Homepage Becomes Popular New "Public Face" for University

Pat McAuliff does not blush when she is now referred to as the Uni-versity's "webmaster." She says it is only a by-product of a campus-wide team effort that has produced a sparkling new University at Albany "homepage" on the Internet.

McAuliff is director of the Campus-Wide Information Systems (CWIS) Web project, which replaced a makeshift University homepage with a colorful, feature-loaded Web site on the Internet on July 17 of this year.

Its features have only expanded since then in all directions. Last Tuesday, for instance, McAuliff was getting new requests to be on the site from the School of Education and the cross-country team.

"What really got the process moving last spring was Dr. Hitchcock — who was then academic VP — informing the information systems unit that we had to have a Web presence," said McAuliff.

McAuliff, then associate director for User Services, began building up a Web site, aided closely by Bill Schwarz of Technology Services. Marge Corbett provided staff support, Fred Doyle of University Graphics supplied design and graphics support, and Isabel Nirenberg soon joined to do infrastructure work for the Web network and establish security measures for the site.

The CWIS team was formed last spring by Stephen DeLong, associate vice president for Information Systems & Technology, and, shortly after, McAuliff began to meet with faculty who had already developed sites for their departments. "They were very interested in having a Web site to attach to," said McAuliff. "There were nine departments represented by 14 faculty in the beginning. Four departments had pages ready.

"Now, nine departments are on the site and there are seven others working with me or developing their own homepages. The way we've built this site is very reflective of the campus, really. There has been a lot of independence, with contributions from staff, faculty, students, the graphics unit and others. Some departments, like atmospheric science, run their pages on their own machines. Biomedical sciences runs theirs from a machine in Wadsworth Laboratories. Chemistry and economics is on ours. But all are linked seamlessly on the Albany site."

The design and rules for the homepage were anything but accidental, as McAuliff met often with representatives of the Uni-versity Relations office for style, tone and content, and with the Enrollment Initiatives Group for ideas in reaching out to future undergraduates.

"The look and substance of the homepage was critical from the beginning," said Judy Genshaft, interim vice president for Academic Affairs. "The Web site is and will be the first introduction and entrée to the University for a growing number of people both here in the U.S. and internationally. That is why we are being very attentive to suggestions from faculty and others in the University community. Our goal is to have the Web site achieve the same high quality as our printed publications."

The page offers a photo of the week surrounded by 10 categories. Within these can be found admissions information (including all of Albany's grad program offerings), campus maps, a who's who faculty directory, a searchable schedule of classes (with parameters for professor, day of week, pass/fail, etc.), the University events calendar, the University Update, press releases, the University magazine Albany, library and computing services and schedules, and info on research centers and alumni.

"Faculty are beginning to write pages with their course descriptions, and students are creating their own homepages — eventually there will be links for these as well," said McAuliff. "Bill Schwarz is currently working with Undergraduate Studies on a course bulletin for all departments that will be on by the end of the semester." In addition, the homepage team is making adjustments based on feedback — complimentary and critical — from members of the University community.

Said President Hitchcock, who first gave the project its impetus, "The Web page has made tremendous progress through a marvelous coordination of skills and effort here on campus. I am excited for its prospects, because in the near future it will become one of the most important public faces the University will present to the world."


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