Kristen Constant appointed Chief Information Officer, marks 100 days in office
On July 29, the Iowa Board of Regents approved Kristen Constant’s appointment as vice president and chief information officer (CIO) following an official nomination for the position by President Wendy Wintersteen on July 23. Constant stepped into the role of interim vice president and CIO in December 2017 to help lead the university through a substantial period of change with the implementation of Workday.
Prior to her interim appointment, Constant served as chair of the materials science and engineering department for five years and before that, a distinguished faculty member in the College of Engineering, having joined the university in 1992. Constant is also an Iowa State alumna and subsequently completed her doctorate at Northwestern University and post-doctoral fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
During her tenure as an Iowa State faculty member, Constant earned the rank of associate professor in 1998, professor in 2011, Wilkinson Professor of Interdisciplinary Engineering in 2012 and Morrill Professor in 2015. From 2007-2012, Constant also participated in the university’s ADVANCE initiatives to recruit, retain and advance women and people of color in faculty positions.
Now as CIO, Constant joins only a handful of leaders to hold the title since the position was created in 2003 at the recommendation of the president’s advisory committee on budget and planning. The CIO position initially oversaw various campus units including administrative data processing (ADP), academic information technology and telecommunications, but over time the units merged into the single Information Technology Services (ITS) department that reports to the Office of the President.
“I've been all-in since day one as interim CIO,” says Constant, “but it is nice to make it official. I feel privileged to work with such a talented and dedicated group of people and I'll continue to do my best working for ITS.”
Preceded by Jim Kurtenbach (2015-2017) and Jim Davis (2004-2014), Constant remains just the third CIO in university history and presently, one of four female CIOs at Big Twelve peer universities.1 Serving the Cyclone community, the CIO’s charge includes advising the president on matters related to information technology (IT), assessing and improving the university’s IT infrastructure and facilitating research in computationally intensive areas.
In the delivery of this charge over the years, Davis oversaw the creation of the transformative Broadband Optical Research, Education and Sciences (BOREAS) regional fiber network in the mid-2000s during his tenure, and Kurtenbach, the implementation of Canvas learning management system (LMS) among other initiatives. While Constant’s list of achievements continues to grow, the most notable remains leading the implementation of the Workday business process software.
The process to adopt a more centralized, cloud-based software for conducting business at the university began prior Constant’s interim appointment when the continued use of disparate, local (not cloud-based) software was determined to be neither efficient nor sustainable. Under Kurtenbach’s leadership, an enterprise resource planning (ERP) request for proposal (RFP) was finalized and published and the resulting contracts with Workday signed.
As Constant took up the mantle, she also accepted the role of Executive Program Sponsor for the WorkCyte program, which managed the various stages of implementation from the “architect” phase matching more than 350 existing financial and human capital management business processes with those offered by the new software, to the “configuration” and “testing” phases, right up to go-live. Even after the July 1, 2019 launch of Workday, Constant continued to provide guidance for continuous improvement efforts as additional needs were identified and employees adjusted to the change.
In addition to the successful launch of Workday and management of the WorkCyte program, Constant has brought other welcome changes to ITS, including notable staff appointments for digital accessibility coordinator and director of information security, a new departmental strategic plan and the assembly of the ITS Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Advisory (IDEA) group.
The strategic plan, in development since spring 2018, outlines ITS’s vision to be the trusted campus partner that enables excellence in education, research, outreach and university operations. The strategic plan is now available on the ITS website, and Constant and her leadership team will continue driving towards the fulfillment of that mission and sharing progress with the campus community.
As of August 2020, female CIOs at Big Twelve Conference universities include Mary Walsh, University of Kansas; Darlene Hightower, Oklahoma State University; Barbara Dawson, West Virginia University; Kristen Constant, Iowa State University.