BSBA Management Information Systems ’87
Chief Information Officer, The University of Arizona
By Liz Warren-Pederson
Michele Norin grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and attended the University of South Carolina before coming to the University of Arizona.
“When I looked at the top jobs in the market, it was all technology,” she said. “But I didn’t have any exposure to computers in high school — I think my high school got them the year after I graduated.”
In college, she positioned herself to compete in the growing market for computer professionals. She completed her undergraduate degree in management information systems and then joined a company in San Jose. A year later, she made the decision to return to Tucson. “I accepted an entry-level programming job at the University,” she said.
During her ensuing 22 years with the University of Arizona, Norin has held a variety of roles. She is currently chief information officer (CIO) and executive director for University Information Technology Services (UITS).
“It’s extremely gratifying to be in a position that allows me to create value — to provide assets and tools that have a positive impact both at the institutional and individual levels,” she said. “Everyone uses technology to some extent. To be in a position to help the UA navigate the world of technology and bring valuable solutions is really satisfying.”
One of Norin’s key initiatives, the UA Enterprise System Replacement Project, called MOSAIC, has attracted positive attention. On May 26, the Arizona Technology Council presented Norin with its Education CIO of the Year Award in recognition of her work on the project.
“The technology arena can be quite complex with devices, software, the web, communications tools, support, and access,” she said. “Maintaining an adequate balance is exciting and challenging. Sometimes it requires a focus on foundational principles rather than the actual tools, but then other times it’s all about the cool new device. And then there’s the data itself, who has access to it, how it looks, how it’s secured, and where it lives. For example, Mosaic is a project where we’re modernizing our foundational administrative tools. It includes backend hardware, software, data, access, new processes, training, and more.”
In terms of planning, Norin said that her team engages in visioning exercises looking five to ten years into the future, but “we can really only plan for three years out,” she said. “Anything beyond that is usually more difficult to predict, which means our plans need to be flexible and our operations need to be agile.”
Norin credits the support of UA leadership with the project’s progress to date. “I couldn’t do my job without that high-level support at the University,” she said. “It’s gratifying to be able to show progress. I feel like I’ve been able to bring the institution to the 21st century, in partnership with University administration.”
She also recognizes the commitment and hard work of her leadership team and IT organization. ”They’re the ones who make things happen; I just set the direction,” she said. “We’re a very diverse group, in terms of skills, backgrounds, styles, and approaches. But all are committed to the role they play in providing an IT environment that everyone can rely on.”