On Wednesday, Sree Sreenivasan, formerly the J-school’s Dean of Student Affairs, became Columbia’s first-ever Chief Digital Officer. The tech blog AllThingsD (run by two
of Sree’s former students J-school alums) reported the news shortly after it was announced in emails from Prezbo and Provost Coatsworth. But just what does a Chief Digital Officer do? Sree tried to answer that question in an interview with Bwog’s chief J-school correspondent, Peter Sterne.
First off, it doesn’t mean he’ll be running CUIT. “It’s important that my job is in the academic office of the Provost,” he explained. “My job is very specifically to advise and work with him on trying to think through what we do academically.” To emphasize the point, he adds that “all the other operations [like] CUIT still go on. I’m focused on the academic side.” He’s less concerned with day-to-day operations than figuring out how Columbia can bring its world-class education into the online age. This can mean increasing the use of social media, platforms such as Courseworks, and even fully online classes. The key is to make sure that both Columbia’s academics and its brand reach the widest possible audience.
“We have such great content at the University,” he said. However, he continued, “part of what we have to all learn is, you can’t just have great content. You have to have ways of getting it in front of people to see it, whether they’re on campus or across the world.” By content, he means courses, curricula, research—the stuff of academia. Professors probably won’t appreciate their life’s work being reduced to mere “content,” but Sree isn’t trying to offend.