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Off the Script
Featuring University President Donald J. Farish
This fall, alumnus and trustee Tim Baxter ’83 – president of Samsung Electronics
America – launched a partnership and case study that allowed RWU to roll out a cloud
computing platform using state-of-the-art Samsung displays. Among other benefits,
the solution saves money for students, frees classrooms and creates an even more
collaborative academic environment. Baxter shares thoughts with Don Farish.
Tim, let me start by thanking you
for the wonderful consequences of this
partnership. Not only is cloud computing
working well in terms of hardware and software,
but now we are calculating howmuch money
this will save for the average student. This feeds
right into our Affordable Excellence initiative,
and it turns us into a leading-edge campus. We
couldn’t ask for much more.
That’s excellent news – really
exciting. In September, we hosted about 100
alumni for an event in Manhattan where we
showcased this partnership. It’s a wonderful
demonstration of what can be done in the
context of Affordable Excellence – and it’s being
done in a way that supports initiatives that my
company, Samsung, has as well.
Let me ask you about your own
motivation. How do you feel, as both an
alumnus and a trustee, helping your alma mater
become an even stronger institution?
To me – as an alumnus, the parent of a
recent graduate, vice president of the Alumni
Association and a trustee – I’m committed to the
University’s success. This school took a chance
on me as a student and gave me the post-
graduation confidence I needed to be successful.
And I believe I have some responsibility to find
ways to give back. This opportunity was borne
out of your Affordable Excellence strategy and a
business need at the University (limited space,
and the need to optimize it), coupled with a
B-to-B strategy for Samsung in the education
sector. This opportunity brings those things
together in meaningful ways for us both.
You took it upon yourself to look for
opportunities, while certainly being responsible
to your business, but to help your alma mater in
the process. This is exactly what we would hope
to see frommany of our alumni. Generosity such
as yours makes it possible for us to bring real
meaning to Affordable Excellence. I mentioned
the dollars saved – other benefits aren’t as
immediately obvious. For instance, recapturing
space previously devoted to computer labs.
We’ve started this primarily in the School of
Architecture. But if we were to implement this
campus-wide, it would free classrooms to the
equivalent of constructing a brand new building –
a cost that might well be $20 million! That’s an
enormous amount of money that the University
doesn’t have to obtain by raising tuition. This
project shows how technology can save money
and improve the outcome of student work.
That touched a chord with people at the
New York alumni chapter event. You have the
financial benefits, but the educational
experience, too. Howmany times are students
challenged during examweeks in trying to
secure computer time? A cloud solution takes
that burden away – you saw the heads shaking
from everybody, whether they were architecture,
business or engineering alumni.
Architecture students are already
indicating what a difference the cloud makes in
terms of the quality of their projects, the time it
takes to get them done and the capacity to
collaborate in new ways.
It also adds value for graduates, many
of whomwill be coming into corporations
with a view toward the benefits of the cloud.
They will be able to say: “I’ve experienced it
firsthand. I’m collaborating on large screens,
understanding the benefits of touch and
different user interfaces to show how I can
explore, create and navigate.” That gives
students a new conversation for job interviews.
It’s a point of differentiation.
These days, companies are converting
cubicles into places where there can be a free
exchange of ideas – the Skunk Works approach.
The notion that our students are graduating
already used to collaborating, bouncing ideas off
of people and using the collective resources of a
team to develop outcomes – we’re getting that
embedded in the education of these students. As
you say, Tim, they are working at the cutting
edge. It’s hard to imagine that our graduates
won’t be impressive people when they sit down
with an HR director.
For Samsung, this allows us to show how
our technology is providing those benefits. We
are nearly a $200 billion company that’s gone
through rapid growth, yet we’re also known very
much as a consumer company. We are looking to
create smart school solutions and find ways to
leverage our leadership in displays, tied into
cloud experiences like this one at Roger
Williams. This gives us a very tangible case study.
I hope we are providing a proof of
concept. This really can be a game changer, and
we’re happy to be the guinea pigs!
This technology is a relatively new
frontier, and we’re both out on the edge. That’s
no different than being out in front of the curve
with Affordable Excellence. The University has
been addressing the critical issues facing higher
education for the last year, and only now do we
hear the president of the United States talking
about it. We really are out in front; we’re
embracing the need for change. For both entities,
that’s about leadership, right?
Change in higher education has to come
from places like Roger Williams – not the elite
institutions, who are least impacted. What’s
special about this relationship, Tim, is that
Samsung is part of it. You didn’t have to test it at
an Ivy League university to show that it would
work. For us, credibility is the operative word.
I’m sure this partnership will register strongly
with prospective students and their parents.
That excitement becomes contagious, which
raises the image of this University, entirely as a
consequence of our association with a world-
class institution like Samsung. So, Tim, thank
you again for the very significant contribution. It
means a lot to me, but even more to the students
who are the beneficiaries.
It means a lot to me, too. I think it’s a
great way to give back to the University, and we
all can do that in different ways. I’m thrilled to
be a part of this.
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