Allan Chen, Vice President of Institute Technology & Chief Technology Officer at CalArts talks about how an IT strategy based on coordination and collaboration is supporting six schools


The California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) is a decentralised educational institution made up of six schools (Art, Critical Studies, Dance, Film/Video, Music and Theatre), each with their own IT staff. Working with each team and helping shape a cohesive IT strategy is the responsibility of Allan Chen, the Vice President of Institute Technology & Chief Technology Officer at CalArts.

“We are a maturing organisation and still growing. So, it’s vital we focus on how we can do things better across each of our schools – not just by changing or upgrading a system, but how we can actually change the way we do things through continuous improvement as part of an ongoing process that supports and connects the six schools of CalArts.”

The IT journey at CalArts

Chen took on his role at CalArts during the pandemic when the institution was closed due to lockdowns. Students and faculty were getting to grips with working from home and learning online. “The institute had put in place a lot of systems to compensate for the sudden shift to remote working and learning,” he recalls.

“When I arrived, we started working on thinking more methodically and purposefully about how to deliver permanent solutions. This led us towards automation… It became clear early on that a small team of 16 focused on helpdesk, ERP, network and enterprise applications, couldn’t do everything manually with high-touch systems. For example, we had to set up automated systems that could take a computer, turn it on and configure itself. These systems would be self-healing, and were investments keenly supported the administration to improve operational efficiency. There were obvious choices to be made about how we could be more effective and productive.”

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