Features

Melissa Alsing – Seton Hill University

Using tech to improve the college experience

The intersection of technology and higher education represents a dynamic landscape where innovative tools and digital solutions reshape how students learn, educators teach, and institutions operate. With the rapid advancement of technology, higher education has become increasingly reliant on digital platforms, data analytics, artificial intelligence, and virtual environments to enhance the teaching and learning experience.  

Melissa Alsing | Chief Information Officer | Seton Hill University

Melissa Alsing | Chief Information Officer | Seton Hill University

As universities and colleges embrace emerging technologies, they must navigate a complex terrain to leverage these tools effectively while maintaining the integrity and inclusivity of the educational experience. It is a challenge accepted by Melissa Alsing, the chief information officer at Seton Hill University, a prominent Catholic coeducational liberal arts institution in Greensburg, Pennsylvania.  

Established by the Sisters of Charity, Seton Hill welcomes students of all faiths and educates over 2,000 students, fostering critical thinking, creativity, and ethical contributions to societal transformation. 

“There is a delicate balance between dedicating time to long-term strategic goals and completing projects that enhance the overall experience for students, faculty and staff,” Alsing tells Toggle in late January.  

In her role, Alsing leads the Strategic IT Advisory Committee (SITACom), comprising subcommittees focused on data governance and security, enterprise resource planning, and user experience. This committee is important in identifying necessary changes and implementing effective solutions to digitally transform Seton Hill, aligning with evolving student needs and expectations. 

IT strategy is paramount 

In tandem with SITACom, Alsing and her team are implementing a new Customer Relationship Management system for the admissions group. This initiative aims to streamline the admissions process, allowing prospective students to articulate their educational preferences and the admissions staff to maintain regular communication. The committee’s influence is evident in the project discussions, pushing for a different thought process and opening up new possibilities to enhance the experience of prospective students. 

SITACom represents Seton Hill’s commitment to digital transformation. It addresses unsustainable business practices, explores opportunities for administrative improvements, and seeks solutions for more fully integrated systems, ultimately improving the work/life balance for the university’s community. With representation from various campus areas, the committee acts as a hub, streamlining communication between IT and other business functions to prevent issues and adapt to changing student expectations. 

Melissa Alsing | Chief Information Officer | Seton Hill University

Seton Hill’s IT strategies align with the institution’s mission, vision and goals, ensuring a transformative impact. While the transformation is a work in progress, Alsing believes the committee’s efforts will be crucial in carrying the institution forward by influencing decisions on future projects, priorities and goals. 

“As a member of the university’s executive leadership team, I bring the voice of IT to the table when decisions are being made. I routinely partner with other executive team members on strategic initiatives that can be enhanced through technology. Technology is infused in everything Seton Hill does, and that can be directly related to my high-level involvement in the university’s leadership,” Alsing explains. 

Looking ahead, Alsing highlights the upcoming overhaul of the current ERP systems, a project planned to begin later in 2024. This initiative, supported by SITACom, aims to modernize Seton Hill’s technology infrastructure and enhance communication and transparency across the institution. The IT group will lead this initiative, leveraging its understanding of data flow, information needs, and business processes. The goal is to lead the institution forward strategically and operationally. 

“We’re not just transforming digitally; we’re reshaping the entire university experience for students, faculty and staff, one thoughtful project at a time,” Alsing says. 

In addressing the challenge posed by AI, Alsing says there are ongoing discussions among faculty members about managing AI in the classroom. Seton Hill encourages faculty engagement and knowledge-sharing on AI-related topics, and the institution has taken a cautious approach, with varied perspectives ranging from reluctance to early adoption. 

As a CIO, I seek to embrace AI’s transformative potential yet recognize its challenges. Navigating the complexities of ethical dilemmas, data privacy and ensuring responsible deployment is our imperative, shaping a future where AI enhances human endeavors while preserving our values and integrity,” Alsing says. “By fostering dialogue, transparency, and ethical guidelines, we navigate the challenges together, ensuring that AI catalyzes innovation while upholding the values and aspirations of our academic community. 

Connecting with students 

The new CRM system, set to go live in May, is expected to make the admissions process more effective and efficient. The implementation process has prompted a focus on business processes and workflows, encouraging Seton Hill to consider how prospective students perceive the university and how to better engage with them. It also serves as SITACom’s inaugural transformation project. 

Melissa Alsing | Chief Information Officer | Seton Hill University

Alsing says that students in 2024 expect universities to provide high-speed, user-friendly internet access, self-service options, and flexibility in learning environments. Their technological savviness requires quick responses to inquiries and a seamless online experience.  

The school’s seamless online experience is supported by wireless in all classrooms and residence halls and extends to most of our recreation and green spaces across campus. Incoming traditional undergraduate students receive a MacBook they use throughout their academic career and retain upon graduation. Seton Hill has been honored as an Apple Distinguished Program/School seven times, a tribute to its community embracing these devices in innovative and creative ways.  

Loving technology  

Alsing’s interest in technology began in college, where an introductory computing course sparked her fascination. She earned a degree in information systems from PennWest Clarion and an MBA from Chatham University.  

Alsing had many years of experience before joining Seton Hill in 2009—she assumed the role of CIO in 2015. Her multifaceted role involves strategic leadership, teaching and active involvement in the university’s community. 

She has faced many challenges throughout her career, including transitioning from a technical role to a higher-level, more strategic position. Operational demands sometimes shift her focus away from strategic development, but these challenges have made her a stronger leader with a better understanding of operational and strategic needs. 

Melissa Alsing | Chief Information Officer | Seton Hill University

In addition to work, Alsing has a busy personal life. She is a mother of two active teenage boys, and she volunteers on athletic boards, participates in various professional committees and has started teaching courses at Seton Hill. Her admiration for the Sisters of Charity, the university’s founders, has grown, and she aims to sustain their legacy of innovation and forward-thinking. 

“Embarking on my tech journey in college was a rewarding choice. I’ve faced challenges, which helped me to evolve into a resilient leader,” Alsing says. “As Seton Hill’s CIO, the joy of strategic leadership, teaching, and community engagement adds depth to my rewarding professional experience.” 

View this feature in the Winter I 2024 Edition here.

 

Published on: February 20, 2024

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