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Ganesan "Ravi" Ravishanker has worked at Wesleyan 20 years. He was recently promoted to associate vice president of Information Technology Services.
 
Posted 07.07.06

ITS VP Says His Department Can Handle Any Technology Problem

When there’s nothing broken, don’t try to fix it.

That’s how Ganesan "Ravi" Ravishanker feels about Information Technology Services. The newly-promoted associate vice president of ITS says the university can feel comfortable that its technology needs are in good hands.

“I inherited a very hard working organization and I’m not intending to change anything drastically within the department,” Ravishanker says from his fifth floor office in Exley Science Center. “Technology problems can arise and hit us very fast, and our department is very capable of responding to these situations.”

This has always been the case, he says.

When Ravishanker arrived at Wesleyan 20 years ago, he shared a dual appointment in the former Wesleyan Computing Center and the Chemistry Department with David Beveridge, the University Professor of the Sciences and Mathematics and professor of chemistry. Professor Beveridge’s group measured the movement of DNA molecules over time using molecular modeling program. Though they could only capture the motions over a hundred picoseconds (1 picosecond is one-trillionth of a second) the results from these simulations were huge.

He and Beveridge developed a program called Molecular Dynamics Analysis Toolchest, to analyze and present this data in a concise graphical format. This is still in active use by several molecular modeling labs.

“Keep in mind, this is 1986. Computer power was very limited, but we were doing cutting-edge simulations of DNA,” Ravishanker says. “It was very rare for a small university to have the computer equipment we had, and that has always been one of the best parts about working at Wesleyan. We are always able to go looking for the next best thing in technology and implement them.”

As technology became more complex, so did Ravishanker’s responsibilities. Although he enjoyed working in the Beveridge lab, he was offered a full-time management position in the Wesleyan Computing Center. The number of people using personal computers and applications such as e-mail was growing in leaps and bounds, and the Internet was just beginning to take form. Managing all these posed special challenges and Ravishanker wanted to be part of this, and jumped at the opportunity.

“I feel very privileged that I got to be part of the evolution of the Internet right from the start,” he says. “I had no idea the Internet would become so huge and simplify lives the way that it has. It’s been nothing but an exciting journey here.”

From 1994-1996, the Wesleyan Computing Center under went several iterations and changes in management. Ravishanker spent a year as interim director and was later promoted to director of Technology Support Services. He stayed in this role until June 2006, when he was promoted as associate VP.

"Ravi is one of the most energetic, customer-orientated, bright, down to earth, collegial people that I have ever worked with," says John Meerts, vice president for Finance and Administration. "I'm supremely confident he will guide ITS in a superb fashion in his new VP role."

Ravishanker leads monthly meetings for the entire ITS department to keep everyone abreast on each other’s projects and upcoming deadlines. He offers help and advice to anyone who needs it, and enjoys taking on his own projects when time allows.

Ravishanker is the E-Portfolio’s author and wrote several of its applications, such as the bulk email system and various e-mail tools. He’s mastered several programming languages including as Java, FORTRAN and PERL and understands all e-mail, server and networking issues on campus.

“I used to be a very hands-on manager,” he says. “I wanted to be able to do anything anyone else in this department can do, in addition to being a manager. But that has to change now.”

Ravishanker, a native of Sri Lanka, attended college in southern India and earned a Ph.D in theoretical chemistry Hunter College of the City University of New York. He has always had an interest in technology.

In his new VP role, Ravishanker has two immediate goals in mind. He wants to make Web Mail more efficient. A group of ITS staff are currently implementing various technologies to accomplish this. He also wants to explore with the cooperation of ITS staff opportunities available through Web 2.0 and see how these services can be advantageous to Wesleyan. The term Web 2.0 refers to a second generation of services available on the World Wide Web that allows users to collaborate and share information online. He cites blogs and wikis as examples of Web 2.0 technologies. Leading by example, the “gone paperless” guru already uses a Web 2.0 blog to communicate with his department.

“Applying new Web technologies to enhance the sense of community and help collaborate better will be our goal in the coming year,” he says.

Ravishanker spends his free time playing golf and the occasional game of cricket. But he returns to the computer for his ultimate hobby – tuning into South-Indian music stations.

“I’m always humming along with them,” he says, smiling.
 
By Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection editor