Chancellor restructures administration, with increased focus on external relations and IT

By Cameron Ford

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In the wake of the departure of former Executive Vice Chancellor Tom Milligan, the University of Massachusetts is restructuring its administration to focus more on external relations and information technology.

According to Chancellor Robert Holub, Milligan had been an instrumental figure in the external relations department.

“When I came here, I hired somebody named Tom Milligan to do University Relations for the campus,” said Holub during an interview. “And he put together a staff and put together an office of University Relations in which [they] focused on the kinds of messages we wanted to get out and the kind of marketing we wanted to do and the kind of branding that we wanted to do. And I think that was very successful.”

External relations is key to many important functions for UMass, such as drawing in out-of-state students, building a better and broader reputation, and developing partnerships with high schools and other institutes of higher learning.

However, Milligan left UMass over the summer to take up a position as vice president for external relations at Colorado State University. Holub attributes Milligan’s departure to family matters.

“This was due to personal family things,” said Holub. “He actually came from Colorado…and his wife’s family is from Colorado and it was basically a move back to family he has out there.”

Now, with Milligan gone, a shifting of duties and positions is taking place in the UMass administration to fill the gaps left by Milligan.

For one, Chief Information Officer (CIO) John Dubach, who served as Holub’s CIO and special assistant in addition to covering several administrative duties, will now focus on his lead information role.

Dubach said of the administrative restructuring that he was glad to be focusing more on his work with the Office of Information Technologies (OIT).

“I have felt for some time concern that I was not able to give the IT side sufficient attention; though I have to say that the excellent performance of the Associate CIO and the Directors in OIT and of CESD have allowed me to ease that concern, so I am looking forward to devoting more time to that mix of my duties,” said Dubach.

“I also look forward to continuing to serve the Chancellor’s Office in what I will continue to do there,” he added.

Dubach’s current duties as CIO include overseeing OIT and the Center for Educational Software Development (CESD), as well as providing further oversight for IT policies and security, coordinating other IT operations, and, according to Holub, will also be handling the budget for his office.

Dubach also said he had some objectives for OIT he would like to see achieved now that he can devote more time to these duties.

“There are many infrastructure, policy, security, etc. activities and needs that are ongoing issues for a CIO,” he said. “But if I were to identify one initiative that I would hope to concentrate on in the coming year, it would be in the area of academic infrastructure [and] instructional technology.” 

“Specifically, we have hopes to build a modern academic classroom building sometime soon; planning for the technology to be included in that building will be critical to its success,” continued Dubach, “More generally, working on increasing the availability of IT for faculty to use in instruction.”

To replace Milligan’s position, Chancellor Holub has hired former colleague Todd Diacon, an administrator and historian at the University of Tennessee – Knoxville.

“[Diacon] is someone who knows a lot about academic administration, he’s someone who will investigate the best practices in the country and try to figure out how that fits in at this institution,” said Holub.

According to Holub, he and Diacon became acquainted during Holub’s time serving as provost at Tennessee, when he hired Diacon to serve as his vice provost.     

During a Thursday morning interview, Diacon said he is enjoying his time at UMass so far.

“I just think it’s a great place,” he said. “There’s just such a vibrant energy at the University. It seems on the cutting edge of so many things, both in terms of student success and in terms of research. I’m just very impressed by the vibrancy of the university.”

“As deputy chancellor, one of my jobs is to guide university relations with the town of Amherst and the region,” he went on. “And to some extent that also involves relations at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the state as a whole. I’m in charge of a community college initiative that we’re launching to increase the transfer of community college graduates to UMass Amherst.”

Diacon certainly didn’t take up this position empty-handed. When asked about objectives or goals he has in mind, he said that he wants to boost the University’s academic reputation.

“Outside of New England, the University of Massachusetts has a terrific reputation,” he said. “So if you’re in the South, if you’re in the state of Tennessee as I was, UMass Amherst has a fantastic reputation. And I want that reputation that’s out there nationally to be recognized regionally.”

Cameron Ford can be reached at [email protected]