Gerry Hunt just celebrated his twenty-fifth anniversary with Oklahoma City University (OCU), but his fascination with technology and ties to Oklahoma City were ingrained in him at an early age.
Hunt was born in Wichita Falls, Texas, and when he was three months old, his family moved and settled in Mustang, Oklahoma—just eighteen miles southwest of Oklahoma City. Later, in the 1970s and 1980s, he began playing video games, and he was hooked. Hunt’s appetite for computer technology continued to develop in high school. In ninth grade at an orientation event, he and a friend walked into their high school computer lab and discovered how to put together a three-line program to make a computer count to ten. “I thought it was the coolest thing in the world,” Hunt says.
Following high school, he went on to receive a bachelor’s of science in computer sciences from OCU in 1989 and joined the university’s IT department in 1992. He eventually earned an MBA there, too, in 2005, and he now holds the title of CIO.
“I love being a CIO. Strategic planning and visioning are a great passion in my current role, but I’m also very much a techie at heart.”
With 1,800 undergraduate students and six hundred graduate students from forty-six states and forty-three foreign countries, OCU is a coeducational, urban private school in the Uptown District of Oklahoma City. The student-faculty ratio is eleven to one. It is the only Oklahoma institution listed in the top tier of the regional, master’s-level university category by U.S. News and World Report, and it is listed in Forbes’s “Best Christian Colleges” and “100 Best College Buys.”
“I think the CIO’s role is to determine how to help the university compete, as well as to enhance and improve teaching and learning,” Hunt says.
He goes above and beyond, however, by getting his hands dirty with all sorts of IT projects and staying involved in numerous school committees, such as the president’s cabinet and strategic planning and budget committees, to name a few. This exposure allows him to understand the opportunities in which his team of twenty can strategize where they should invest their time and resources to advance the ongoing efforts throughout campus that support the school’s mission.
OCU’s mission embraces the United Methodist tradition of scholarship and service, which includes an open door to people of all faiths in a culturally rich community—all with the goal of student success. To derive that success, the school caters to students’ intellectual, moral, and spiritual development, aiming to develop them into effective leaders in their communities.
To support that mission, the university needs to keep on top of the changes in those very communities. Technology and education have become intertwined across the nation, and OCU has worked to integrate that focus into its programs. As one example, OCU energy management and energy legal studies graduate programs have access to traditional classroom technology as well as added in-room microphones and camera systems that go into an encoder device so that classes can be live-streamed for those who cannot physically be on campus. Students who are on-site working at an oil field can take an energy management class by watching lectures online and participating through instant messaging. This program was launched three years ago, and oil field workers in North Dakota, Colorado, Wisconsin, Texas, Wyoming, Washington, and Pennsylvania have all participated.
The nursing and criminology programs have also adopted distance-learning technologies. By using technology related to the school’s phone system updates, the criminology program was the first to conduct a class that allowed for remote students .
About a year ago, Hunt and the previous telecommunications manager had decided to opt for Skype for Business for the university’s phone systems. The goal was to have a more unified way of communicating across campus and a better method of delivering academic courses to remote students. Just before the project launched, the telecommunications manager took a different job. Now, during the implementation and deployment of the new system, Hunt is acting as the telecommunications manager.
Hunt says this project has taken a big chunk of his time, but he is really enjoying it.
“I love being a CIO,” he says. “Strategic planning and visioning are great passions in my current role, but I’m also very much a at heart.”
Having held every role within the department throughout his twenty-five-year IT career at OCU, Hunt has developed a broad set of skills. Around campus, he contributes his skills in assisting help-desk tickets when the department is shorthanded, filling in if someone is out sick or on vacation, and developing web-based programs. Thanks to his background in programming, Hunt wrote and developed the inventory system that the school now uses and the scripts for the creation of network user accounts.
Even before the planned spring 2017 launch of the Skype for Business program, many staff offices have already been upgraded with the new system. Staff members can choose between a special Skype for Business phone or a mobile device, or they can utilize the Skype for Business app on their computer and use a USB headset with microphone.
Once deployed in classrooms, Skype for Business will allow remote students to have live interaction within their classes. Rather than merely viewing the class through a screen, remote students can be seen and heard by the faculty and the students in the classroom, giving them a similar experience to being physically present.
“It’s really neat,” Hunt says. “I will say it takes some adjusting. Even though you can see their faces and hear them, there’s still something about that student being right here, you know, right next to you.”