Danna Gianforte started as chief information officer (CIO) at UCR on December 1, 2016, replacing retired CIO Chuck Rowley. Prior to UCR, Gianforte was CIO for Residential and Dining Enterprises at Stanford University, and before that, associate CIO at the University of Georgia. You can read more about Gianforte’s background and experience in UCR Today. Here she shares thoughts about her career.
What attracted you to UC?
I was ready to move back into a leadership position with a public institution. Being the fourth of five sisters and the first to attend college, the mission of UC Riverside resonates with me on a personal level. Also, working with Chancellor Wilcox came highly recommended.
What are your biggest challenges in the new job?
We have a great educational technology and academic engagement team. We have solid relationships with our faculty senate Library and Information Technology committee. The issues really revolve around funding challenges, as they usually do within public education. We need to shore up our cybersecurity footprint and business continuity architecture. Those are typically not the cheapest endeavors to pursue, but we will get there over the next year.
What opportunities do you see for IT in higher education?
We have an opportunity to directly impact new generations of society by influencing and empowering the teaching, learning, and research on our campuses. Today, I believe our real value add, especially at competitive state institutions, comes when we actively contribute to the student success initiatives at our campus – predictive analytics that improve student success, increase retention, and lower the cost of education.
What’s the craziest “IT gig” you’ve done?
I was asked to join the inaugural technology team that set up the Texas A&M University campus in Doha, Qatar in 2003 and served as IT Manager for application development for four years. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Working on a very small team of five technologists during the startup phase of a brand new campus forced me learn more about networking than I ever wanted to know and gave me a rare understanding of “teamwork.” I also grew personally in those four years. I often miss the Qatari culture, community and friends.
What advice would you give to your younger self at the start of your career?
Sit down right now. Look up the definition of patience. Memorize it. Practice it. Learn to meditate and relax sooner than later – it may save you from premature grey hair.
What’s one anecdote to describe who you are as a person?
At Christmas in 2009, my 17 year old niece was killed in a tragic car accident that also took the life of her best friend. Just two months prior, she gave birth to a tiny 4 pound baby girl who was two months premature. That anecdote has changed holidays for my family forever. As bad as some days at work may seem, the unfortunate reality is that everyday someone somewhere is grieving. Be nice to one another. Be thankful for every day.