Engineering group unlocks the creativity of University Technology Office minds with automation

December 13, 2021

In today’s workplace, technological developments and a greater awareness of responsible innovation and inclusivity are taking on a radical new shape. To lead the way in this paradigm, the University Technology Office at Arizona State University has recently entered a new era of embracing the modern workforce, unleashed under the name of “UTO 2.1.” 

As part of this agile structure and way of working, UTO has reorganized and reprioritized its teams, their members and their work under four “cores” — these include Engineering, Products and Projects, Data and Analysis, and Service Delivery. The Engineering Core’s renewed approach to human-centered design is supported by its accompanying technical innovations. Download Full Image

Bringing digital transformation across ASU

The Engineering Core prioritizes the people practicing digital transformation as much as the people who benefit from it. Utilizing a “how we work” model, which is still nascent in higher education but has proven an exciting and effective development in private industry, advocates for diverse collaboration. Based in this model, Engineering has crafted maturity for “DevSecOps,” which is the constant development of IT operation at UTO and ASU. 

The DevSecOps framework facilitates the new ideas that the Engineering Core supports: “We are capturing an architecture for culture, orchestration and next-generation platforms that enable digital trust, digital equity and more, and these are the tangible outcomes of the transformation taking place within DevSecOps,” said Nathan Wilken, executive director of UTO Engineering.

Orchestrating digital infrastructure

A key outcome of the Engineering Core’s DevSecOps model involves freeing up the capabilities of UTO minds by furthering automation goals. So a solution to automate everyday manual tasks that take up time needed to be created to offer more creative opportunities for staff. Thus, the Engineering Core built an “orchestration platform” that supports the DevSecOps concept, which streamlines much of the development process for various products and services.

An orchestration platform automates the configuration, management and coordination of computer systems, applications and services, according to Red Hat. In other words, an orchestration platform streamlines, by removing time-consuming manual tasks, many of the processes involved with offering tools and software to the ASU community.

Before its integration, code was developed, passed off to various teams in a linear manner and finally deployed after a time-consuming process that often didn’t allow for agile pivots or inclusion of new features on the fly. However, this orchestration platform automatically accomplishes many tasks previously delegated to multiple teams, such as quality assurance and testing.

“Human error around design and deployment is eliminated so an individual does not carry the burden,” Wilken said. This doesn’t remove jobs, but improves them. “It lowers their (people’s) cognitive load and allows them more time to engage with stakeholders and customers, unlocking human potential instead of relegating them to undifferentiated heavy lifting.”

This new approach allows for teams to be built from different disciplines. Developers, DevOps engineers, systems administrators and more work together from the start of the process, rather than handing off to each other without much prior communication.

Applying creativity to the My ASU portal

An outcome of this process lies in My ASU, the portal through which everyone at ASU conducts their learning, teaching and working.

“My ASU is kind of special because there are so many (ASU colleges and units) who need changes made to support their processes throughout the year,” said Cat Harper, portfolio owner of student success and My ASU product owner.

“Now, we can meet the student life cycle.”

With the orchestration platform in play, three or four of Harper’s developer colleagues can work on separate pieces, which can be deployed when ready, rather than bundled into one release that requires much more time and coordination. 

For example, the Experience Center was receiving a number of calls related to financial aid. Working with the Financial Aid Office, Harper’s team was able to quickly design, develop and deploy a “pop-up” box of helpful articles to address questions about how to pay bills. And call traffic was reduced to the Experience Center, satisfactorily answering questions more quickly.

“I’m really proud of the team because they ask, ‘What is the value to students?’ and turn things around really quickly,” Harper said.

Looking to the future

My ASU developer Jason Harper provided an example of how this more agile process also allows for other, forward-thinking solutions.

“It’s a journey, and we’re still on it, to automate,” he said.

There are other products and processes that can be brought into the orchestration platform, not just My ASU.

“(The orchestration platform) has allowed us to set out on this journey while still supporting the university,” he said.

Editorial specialist, University Technology Office

Lincoln Scholars program prepares 3 siblings for success

December 13, 2021

The Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics awards scholarships to students participating in the Lincoln Scholars, a program that engages students in ethics discussions and activities with faculty and community members. Current Lincoln Scholar Jordan Fakhoury was inspired to join the program by his two sisters, Nadeen Fakhoury and Sarah Moqattash, who are former Lincoln Scholars. In a recent interview with the Lincoln Center, the scholars shared their experiences at Arizona State University and in the Lincoln Scholars program:

Nadeen Fakhoury, senior, majoring in supply chain management, W. P. Carey School of Business
Sarah Moqattash, ASU alumna, Bachelor of Science in biomedical engineering, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering
three siblings smiling for a photo Lincoln Scholar siblings (from left) Nadeen Fakhoury, Jordan Fakhoury and Sarah Moqattash. Download Full Image

Question: What encouraged you to join the Lincoln Scholars Program?

