Research is interwoven into every facet of university life at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), with the enterprise driving innovation and discovery in diverse disciplines, including bioscience, robotics and machine intelligence, and data science and management. Being on the forefront of world-class technological exploration, NJIT offers students a strong academic experience, allowing them to participate in research that is of both national and international importance. In the summer of 2020, Kamalika Sandell joined NJIT as Vice Provost and Chief Information Officer to help expand online learning capabilities, implement NJIT’s 2025 strategic plan, and champion the University’s technology vision.
Coming to NJIT with more than 25 years of leadership experience, Sandell brought extensive knowledge in multiple industries, from manufacturing and industrial, to financial services and higher education. “Throughout my years of working in the tech field, I grew to deeply appreciate being able to experience different industries and explore that industry through the lens of their tech transformation needs,” shares Sandell. “I’ve studied change all my life, whether in computer software engineering or student organizational design and behavior. With digital now being the name of the game, we must determine how to use this shift to a digital world as an opportunity to bring in the right amount of fundamental change to higher education, without altering the core mission of higher ed—providing an environment for teaching, learning, and research.”
“One of the first phone calls I made was to Dr. Forough Ghahramani, Associate Vice President for Research, Innovation, and Sponsored Programs, Edge, and in our discussion, she informed me of National Science Foundation (NSF) grant opportunities that could be beneficial to NJIT. EdgeDiscovery has an inspiring agenda and we will need a great deal of support from Edge going forward. We will look to partner with experienced transformation leaders like them to help guide us on this journey.”
– Kamalika Sandell
Leading Digital Transformation
Coming from the American University, Sandell led teams through multiple rounds of strategy and modernization, working to update infrastructure systems and implement software for student recruitment and advancement. “I like leading with a technology vision and infusing that approach into every dimension of the organization,” says Sandell. “I was drawn to the immersive tech aspect of NJIT and I was inspired by the trajectory that the University has taken over the last several years, especially in research; they have grown by leaps and bounds. Growth and purpose can work hand in hand, and as the principal architect of enterprise technology strategy, I can help take the larger academic enterprise through this digital transformation.”
Sandell joined NJIT amid the pandemic, requiring her immediate focus to be on ensuring that classroom support teams and technology were in place, including extensive back-up plans. “We needed a great deal of fallback orchestration, including an A team, B team, and C team,” explains Sandell. “When tackling the challenges of an event like the pandemic, you bond with people very quickly. My first priority was to identify what we were doing that semester and then create a strategy that leads to a three-year roadmap, including plans that support the research happening on campus. My top areas of focus include research computing and data science, high-performance computing (HPC) or grid computing, artificial intelligence and machine learning, edge computing and 5G, and how we’re managing cloud infrastructure.”
Creating a Culture of Partnership
To understand the needs of the research community, Sandell says involving researchers and faculty members is essential. “I need faculty at the table to identify what would truly make a difference in the research space and how they go about making that difference. NJIT is pushing to grow our impact in art sciences, data sciences, and environment and sustainability. With the involvement of deans and faculty, we can determine how to expand into translational research and support the larger community of researchers in achieving their missions.”
As one of three institutes in the state earning the highest research rating (R1), NJIT not only strives to inspire interdisciplinary collaboration, but recognizes the importance of cooperation and networking within the larger education and research community. “One of the first phone calls I made was to Dr. Forough Ghahramani, Associate Vice President for Research, Innovation, and Sponsored Programs, Edge, and in our discussion, she informed me of National Science Foundation (NSF) grant opportunities that could be beneficial to NJIT,” says Sandell. “EdgeDiscovery has an inspiring agenda and we will need a great deal of support from Edge going forward. We will look to partner with experienced transformation leaders like them to help guide us on this journey.”
Building a Collaborative Learning Community
Through their partnership, NJIT and Edge exchange insights and information they hear from within the research and education community and share strategies that have worked for other organizations. “My work connects me to people like Dr. Ghahramani and others at Edge, and we build an ecosystem of like-minded people—a learning community—where we push each other to think differently,” says Sandell.
To match the rapid growth in research at NJIT, Sandell says they will be required to upscale the core cybersecurity infrastructure to continue to meet the unique needs of their researchers. “Our faculty’s input is vitally important in determining the most suitable infrastructure mechanisms and models for NJIT and helping create an institution-wide process to support all the research at the University. Through these transparent, collaborative discussions, we are also driving a cultural change and giving everyone a voice in how we navigate our digital transformation going forward.”
Looking for comprehensive expertise and support in Cyberinfrastructure Strategy Development? Visit njedge.net/research/ to see how EdgeDiscovery can help meet the research and computing needs of your organization.