An Oracle blog about Education and Research

An Inspired Leap to Oracle Higher Education

Nicole Engelbert
Vice President, Higher Education Development

First, I want to thank the entire Oracle community for its warm welcome and to all my colleagues in the higher education industry who have extended congratulations and well wishes.

One of the questions I have been asked in many of these exchanges has been, "Okay, so why Oracle?"  It wasn't a decision that I took lightly, so I thought I would shed a bit of light on why.

Change is accelerating for higher education & technology

There is a profound business model change on the horizon for higher education.  It is in response to a myriad of macro and micro factors, not least of which are rapidly changing student expectations, intensifying cost constraints, and growing economic volatility.  Policy analysts will look back on this period a decade from now and speak of it as the time higher education took a pivot and where some institutions flourished and others failed.

It is not just the emergence of transformational technology such as IoT, connectivity (5G), and AI, but also the model by which it is delivered (cloud) and the speed at which innovation with it is occurring.  Innovation and disruption cycles are happening more frequently and with greater impact.  I have seen other periods of technology-led disruption, there is something different this time, perhaps it is a watershed moment where technology finally moves from other, to extension, to indistinguishable from the human experience?

A calling to take the leap

Earlier in my career, I left a great position as the associate dean of a small business college in New York.  It was gratifying work, making a real difference with first-generation college students.  However, it was the dot-com era and I could see that technology would/could have a profound impact on the delivery of instruction and institutional operations.  But I wouldn’t see the bleeding edge from within the institution, I needed to go out and immerse myself in the “possible” – it was a terrifying leap, but I spent 4 years at an online test preparation company and it radically changed the course of my career.

Once again, I found myself in a similar position.  The last decade has been spent advising institutions on their IT strategy at Ovum.  It was deeply satisfying and intellectually engaging work.  But given what is happening in higher education and technology today, once again I felt the pull to make a change, to get closer to what is happening and shape how higher education will use technology to transform itself.

Where to leap?

The question became for me from where could I have the most impact?  I’m a researcher by training, so I set out a list of characteristics.

Deep technical expertise and commitment to R&D

The rate of technological change is staggering.  Institutions will need partners that bring far more than sparkling features and functionality – they will need a robust, constantly evolving stack.  Oracle’s investments in R&D are massive and the fruits of those efforts are displayed across the IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS solution suites.  This also gets into unanswered security and privacy questions and I wanted to be at a place where the full force of the organization was committed to addressing them in a proactive, sustainable way.

A commitment to higher education

Yes, Oracle is enormous and supports some of the largest and most complex enterprises in the world.  But education is an important industry to the firm.  The opening of Design Tech High School is certainly evidence of this, but one cannot overlook that Oracle has higher education customers on nearly every continent (not Antarctica!) and this footprint has grown steadily over the last decade.  Not just with Campus Solutions, but with Oracle’s full suite of solutions, from infrastructure all the way through enterprise applications such as ERP, HCM, and CX as well. 

Growth is often an undervalued characteristic when selecting a solution provider. But growth brings resources, which benefit institutions through better solutions & services.  Over the last year, the higher education team at Oracle has grown substantially.  In fact, my own role is an investment rather than a replacement position.

I should also note that Oracle has an impressive record regarding women in leadership.  Safra Catz has blazed an historic path.  Moreover, when I look around the table on the higher education development team, Vivian Wong, Susan Beidler, Yvonne Baur, Cat Boroff, and Melissa Gena offer incredible role models of what women in tech can and should be.

A vision and tactical capability to bring technological innovation to higher education

Many firms that have solid technology, higher education expertise, and deliver value to institutions, but to leave a job I love, I needed to know that it would drive real transformation.

Over the last 18 months, Oracle has launched a development effort to bring an entirely new student system to market – Student Cloud.  Continuing education and recruitment are available now, with significant releases later in the year.  Watching its accelerating progress and paradigm-shifting vision inspired me to take the leap! 

If you would like to be part of a conversation on how we can transform higher education together, please reach out via Twitter or LinkedIn and of course follow our progress with Student Cloud.


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