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UVU: New VP Baum talks digital transformation at UVU

By Alessia Love - Special to the Daily Herald | Jul 23, 2022

August Miller, UVU Marketing

Christina Baum

The phrase “digital transformation” may conjure imagery of sparkling, new technologies, but for Christina Baum, Utah Valley University vice president of digital transformation and chief information officer, digital transformation is more than that.

“It’s also about the culture,” Baum said. “It’s the willingness to try new things and to be adaptable. It’s a strong partnership with our faculty, staff, and students.”

A mother of three and golf, skiing and music enthusiast, Baum officially began serving in her vice-presidential technology role on June 1. She and her team dove into the work, developing a mission statement and plan: “To lead UVU’s digital transformation by providing reliable, state-of-the-art solutions for our teaching, learning, and work environments that are intuitive, transparent, and delightful to use.”

“I really want UVU to be seen as a thought leader in higher education for innovation or state of the art technology,” Baum said. “And what we can do to reduce barriers for students to make things faster, more efficient, and easier for them to be successful.”

A wealth of educational and work experience has prepared Baum to be an effective leader of UVU’s digital transformation. She studied history, with a minor in business, as an undergraduate at Brigham Young University with the goal of attending law school, but the course of her schooling changed, and she earned her MBA at Washington State University.

Jay Drowns, UVU Marketing

Students participate in a class held at Fulton Library on the Utah Valley University Campus in Orem on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017.

Baum never imagined a career path in technology, but after earning her MBA she began work as a project manager at Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories in the Research & Development Department. It was there she realized she had an aptitude for technology.

“I learned a ton,” Baum said. “I remember thinking everything was numbers, letters, and acronyms, and it was Greek to me, but I just dug in and realized how much I really love 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, formerly LDS Business College. Each position provided her with opportunities to learn, affect change and dive deeper into the field of technology.

While leading digital transformation at Ensign College, she noticed an opening for the Associate Vice President of Academic and Student Digital Services at UVU. “I had been watching UVU and admiring the growth and the focus on inclusivity and jumped at the chance to be part of what’s going on here,” Baum said.

As associate vice president, Baum worked on end-user technologies, the university website and mobile app, Data Warehouse, classroom technology, student computing, labs and institutional research.

Nathaniel Edwards, UVU Marketing

Students and professors converse at the McKay School of Education on Friday, Jan. 30, 2015, at Utah Valley University.

Every project in the digital transformation department relates to UVU’s vision of being inclusive, providing students with engaged and flexible learning opportunities, and helping them achieve their full potential. Students have different backgrounds and experiences, but Baum believes that technology can be the great equalizer as UVU helps provide access to all.

“I know that in our demographic, we have a variety of students from different walks of life and situations,” she said. “The more we can meet them with technology, make that experience easier, make it intuitive, transparent, and reduce barriers, the more successful they can be.”

The digital transformation team plans to hire students for internships and part-time jobs. Students will become part of the “little army” helping deliver faster and better products, all while enhancing their education and representing the student voice in product development. The team also plans to forge a connection with Silicon Slopes in Lehi as a pipeline for these students — with their hands-on experience — to find good jobs upon graduation.

“I can see UVU really differentiating itself because of the focus on technology,” Baum said. “I love our mission. I love our focus on students. I love that we have the dual mission — that we can really focus on their needs.”

Other plans for digital transformation include bolstering the new UVU student mobile app; rebuilding the university website to make it easier to navigate; improving cellular coverage and the network on campus; and developing an Artificial Intelligence (AI) chatbot for the service desk, which will enable students to find answers to their questions during off hours. Down the road, the goal is to have recordings and transcriptions of class lectures that students can search via a chatbot to aid their studies.

Dx also plans to help faculty and staff become more efficient by replacing several paper-based and manual processes that have not kept pace with UVU’s growth. The department also plans to improve current predictive analytics tools so advisers can quickly see which students are at risk and reach out to help them with a click of a button.

“I feel like the next five years are going to be incredible,” Baum said. “We’re going to have extraordinary growth in technology, which is pivotal for UVU. We are at a crossroads, where we need to step on the gas and launch this digital transformation even more than we already have.”

To learn more, see digital transformation on the UVU website.

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