MUCH HAS CHANGED in technology over the past 300 years, but Teresa Sullivan thinks Alexander Pope had it right back in 1711 when he wrote:
“Be not the first by whom the new are tried,
Nor yet the last to lay the old aside.”
Ms. Sullivan, 62, who became the Univer-
sity of Virginia’s first female president in 2010,
never forgets that technology must prove its
worth, and should be set aside when face-to-face
meetings are needed. She is in constant commu-
nication with her top deputies, Michael Strine,
the chief operating officer, and John Simon, the
provost, but certain topics—such as personnel
or litigation matters—are discussed only in per-
son, she says.
Before Ms. Sullivan arrived, high-level meet-
ings were nearly always interrupted by rings
and texting, says James Hilton, Virginia’s chief
information officer. That has changed, since
Ms. Sullivan has set a tone that meetings are not
for multitasking, and that cellphones should be
used only for genuine emergencies. “Her ap-
proach has improved the quality of those meet-
ings,” he says.
The apps on Ms. Sullivan’s work phone, a
BlackBerry, won’t make your pulse jump—she
uses it for e-mail, Internet browsing, a calendar,
and an alarm clock. Her personal cellphone is a
“bottom of the line” AT&T phone. “I’m really
not into downloading lots of other apps,” she
TOM COGILL FOR THE CHRONICLE
Teresa Sullivan, UVa’s president,
reads the student paper in her office.
Hard copies of the Charlottesville Daily Progress,
Richmond Times-Dispatch, The New York Times,
and The Wall Street Journal
Pandora and occasionally Hulu
Hard to give up:
Editing by hand
Web sites of online sociology
journals, especially the login pages
U. of Phoenix Chief Calls Technology His ‘Lifeline’
JAY PREMACK FOR THE CHRONICLE
William J. Pepicello, president of the U.
of Phoenix, walks through Washington’s Reagan
Airport before a flight back to Arizona.
What’s playing on his iPod?
SEVERAL DECADES AGO, the man who now leads one of the nation’s largest online-education empires composed his doctoral dissertation on a manual type-
Hank Williams, Toby Keith,
PC or Mac?
Which tool he’d like to use more?
writer. But times have changed for William J.
Pepicello, who, as president of the University of
Phoenix, is expected to be rather tech savvy.
“Technology is completely integrated into my
life,” says Mr. Pepicello, 62. “Technology is my
lifeline both to work and the world.”
The University of Phoenix, a sprawling for-
profit institution that Mr. Pepicello has led since
2006, serves 373,000 students through online
programs and physical sites in 40 states, the Dis-
trict of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Mr. Pepicello
is based in Phoenix but travels about 165 days a
year to various campuses and speaking engage-
ments. With the help of his iPhone, iPad, and lap-
top, however, he says few people would ever know
that he seldom stays in one place very long.
Mr. Pepicello would hardly describe himself
as a computer expert, but he says other higher-
education administrators expect him to be able
to speak with some authority about Phoenix’s
educational platforms. He has learned to do so,
therefore, by “necessity.”
There is little in Mr. Pepicello’s academic
background that would account for his stated
comfort with the technology that fuels Phoe-
nix’s vast online enterprise. He earned a bach-
elor’s degree in classics, and his master’s and
doctorate degrees in linguistics.