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UIT Delivers Technology for the Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program Launch

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Stanford is a place where leaders are born, challenges are solved, and visions become realities.

Over the past year, a variety of University IT (UIT) teams delivered technology to realize the vision of former Stanford President John Hennessy to create an unmatched scholars program that prepares future leaders to effect large-scale, positive impact across the globe.

In February, Stanford announced the pioneer cohort of Knight-Hennessy Scholars. Selected from more than 3,600 applicants, these 49 students will receive full funding to pursue their graduate degrees with the hope that they will become future global leaders who will address complex challenges.

Leading up to the announcement, more than a dozen UIT staff members provided technical consultation, guidance, design, development, implementation and coordination to the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program.

“It was quite an honor to be a small part of a major game-changing program at Stanford,” said Sameer Marella, a senior director in UIT who served as technical advisor and partner for the program. “The future impact of these graduates in the world is nothing short of inspiring.”

Sameer, along with his UIT colleagues, contributed to the program in a number of ways, including:

  • Identifying technology requirements for scholar application, review and selection
  • Choosing, customizing and implementing the vendor tool
  • Designing and developing workflows in the tool to ensure applicant materials and evaluator’s feedback corresponded with the right candidate
  • Delivering technical training and support to evaluators
  • Designing, developing and supporting the program’s website
  • Providing onsite technical support during the program’s January immersion weekend, when 100 finalists visited campus

“The UIT team was integral to the launch of the Knight-Hennessy Scholars," said Derrick Bolton, dean of admissions for Knight-Hennessy Scholars. "They were interested in the success of the technology, but they were committed more broadly to the success of the entire program. They always brought creative solutions and a can-do spirit as we tackled difficult problems.”

Alyssa Morrison, managing director of Knight-Hennessy Scholars, added that UIT’s “enthusiasm for our project and the partnership” really stood out.

“UIT has been a terrific partner in helping us develop our strategy, manage our process, and execute our plans,” she said. “They provided us with the expertise and resources we needed, and took the time to learn about our program, ask questions, and listen in order to provide the best support and advice possible.”

‘Highly rewarding’ work

Kelly Schnaps, a service development partner in UIT, worked to ensure the selected technology tool called Slate functioned properly to support the program’s application, evaluation, selection and notification processes. With thousands of applicants, this was highly critical to the program’s success. For Kelly, this often meant “dropping everything else” to support the program during significant milestones.

“It’s been highly rewarding,” said Schnaps. “You never know who is going to come out of the program when it’s done … world leaders, perhaps.”

Anna Watt, a project manager for UIT's Stanford Web Services (SWS), agreed the work was rewarding. She and her team helped redesign the program's website to incorporate its new visual identity and improve the user experience. The team also created a microsite for the immersion weekend, which served as a portal for event information for all scholar finalists. As part of the portal development, SWS implemented a complex login integration so scholar finalists could seamlessly access the site by leveraging their same credentials and authentication from Slate, the tool used for the application process.

"SWS was trusted to bring to life for the first time the program's new visual identity through the website, which is seen by a very large audience all over the world," Watt said. "It’s great to be part of a project at Stanford that helps set the first impression of a world-class program."

Nate Wagenaar, a manager in UIT's Computer Resource Consulting (CRC) group, and his team helped ensure reliable wireless coverage and fast network speed for the 100 finalists who visited Stanford during the immersion weekend.

“Our role was to make sure the technology was as easy to use and as reliable as possible, and to be there onsite to fix things quickly if needed,” said Wagenaar. “I always get excited to work on big events and programs at Stanford and to play a role in its success.”

‘Learn as you go’ and ‘go all the way’

Mary Beth Lefebvre, who provided IT project management, described the Knight-Hennessy Scholars staff as a “small group in start-up mode” that demonstrated the highest professionalism.

“Most days were ‘learn as you go’ and everyone rolled up their sleeves to address tasks at hand,” Lefebvre said. “The Knight-Hennessy team inspired us with their creativity, intelligence and dedication to selecting the best scholars.”

The scholars program also marked a chance for UIT to demonstrate its talents and ‘go all the way’ for a program unlike any other, Lefebvre added.

“Each of us in UIT stepped up to the opportunity and challenge of contributing to a new first at Stanford,” she said. “We each brought out skills and talents to the project, worked collaboratively together, and feel proud knowing our collective work had an impact on something that will be tremendous for the world."

Learn more

  • To learn more about the Knight-Hennessy Scholarship program and its first cohort of scholars, visit the Knight-Hennessy Scholars website.
  • To learn more about University IT and the services we provide, visit the UIT website.
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