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Bill Young – Butler Community College

He hears and acts on the need to empower students

Always better to listen than to talk. So emphasizes Bill Young as he oversees infotech with a staff of 33 at Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kansas. How they had their ears to the ground three years ago as COVID-19 shook up campus life here as well as most everywhere.

“For so many of our students, their only access to technology was when they came to campus,” Young tells Toggle in January. “None of us really comprehended the extent of their limitations. But a couple of my staffers told me about it after hearing it from the students.”

There being around 800 laptops that would go unused with most campus operations shut down, it took Young’s technicians just three hyper-caffeinated days and nights to reimage each and create a database so every student could plug in to curriculum and other activities.

“I don’t think some of my staffers even went home during those 72 hours,” he says. “The times I was there, I saw some of them crash on a couch for a few hours as they worked in shifts. Our completion and success rate ticked up that semester. Maybe not by a ton, but it still was something to be proud of as other institutions saw a decline.”

Soon Young was being applauded by the college president and fielding calls from other Kansas institutions that hadn’t fared so well. As always, he was glad to share his department’s ideas, giving due credit to his hires.

It was all part of his responsibilities as Butler’s chief information officer and vice president of digital transformation. As he says, the IT department’s primary job is empowering around 8,000 students and 1,200 staffers to succeed while aided by 35,000 devices. All the better that it also provides resources to the tens of thousands of alumni, which include Young.

Adobe on A-list

The international tragedy and turmoil of COVID-19 notwithstanding, Young stresses there’s got to be a positive takeaway.

For instance, fashioning Butler into an Adobe Creative Campus had been on Young’s to-do list, and the pandemic intensified the pressure he felt to ramp up the effort. Digital literacy had become more necessity than goal, he explains, and Butler couldn’t be left behind.

At the height of COVID-19, his department assembled the means to access the Adobe Creative Cloud, which provides staff and students with applications and services for graphic design, video editing, web development, photography and what-not. Assets like a podcasting studio, campus-wide Wi-Fi and an e-sports lounge enhance Butler’s recruitment tools and showcase its embrace of the digital age.

Butler also joins a network of 50 or so colleges and universities designated as Adobe Creative Campuses, all sharing content and collaborating about best practices. For faculty members, benefits include live support and mentoring through the so-called Adobe Faculty. For students, it’s an opportunity to partake in Adobe Creative Jams and other events to network and build skills.

“It’s one of our many differentiators,” Young says. “COVID forced us to figure out the maximum capabilities of our systems.”

Communications enhanced

Some of the initiatives weren’t that dramatic, just overdue. The old phone system, for instance, was mothballed in favor of Microsoft Teams. Partnerships have expanded with Sharepoint and Office 365, further enhancing communications.

Working with the deans and faculty, the IT department built more than 50 hybrid-flex classrooms, too, which are used for remote and in-class learning.

Then there’s the growing need for data security, which Young says has been enhanced with firewalls and mentoring of staff. While he can’t go into detail, he acknowledges the mileage that “bad actors” could get out of a student or household’s sensitive data and how cybersecurity won’t rest.

“Our biggest challenge—and opportunity—is working toward a cybersecurity environment while not hindering academic freedom and allowing students to pursue information and excellence,” he says.

Though he says much ground has been made on all IT fronts, Young reminds that a campus is essentially a living institution and there’s always more to do in the wired world where he’s worked for nearly 20 years. Everything’s going tech, he muses, including auto maintenance that’s become as much about computer diagnostics as it is about turning a wrench.

Butler got his start at the college from 1996 to 1997. From there, he proceeded to Wichita State University where he earned a degree in business administration and management. Always tech-inclined, he logged two years as a project manager for the software company New World Systems, then transitioned to health care and two five-year stints in IT roles at Cardiovascular Hospitals of America and Kansas Medical Center.

Butler marked his first foray into education, Young becoming its chief info-security officer in 2011 and since earning two promotions, including the December 2017 ascension to his present roles. While it’s not his first mission-driven post—that would be health care—he says it best fits his preferences. The community college allows him to assist so many non-traditional students and Young having been one over a quarter-century ago, he empathizes.

Life’s also good in the Heartland where Young and his wife have raised a daughter who’s soon to graduate Texas Christian University. The young woman partaking in ROTC, she intends to serve military intelligence, another area for which techno savvy complements boots on the ground. In an indirect role, Young says Butler has factored in her growth.

“I didn’t come from wealth and Butler gave me opportunity without me incurring a ton of debt,” he says. “Whenever I talk to another alumnus, I get a similar reaction, especially here in Butler County.”

View this feature in the Spring I 2023 Edition here.

Published on: March 27, 2023

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