Chief Information Officer (CIO) at the University of Delaware. As UD’s CIO, she advances the University’s educational, research, and economic missions by delivering innovative, efficient, and integrated information technology services to students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, and other constituencies.
At Virginia Tech, she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and a Master’s degree in Architecture. Before joining the University of Delaware as CIO, Pitt served as Associate Vice President for Information Technology and CIO at Binghamton University.
When asked about how her interests moved through economics and architecture to technology, Pitt said, “I always wanted to follow my passion, and do things I really enjoyed.”
As an undergraduate student, she started as a math major, then switched to communications but, finally, decided on economics, a love of hers. In her last semester as an undergraduate, she took a history class in which she completed a project on the bridges of Washington Roebling, the man who oversaw construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. “Learning about the aspects of the structure and forces utilized in building these bridges, fascinated me. I got really interested in architecture as a result,” Pitt said.
“Towards the end of my architectural studies at Virginia Tech, it became evident that technology was something really important. In architecture, computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) software and computational tools to understand forces and loads on different parts of a structure have helped architects, civil engineers, and builders make important design and construction decisions. Learning about and using those technologies inspired me to start working in the Educational Technologies Division at Virginia Tech.”
“No wonder. My dad was a telecommunications engineer, and maybe I should have been in technology all along,” she added.
Pitt is known for finding innovative ways that universities can collaborate on technology initiatives.
Before joining Binghamton University, she served as the executive director of George Mason University’s Division of Instructional Technology. In 2009, Pitt and her staff received the Virginia Governor’s Technology Award for Innovative Use of Technology in Higher Education for the implementation of a Virtual Computing Lab (VCL). At the time, she said that “What we’ve done is create a new computing environment. Anyone can access software such as Adobe Creative Suite, AutoCAD, Mathematica or GIS from their home, residence hall or local coffee shop any time of the day or night. The idea is that it will no longer be necessary to come to campus during lab hours to use these applications.” (George Mason University press release, Nov. 2, 2009.)
Under Pitt’s guidance, several Virginia universities collaborated to use code developed at North Carolina State University, to implement the VCL, hosted at Mason. “The inspiration behind the VCL was to find a way that we could put expensive software in the hands of our universities’ students,” she said.
Students and faculty at the different schools could now register to use a variety of applications over a common web interface. Licensing fees were reduced because the cost was shared by the participating universities.
Ms. Pitt is enthusiastic about using modern communication tools to improve UD IT’s transparency, both within IT and across the campus.
“She was the only finalist for the job of UD CIO who followed the @ITatUD twitter feed [UD IT’s twitter feed]! During a recent meeting with IT staff from different UD colleges and departments, she even live-tweeted the content,” said Richard Gordon, the manager of IT Communication Group at UD.
“Sharon is working hard to improve communication within the IT department by making sure that all 160+ central IT staff members have access to minutes from senior staff meetings. And she has established her primary office in Smith Hall, which makes her more accessible to a larger share of the campus, enabling her to get a feel for the University community very quickly”, Gordon continued.
Pitt’s advice for students is that they should always follow their hearts. “If you are not passionate about what you are doing, what’s the point? Have an excellent work-life balance and don’t drain yourself by work,” she said.
She has discovered that studying and working in different disciplines has helped her career, leading her to say that no one should ever hesitate to add new certifications or degrees whenever one feels like it and that one should not consider aging a barrier to achievement. “My mother went back to get a college degree in her 30s,” she said. “Completing new certifications and coursework in areas you are interested in can change your career path for the better.”