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CIO Point of View: What Does Internet2 Mean for a Liberal Arts College?

Jul 15, 2016, by Meredith Lovelace
Tags: Higher Education, Internet2 Member, Membership

Perspective by Carrie Rampp, Associate Vice President and CIO, Franklin & Marshall College

Franklin & Marshall College became a full member of the Internet2 community this spring, with initial support from the National Science Foundation. Carrie is already serving the community—as a brand new member of the Community Engagement Program Advisory Group—and shares with us an excerpt of her message to her trustee technology committee and senior college leadership.

What does Internet2 mean for F&M?

  • Being among just a handful of small liberal arts colleges who have been able to join Internet2 means we are providing, for the first time, not only access to the research network imagined, built and sustained by R1 institutions but we are also able to provide capacity to move data that matches what these institutions provide; this is a more than 10-fold increase in capacity over what was possible just a few months ago. Imagine a highway just for research and education appearing where previously you only had a dirt road you shared with everybody. (Other small colleges similar to F&M: Swarthmore, Middlebury, Bucknell, Lafayette, Skidmore, Washington & Lee, Vassar.)
  • As a member, we have access to the staff and services of Internet2 to help us leverage not only the infrastructure but the 'human network' that connects researchers, solves problems and creates and advances opportunities for research collaboration around the world. This is critical for a small team like ours where it is not possible to be 'well connected' (in the human sense) to the many people around the world doing this work without a partner and guide.
  • As F&M continues to attract the very best faculty and students, access to Internet2 means, from a technology infrastructure perspective, top caliber data-intensive researchers and future researchers need not feel they have 'compromised' their research agenda or preparation as a future researcher when choosing a liberal arts college. They are very much so 'still on the grid.'
  • This new avenue benefits more than just data-intensive researchers in the natural and social sciences. Internet2 has a rapidly expanding network of institutions participating in arts-related initiatives to include everything from real-time master classes across the globe to experimental performances that involve artists in disparate locations in concert or performance in real-time together. These projects open up never imagined new opportunities in the arts and we can be a part of it if we choose; here’s a brief video of a musical performance using Internet2 technologies.

I am also pleased to share that F&M is represented in a recently published report, prepared at the behest of the NSF. A link to the reportThe Role of Regional Organizations in Improving Access to the National Computational Infrastructure, is included in the just-released national call for NSF proposals for cyberinfrastructure. The call notes that the recommendations of this report served as the driver for a new track in the call for proposals. I was honored to be asked to participate and serve on a panel representing the 'small school perspective.' The recommendations were produced largely over two long days in Kansas City last fall, using white papers produced by invited participants in advance of the gathering. It's a singular moment when one can 'rub shoulders' with national figures involved in the continual development and evolution of the national research grid as well as running major research facilities such as the Large Hadron Collider or the seminal work happening at the USC Shoah Foundation. This is truly the value of the 'human network' component of Internet2 and our regional network, KINBER.

Go F&M!