Congratulating Cynthia Herrera Lindstrom on Her Retirement as UIC CIO: Interview
In the not so distant past when our campuses were sprawling with life, and remote collaboration tools like Zoom and Blackboard were not as popular, one would find Cynthia Herrera Lindstrom in back to back meetings at BGRC. With her characteristic Argentinian accent and wavy brown hair, Cynthia has been leading IT at UIC for almost a decade as CIO, UIC’s IT department Executive Director, and in the last few years also as U of I HIPAA Privacy and Security Compliance Officer.
A different campus
Retiring in 2021 from her current role, Cynthia reflects on her 35-year journey at UIC, which began when she joined as an undergraduate student in 1985 and went on to work for IT.
“Things back then were a lot different,” she says. “There were no residence halls, no places to sit and study other than the cafeteria and the library, which closed at 2:00, so it was very much a commuter campus,” she recalls. “In computing, it was no different. There was one printer on campus, and if you wanted output, you came walking all the way to SEL to print it out.”
UIC’s transformation to the modern-day university is striking in terms of infrastructure, services, and student life. It is just a completely different place.
Driving transformational change
UIC’s transformation to the modern-day university is striking in terms of infrastructure, services, and student life, Cynthia says. “It is just a completely different place.”
In terms of technology, “the people that used the IT services at the time were the ‘geeks’…people in tech and sciences…everybody else had nothing to do with a computer,” she says. “That has completely shifted. Everyone now depends on IT, and everyone on campus uses our services.”
Speaking of services, Technology Solutions (previously known as ACCC) offers some 50 technology services and 100 tools and offerings in seven categories including communication and collaboration, security, and infrastructure, among others.
It seems easy, but just like most of the things that we do, people see the tip of the iceberg but have no clue of the iceberg that is under that tip that makes it all work. In some sense, it is a miracle that all this works. It really is an amazing feat.
At the helm
In the wake of COVID-19, Technology Solutions provided necessary technology service access and assistance, supporting the entire university with the means to teach, learn, and work remotely, seemingly overnight. With Cynthia at the helm, Technology Solutions addressed unprecedented emergency IT challenges to support the UIC community in its mission to achieve academic excellence.
From having established a new VPN service, to organizing an emergency laptop and hotspots loan program and bolstering IT training webinars to address UIC community needs, the team at Technology Solutions worked diligently to ensure UIC’s emergency technology needs were promptly addressed.
The biggest challenge was going from providing some of our services to some people, and all of a sudden pivoting to everyone using the services. All the work that had been done by great staff over the years paid off overnight, that was a very proud moment for us.
What Cynthia is proud of the most, she says, is her staff. “Very few people are as lucky as I am to be able to get up everyday and be happy to go to work and see people you love to work with…the staff is just amazing,” she says.
As for the department, whose name was recently changed from ACCC (Academic Computing and Communications Center) to UIC Technology Solutions, one of the most profound changes over the last couple years has been “maturity,” she says.
“As you provide services to more and more people, you have to change the way you do business. We have become much more customer service-centric.”
Cynthia’s team of some 130 individuals has over the years put in great effort to better serve the UIC community of 60,000+ students, faculty and staff. “We are in a better place, we are more trusted, and people are reaching out to work with us,” Cynthia says of Technology Solutions.
Among other accomplishments she notes are the efforts of ACER, which now provides high performance computing for researchers. “The fact that we can provide researchers with high performance computing centrally I think is a huge change and improvement to the campus community,” she says.
As you provide services to more and more people, you have to change the way you do business. We have become much more customer service-centric.
What's next for Cynthia
As CIO, Cynthia has helped set and lead the information technology strategy for UIC, working with UIC Leadership to identify gaps and innovative services, and make connections that support the goals of the university. She is being succeeded by Matt Riley, who joins UIC from the University of Oregon.
After retirement, Cynthia plans on enjoying more time spent on photography, golf, gardening and, COVID restrictions permitting, travel.