Faculty Spotlight: Professor Paul Gandel

Interviewee: Paul Gandel, Professor | Director, Doctorate of Professional Studies - Information Management

Tell us about yourself.

I grew up in Buffalo, and have lived in Wisconsin, New Jersey, Texas, Rhode Island, New York, and Singapore. I came back to New York about 12 years ago when I was asked to be the chief information officer at Syracuse University.

What is your academic background?

I started my academic career as an undergraduate in history but also had a strong interest in film and photography. After earning my BA in history, I continued on to graduate school but switched my focus and earned an MFA in photography and film. During this time, I combined my interest in history and art and began to explore how technological developments changed the way information, especially visual information, is conveyed, and how technology changed the very nature of that information. This exploration naturally developed into my interest in technology and information science. This evolving interest was the reason for my pursuing my MS in library science and my PhD in information studies.

Why did you choose to earn your PhD in Information Science from Syracuse University?

Syracuse University had and still has one of the leading doctoral programs in information science. It has remained at the forefront of a constantly evolving field. I selected Syracuse University to do my PhD work because I felt it was the best place to support my research interests which at the time focused on the perception and use of visual information.

Why did you choose to earn your MS in Library Science from University of Wisconsin?

After I graduated from my MFA program, I was teaching photography in Wisconsin’s extension program. At the time, I also had an interest in library science because while working on my MFA I created a library of over 10,000 books and 100,000 images. In creating this library, I taught myself current library systems and approaches to organizing collections. The library science program at Wisconsin offered me an opportunity to help with their media studies program so I figured I may as well get a library science degree at the same time. It was a little strange teaching fellow master’s students in one class and then being their classmate in the next, but it all worked out. I ended with a degree in library science and also a specialization in archives management. It also led me to pursue doctoral study at Syracuse University.

What is your professional background?

I’ve been lucky enough to have leadership positions in a variety of information organizations. At Bell Laboratories I ran a computer operation that supported leading-edge research in statistics, software engineering, and data analytics. I held CIO positions at three major universities (Ohio, Rhode Island, and Syracuse University), managed public radio and television at Ohio, and was the dean of libraries at the University of Rhode Island.

Please tell us about your accomplishments as the previous vice president for information technology and chief information officer at Syracuse University.

During my tenure as CIO at Syracuse University, I was instrumental in modernizing the University's technology infrastructure and IT support services to ensure that Syracuse University remained competitive with the growing demands of providing high-quality information resources for research, teaching, and student learning environments. The structures and processes I put in place led to a more collaborative technology governance and decision-making environment across campus. Perhaps the accomplishment I am proudest of, however, is initiating and developing the Green Data Center at Syracuse University, which I believe is one of the “greenest” data centers in the world. What made this accomplishment all the more satisfying was that we were able to harness some of best minds across the university to work on this project and were successful despite the multitude of naysayers along the way.

How do you think your background in information management helped you as the previous vice president for information technology and chief information officer at Syracuse University?

Actually I think it was my fine arts training and creativity that help me the most. However, without the background and knowledge I gained from my studies of information science and management, I would not have had the knowledge to unleash that creativity effectively.

Based on your professional background, how have you seen information and data management in an organization change over the past years?

In my early career as a CIO in higher education, there was a great debate about whether we should “require” students to buy laptops. Now that debate seems silly in retrospect. At the time, I remember saying to those who would listen, the important question is not whether students should be required to buy computers but what should we do when they come with not only their own devices but also their own networks. I guess I was a pretty good prophet. However, today’s highly-connected information environment — mashed up, superabundant, and often decontextualized — has the potential for leaving people awash in facts, data, and opinions. This presents both an incredibly difficult challenge and opportunity for those of us in information management. We have gone from how to encourage the use of technology to being in danger of having our own success swamp us with an abundance of technological riches.

How does your industry experience impact your teaching?

I hope that it provides useful stories and lessons to share with students and places theoretical and practical course material into context.

What issues related to information and/or data interest you most?

How the different kinds of information available to us, and ways we share and store it affects how we see our world and in turn how this produced, stored, and shared information shapes our world and who we are.

What do you love about information management and why do you think it is vital to organizations today?

It shapes our world and who we are!

What sets the iSchool@Syracuse apart from other schools?

Steve Jobs may have coined the term “Think Different” but the Syracuse University School of Information Studies has always thought differently. It is the embodiment of that concept. The School was instrumental in creating and shaping the field of information science and management. Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies was the first “iSchool” and remains at the forefront of the profession.

What class are you teaching in January 2017 for iSchool@Syracuse University?

Managing Principles for Information Professionals.

What are some key learning objectives of the course?

This course is designed to introduce students to the profession and practice of management in the field of information systems.

What are you most looking forward to with this new cohort?

For me, learning is a shared experience. Therefore, every year I look forward to working with students to share and hopefully learn together from our collective experiences.

What excites you most about teaching courses online?

For me, online courses provide more opportunity to interact with students both collectively and individually. The online learning environment is a very rich learning experience.

What are your current research interests?

I have been exploring issues of scholarly communication. I am interested in how the changing technological and social landscape has changed the way scientific and scholarly information is shared and preserved. This in turn has affected libraries, scholarly communities, and the publishing industry. I also remain very interested in the areas of leadership and strategic thinking.