The phrase “digital transformation” may conjure up imagery of sparkling new technologies, but for Christina Baum, vice president of digital transformation (Dx) and chief information officer (CIO) at Valley University of the utah (UVU), digital transformation is much more than that.
“I think it’s also the culture,” Baum said. “It’s the willingness to try new things. It is also the will to adapt. It really is a strong partnership with our faculty, with our staff and with our students.
A mother of three and an avid golfer, skier and music lover, Baum officially began stepping into her new role on June 1. She and her team dove right into the work, crafting a mission statement and plan: “to lead UVU’s digital transformation by providing reliable, state-of-the-art solutions for our teaching environments, learning and working, which are intuitive, transparent and pleasant to use.
“I really want UVU to be seen as a thought leader in higher education for innovation or cutting-edge technology,” Baum said. “And what we can do to reduce barriers for students to make things faster, more efficient and easier for them to succeed.”
A wealth of educational and professional experience has prepared Baum to be a powerful leader in UVU’s digital transformation. She studied history with a minor in business as an undergraduate at Brigham Young University (BYU) with the original goal of going to law school, but the course of her schooling changed and she graduated. his MBA from Washington State.
Growing up, Baum never saw a career in technology as an option for her, but after earning her MBA, she began working as a project manager at Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories (SEL) in the research and development department. , and she realized that she had an aptitude for working with technology.
“I just learned a ton,” Baum said. “I remember, at first, thinking it was all numbers and letters, acronyms, and it was Greek to me, but I just dug into that and realized how I really like technology.”
Since then, Baum has held several challenging positions, including Solution Manager of the Database Platform Team at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and CIO at Ensign College (then called LDS Business College). Each position has provided her with opportunities to learn, make changes, and dive deeper into the field of technology.
While assigning digital transformation at Ensign College, she noticed an opening for the Associate Vice President of Academic and Student Digital Services at UVU. “I had watched UVU and admired the growth and focus on inclusivity and really jumped at the chance to be a part of what’s happening here,” Baum said.
In her role as AVP, Baum worked on end-user technologies, the university’s website and mobile app, data warehouse, classroom technology, student computing, labs and institutional research. Then, in May, when then-vice president Dr. Kelly Flanagan became dean of the College of Engineering and Technology, Baum assumed the position of vice president.
Every project the Dx department works on is tied to UVU’s vision of being inclusive, providing students with engaged and flexible learning opportunities, and helping them reach their full potential. Students have different backgrounds and experiences, but Baum believes technology can be the great equalizer as UVU helps provide access for all.
“I know in our demographics we have a whole variety of students with different backgrounds and different situations,” she said. “The more we can meet them with technology, make that experience easier for them, make it intuitive, seamless, and reduce the barriers they may face, the more successful they can be.”
The Dx team plans to hire students for internships and part-time jobs. Students will be part of the “little army” helping to deliver faster, better products, while enhancing their own education and representing the voice of students in product development. The team also plans to establish a connection with Silicon Slopes in Lehi as a pipeline for these students, now with their hands-on experience, to get good jobs after graduation.
“I can see UVU really differentiating itself because of the focus on technology here,” Baum said. “I love our mission. I like our focus on students. I like that we have the double mission – that we can really focus on their needs.
Other plans for Dx include, but are not limited to: boosting the new UVU mobile app so everything a student needs is available on their mobile device; rebuilding the university’s website to make it easier to navigate; improve cellular coverage and network on campus; and developing an artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot for the help desk, so students can get their questions answered during off-peak hours. Ultimately, the goal is to have lecture recordings and transcripts that students can search through a chatbot to aid their studies.
Dx also plans to help faculty and staff become more efficient in their jobs, Baum said. There are still several paper-based and manual processes that have not kept pace with UVU’s growth, and Dx plans to mature and modernize its technology. The department also plans to improve current predictive analytics tools so counselors can quickly see which students are at risk and contact them for help with the click of a button.
“I feel like the next five years are going to be amazing,” Baum said. “I think we’re going to see incredible technological growth here. And I feel like this is a pivotal time for UVU. I think we’re at a crossroads, really stepping on the accelerator and really launching this digital transformation even more than we have already.
To learn more about the exciting developments in digital transformation at UVU, visit their website.