Nadeen: I was highly intrigued by the Lincoln Scholar Program's commitment to the inclusion of students of diverse cultures, ages and professional statuses. I also appreciated the fact that this was a program where open discussion and collaborative problem-solving was encouraged. 

Sarah: I heard about the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics through my former biomedical engineering professor Dr. Stephen Helms Tillery. During my sophomore year, I attended a bioethics course which helped introduce me to group discussions on difficult topics of debate in the medical field. This course sparked my curiosity, and that’s when I learned about the Lincoln Scholars program. I wanted to immerse myself in a safe space where all participants were free to discuss controversial issues and learn from each other’s experiences and views.  

Q: How was your experience in the Lincoln Scholars Program?

Nadeen: I had a wonderful experience being part of the Lincoln Scholars Program. I looked forward to every class discussion where I learned so much from my professor Sean Kenney as well as my peers. I was in a class with about 10–15 students, where we spanned a wide range of ages, backgrounds, professional and personal life experiences. I was in the Lincoln Scholars Program my freshman year at Arizona State University, and now as a senior, I will never forget the discussions we had in the class. I learned so much about different perspectives on real-life social and economic issues. I learned the importance of researching the problem at hand and the critical role empathetic collaboration has in finding solutions. 

Sarah: My experience as a Lincoln Scholar was very intriguing and refreshing. Each session focused on a diverse topic, and each presenter was an experienced professional on the subject matter. I was glad to see that the topics covered were far from cookie-cutter; instead, they were very relevant to current sociopolitical and economic climates. Each presenter educated the scholars on a topic, and at the end, the scholars were able to discuss and learn from each other. Sean Kenney was extremely skilled at guiding the discussions with stimulating questions and points. The scholar-led presentations at the end of the semester were a highlight of the program and allowed scholars to dive deeper into a topic they were passionate about.

Q: What have you been up to since graduating from the program?

Nadeen: When I was in the Lincoln Scholars Program, I was fresh out of high school, still learning the ropes of college and discovering more and more about myself. Now, three years later, I am happy to share that I have grown into the woman I want to become. Education-wise, I found my passion in supply chain management. In September, I attended the CSCMP’s Edge 2021 Conference and Exhibition in Atlanta, Georgia, where I had the opportunity to network with amazing professionals, learn more about the most competitive industries and grow my professional portfolio. I have also found an interest in journaling my thoughts, dreams and ambitions. I enjoy meeting people from all over the world and discovering new favorite foods while sharing personal stories with new friends. I am truly grateful for my experience as a Lincoln Scolar and will never forget the impact it had on me throughout my time here at Arizona State University. 

Sarah: Since graduating from the Lincoln Scholars Program, I went on to conduct Alzheimer’s research at the Banner Sun Health Research Institute. The target of the study was to validate a novel approach for screening older adults for mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. After completing the research project, I was selected to present at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Chicago. After my research experience, I got married and moved to California. I decided to explore the field of dentistry because of how quickly its devices and technologies are evolving. It’s a fast-growing industry, and there’s a lot of opportunity for professional growth in it.

Jordan Fakhoury, first-year student, majoring in medical studies, College of Health Solutions

Q: How did your siblings motivate you to join the Lincoln Scholars?

Jordan: My siblings introduced me to this scholarship program because they know I aspire to become a medical doctor and this program will greatly help me explore community service through hands-on learning. When I become a doctor, one of my professional goals is to open a facility where low-income communities can access health care services at a low or even zero cost. Since my siblings understood my personal and professional goals, they highly recommended I apply for the Lincoln Scholars Program. So far I am really thankful they introduced me to it as I love it a lot. 

Q: Are you involved in any other student organizations?

Jordan: Right now during my first semester I am mainly focusing on my academics, but I am always keeping an open mind to join clubs. After my freshman year I would like to join SHOW, Student Health Outreach for Wellness club, as some of their activities are making health kits for the homeless community in Arizona.

Victoria Vandekop

Communications Program Coordinator, Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics