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Thirsk named University’s inaugural chief digital, information officer

New position created to help advance digital presence of University, ease work through technology

William Thirsk began his tenure as the University’s inaugural chief digital and information officer Feb. 1, tasked with advancing an efficient digital system for the University.

Each day, Thirsk is responsible for ensuring that technology systems are available, reliable and secure, and that the systems provide appropriate services to the people who use them — namely, students, faculty, staff, alumni and the greater community. Prior to Thirsk’s appointment, many people performed “different parts of the CDO’s function,” he said.

Part of his responsibilities include developing the Digital Transformation Project, which launched in 2016. The project aims to improve the accessibility of the University’s digital presence by allowing students to access “everything they need information-wise about their progress, their classes, events on campus (and) student government” digitally, Thirsk said. It would also allow faculty and staff to “do the work they need to do easily, electronically,” such as grading and looking up rosters, he added.

“The overarching mission is to make sure we remain excellent in operations … (by) constantly enhancing communication digitally with our community and making sure we are using our data to find insights to make a better (University),” Thirsk said.

Thirsk discussed plans to create new applications and to redesign the University website. He also hopes to facilitate technologies that are specific to various disciplines and clubs.

Thirsk will work directly with Provost Richard Locke P’18 and Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Barbara Chernow ’79.

“Bill Thirsk joins Brown at a critical juncture, with technology central to nearly every aspect of our campus community,” Locke wrote in an email to The Herald. “We will look to him …to ensure that our systems are safe and secure, support rigorous scholarship and collaboration across geographic and disciplinary boundaries and promote an engaged community,” Locke added.

Before becoming the University’s CDO, Thirsk served as the chief information officer at Marist College for over a decade. He also worked at SunGard Higher Education, where he explored the intersection of technology and academia.

“Bill’s strong technology background and experience coupled with demonstrated strategic understanding of the University’s needs make him an ideal leader for Brown,” Chernow wrote in an email to The Herald. “Throughout his career, he’s been effective in driving long-term projects to successful completion and building strong relationships within the organizations he has led.”

“I’m very excited about being here, everyone has been very helpful,” Thirsk said. “Students say hello and it’s just a really nice place to be,” he added. “I look forward to working very hard and making sure that Brown has the best digital platform out there.”


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