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New CIO Takes the Driver Seat on Information Superhighway

By Rori Francis Blakeney

Stephen Watson ‘86, newly hired associate vice president for Information Services, Instructional and Information Technology and chief information officer, is guiding Morehouse’s journey on the information superhighway byte by byte. A 1987 computer science and mathematics graduate, Watson remembers the days when VT52 and T100 where the standard computers on campus.

“We used greenbar paper and punch cards,”Watson said. “Accuracy was important because if you messed up one line, you would have to start again. We would work until midnight getting a project done or supporting a student. A lot has changed.”

Fast-forward 16 years and Watson is back on campus where laptops, Dells and Macs allow faculty, staff and students to complete tasks at a much faster clip. With wireless systems, the Internet, Intranet and state-of-the-art technology, Watson is driving a much more sophisticated technological program.

“We are not as behind as most people think we are — a lot of companies are in the same position,” he said. “Our network technology is pretty current, the fibers need to be refreshed in some areas and our servers are three to five years old.”

Most companies’ servers are replaced every two to three years.

Watson, a self-described systems architect, says he is in the process of building a solid foundation on the existing infrastructure. This plan will include standardizing what the College uses in terms of hardware and software. Since coming on board in November, Watson has noticed that there are several computer and e-mail systems being used around campus.

In addition, he is working with Diane Alexander, director of Information Services; Matt Laney, director of Network and Technical Support, and Richard Winstead, director of Instructional Technology, to access the needs of students, faculty and staff. Watson is more than capable of leading this skilled team, said Karen Miller, vice president for Administrative Services and General Counsel.

“Watson brings extensive experience in infrastructure management and system administration. He will provide leadership as we reunite Information Technology and Information Services,” said Miller.

Watson’s path is sprinkled with mentors who helped him hone his management skills. First was his father Wilbur Watson, a retired Morehouse College sociology professor and gerontologist. Then as a student, he was steered by people like history professor Marcellus Barksdale and Henry Gore, former chairman of the Mathematics Department.

“Dr. Barksdale taught me that you need to understand the why—know the facts. This is the same principle you use in technology. You must understand the why.”

He remembers Gore capturing his attention by saying: “A function is a function. And if you don’t function you will be left out.”

While in positions at GE Aircraft Engines, Northrop Grumman and AOL/Time Warner, he harnessed his skills and energies. During these stops he did everything from building systems, re-engineering the production of military machine parts and circuit boards to developing a corporate learning strategy and an e-learning system to train 12,000 personnel for Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.

“Technology is all over; it is about understanding the pieces. My goal is to balance technology and the environment.”

For Watson, job one is to get his team together and focus on the customer.

“Technology is a tool, but the people—students, faculty and staff—are the focus,” he said.

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