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Grouper Shines at Northern Arizona University

April, 2010

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Northern Arizona University and Grouper logos Solution Summary

Northern Arizona University chose Grouper to create their Enterprise Group System. They cited Grouper's flexibility as a key factor in their choice, as well as its existing web services API. The system includes advanced features such as groups based on LDAP filters and included/excluded subgroups and individuals within groups.


  • Northern Arizona University

Products & Services

Community Resources

Funding Sources

  • Internet2
  • National Science Foundation (NSF) Grant No. OCI-0330626, OCI-0721896, and OCI-1032468
  • Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) (UK)
  • University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, Duke University, University of Washington, University of Memphis, University of Bristol (UK)

With its main campus in sunny Flagstaff, Northern Arizona University (NAU) is a teaching and research institution with outstanding programs in areas such as biomedical sciences, environmental sciences, and engineering. The wide range of degree programs—and the nearly 40 extended NAU campuses throughout the state, plus online programs as well—mean that there are a multitude of groups needing to be maintained for both administrative and academic/collaborative purposes.

The Problem

When NAU decided to implement an Enterprise Group System to handle formation and management of groups across their institution, they set high standards, aiming for flexible groups that could be administered locally instead of centrally and could be filtered in various ways. An Active Directory (AD) system was already in place, but the burden on the AD administrators in maintaining groups was a problem.

For example, if a computer science student wanted to allow their team to access a code base, the student would submit a request to the instructor to create a group. This would usually require the instructor to make a request to the administrator of the required resource to allow permission. Subsequent maintenance of the group, to add or delete members, would need to go through a similar process. A new process was needed to “cut out the middle man” and allow the end user a much quicker turnaround time for group use.

NAU's group definition dialog boxes The Solution

NAU selected Grouper to create an Enterprise Group System. “Grouper’s flexibility was key, as it allowed for us to pick and choose how we orient and distribute our group structure and permissions. Other key features were Grouper’s existing web services and API,” says Ray Walker, senior software systems engineer.

In developing the user interface for the Enterprise Group System, NAU decided to integrate with uPortal, the leading open source portal framework for higher education, already in use for other purposes at NAU.

The Result

The result was a clear and flexible user interface for setting up and maintaining groups. Advanced features such as groups based on LDAP filters (for example all freshmen) and included/excluded sub-groups and individuals within a group are included in NAU’s design. The ability to add an expiration date to a group membership is a feature NAU would like to incorporate in the future.