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 SRU launches $10-million student data system upgrade 




April 17, 2009

Contact: K.E. Schwab  




SRU launches $10-million student data system upgrade


SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University has launched a $10-million, multi-year Student Information System Project that will replace the University's nearly 40-year-old mainframe computer system and provide a cohesive data processing system as well as new infrastructure expected to meet University needs.

            Preliminary work on the system, which includes a major data network and electrical infrastructure upgrade, is under direction of the Office of Information and Administrative Technology Services. Preliminary work on the project has been under way for eight months. The project was formally announced to the University community last week by SRU President Robert Smith and Simeon Ananou, associate provost for information and administrative technology services.

            SRU's "mainframe" computer, which once required the space of an entire room in Maltby Center, was upgraded about five years ago to a unit about the size of a standard, desktop computer. The mainframe handles student admission information, registration, billing, Internet class registration, grade processing and related administrative functions. The new unit is expected to remain in the desktop computer size, but with vastly improved speed and memory capacity.

            Ananou is leading the project, which is expected to take 18 month to fully implement.

            John Cavanaugh, chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, and the state system's board of governors called on all the 14 system universities involved to work together in the spirit of collaborative partnerships in creating the new student data system. The overall plan is to share knowledge and strategies in the implementation, Cavanaugh said.

            System universities needing funds to support their individual project will be included in a system-issued financial bond project.

            The SIS will be a University-contained and operated system with links and sharing capabilities to all of the other state system universities. Ananou said various universities in the state system could serve as data back ups for sister schools as a way of ensuring against data loss.

            Plans for an all-encompassing PASSHE data system were revised by the state system's board of governors allowing each university to develop its own system and meet its individual needs. Some of the original plan ideas were captured for use in development of the new systems.

            Smith called the new plan "impressive and comprehensive." He said the new data system would bring major changes to campus, but "will meet the needs of the student population for many years to come. A change of this magnitude will require support from all aspects of the University community. I am confident everyone will join in to make it a success."

            "This project will be a major shift from the mainframe computer environment, which has served the University very well for almost 40 years," Ananou said. "The project's mission is to establish a single, robust and cohesive data source for student-related data, thus providing consistent and real-time information sharing among faculty, students and administrative users. The SIS project will require significant human and financial commitments on the part of the University in order to achieve its objectives."

Included in the list of objectives are: 

         Replace outdated and obsolete hardware and software technology with a high performance, scalable, open system architecture;

         Implement a current-generation SIS with a track record of evolution that anticipates the institution's needs;

         Create a new environment that enables better service for all student, faculty and staff users, including anytime-anywhere self-service capabilities;

         Provide increased capacity for integration with other systems and products;

         Provide a new information system environment that is highly flexible, adaptable to new rules, policies and procedures;

         Support Web-based access to all functions;

         Support widespread self-service for a full range of functions;

         Provide improved data extraction, manipulation, reporting and possible analytical capabilities for departments to support their activities.

            As part of preparations for the new SIS project, a risk assessment plan and mitigation strategies have been developed to minimize potential delays during and after implementation, Ananou said. A chart showing project leaders and back-up personnel assignments was developed so that each project phase can move ahead, regardless of retirements, position reassignments or other unforeseen personnel changes during the installation process.

            The University has also established a SIS Core Implementation Team as well as an Executive Steering Committee to lead and coordinate project activities. 

            Ananou said the Student Information System would "undoubtedly enhance our institutional practices in many ways." Citing specific examples, he said the system would record and track student grades and allow faculty to post grades from any computer connected to the Internet on a 24-7-365 basis. The current data storage system is shutdown at 8 p.m. each day. "The system will be available anywhere, anytime on multiple devices," Ananou said.

            Data storage of campus and home addresses, admissions information, class scheduling and class registration will be handled by the system along with financial aid processing. Ananou said the system would be compatible with the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System used by the federal government to track international students.

            The system will allow students to change student information, such as address and phone numbers. "Faculty will be able to pull e-mail addresses for students registered for a specific course in order to send information such as class schedule changes, special assignments or other important information," he said. The system will also track faculty work loads.

            Request for service providers have been released, and campus demonstration reviews via videotapes by various vendors are scheduled for May 11-12. A final recommendation is scheduled to be sent to President Smith May 20.

            Ananou said SharePoint software has been implemented to allow all members of the University community to share ideas and to track project activities. The site is available at:


Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.

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