Innovative Use of Dell Technology Makes A Top Business School Even Better

During a lecture, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's (UNC-CH) Kenan-Flagler School of Business points a wireless mouse at a Dell OptiPlex GXpro desktop PC and clicks. A multimedia presentation is instantly projected onto a 10-foot tall viewing screen. He clicks on a hyperlink and a video begins. Watching the presentation, students are taken on a virtual tour of an oil refinery, learning about its continuous manufacturing operation from a plant manager. Instead of taking notes, students can later access the presentation from the network, letting them concentrate on soaking in the information presented in the lecture.

While this level of technology integration is helping Kenan-Flagler set the national standard for enhancing business education with technology, this wasn't always the case. When Tom Milazzo, director of information and technology resources at Kenan-Flagler, joined the staff two years ago, 80% of the school's computers still ran on DOS. "The business school was dead last in terms of IT infrastructure within the University," Milazzo says. "It had no focus, no direction."


Students and Staff Benefit from Dell Partnership

From Lagging to Leading

Kenan-Flagler was losing the technology race. Low IT marks were one of the primary reasons the school fell from among the ranks of the nation's top 10 business schools. To regain its prominence and provide students with a multidimensional learning environment, Kenan-Flagler invested heavily in technology, overhauling its entire IT infrastructure.

Today, DOS is but a memory. And so are the hundreds of outdated computers that once populated the business school. Milazzo replaced them with PCs and servers from Dell Computer Corporation (Round Rock, Texas). As always, accomplishing such a major overhaul wasn't easy. Because UNC-CH had a close relationship with another computer manufacturer, there was virtually no precedent for buying from other vendors. But Milazzo went ahead with his plans to incorporate Dell's quality, commitment and support. "Dell is the standard by which we judge everyone else," Milazzo explains.

Dell's reliability has played a key role in solving one of Kenan-Flagler's biggest challenges - stabilizing its network. "We must have an ironclad network," says Milazzo. "We need to have the systems up all the time. We can't afford mistakes." Two years ago, the school's network experienced an average of four failures a day. Today, using Dell's PowerEdge 4100 and 6100 servers, it averages one failure every 32 days. This newfound stability has created new opportunities for all and made Dell's dependability and support services even more essential.

Top Technology Center Anchors School

Kenan-Flagler is pushing the technology envelope throughout the business school. Every PC has been upgraded twice in the last two years. Even 100 MHz machines are being replaced. Instead, faculty and staff use Dell's OptiPlex PCs with full multimedia support, or dual Pentium Pro PCs running robust financial and statistical research tools such as SAS Institute's SAS, SPSS Inc.'s SPSS and Fortran 90. And, students are encouraged to purchase Dell's Latitude XPi notebook PCs.

The new technology is creating a virtual teaching and learning environment in Kenan-Flagler's new McColl Building. The building's auditorium, seminar room and 18 classrooms are equipped with multimedia teaching consoles. Through a wireless keyboard and mouse, presenters use Dell's GXpro 200 PCs to control more than two dozen A/V systems, including mounted video cameras for distance learning, video conferencing and presentation recording. With more than 2,800 ports throughout the building - including ports at every desk and in dining area booths - students can easily plug into the network or the Internet to share information with other students, faculty and corporate executives, or access UNC-CH's various libraries.

The building's state-of-the-art Price Waterhouse - Dell - Cabletron Technology Center is a catalyst for introducing technology into the classroom, and allows students and faculty to develop critical computing skills. Unlike traditional computer labs, where students simply do homework on PCs with standard applications, Kenan-Flagler's Technology Center is a "living" laboratory that contains technologies not normally found in a computer lab. It has 68 Dell OptiPlex GXpro 200 PCs, two Dell PowerEdge servers and advanced A/V equipment.

According to Milazzo, the school wanted to accomplish two things with the Technology Center. "First, we wanted a constant introduction of new technologies. Second, we wanted to establish a strategic relationship with major technology companies to ensure our vision and implementation were consistent with the corporate world," he relates.

The Center's eight work areas meet a range of needs. Students re-engineer business processes and develop multimedia case studies with links to video footage, databases, images and other information. Faculty members develop CD-based course materials and multimedia presentations on topics such as marketing, market analysis and financial analysis. Students and faculty collaborate on research projects for area businesses. And, the IT staff studies human-centric computing and other IT issues.

The Center's technologies are a result of a unique partnership between Kenan-Flagler, Dell, Price Waterhouse and Cabletron. Under the partnership, Dell supports student internships, practicums and apprenticeships; supplies Kenan-Flagler with the latest emerging technology; and serves on the steering committee that charts Kenan-Flagler's future technology course.

Dell is also using Kenan-Flagler as a test site for its latest laptop and server technology. This provides students with early access to emerging technologies, and Dell with insight into what technologies are most beneficial to higher education.

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This article originally appeared in the 12/01/1997 issue of THE Journal.