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Spring 2001
THE FUTURE IS NOW

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In the new Information Age, universities have a greater responsibility than ever before to ensure that students are provided with the tools necessary to succeed.
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By Albert Carnesale
Illustration: Janet Woolley

Throughout the world, the most important societal institutions - including business, government, health care, the arts and education - have embarked on an extraordinary journey into the future. Information technology (IT) is taking us there.

Universities are relatively conservative institutions and have not ordinarily been among the leaders in adapting to change. But IT is a powerful force for change in higher education, and UCLA is taking a leadership role in responding to that imperative. One of my goals is to keep UCLA at the forefront of the discussion on the technology revolution: to be a leader in understanding and propelling this phenomenon.

Information technology affects UCLA and other universities in a number of very important ways. IT is changing what is taught, and how and where it is taught. It is transforming student life. And it is revolutionizing both the research agenda and the research process.

Keeping up with advances in IT means that the university's infrastructure - physical facilities such as classrooms, libraries, laboratories, offices and hospitals - must be properly configured and equipped for digital communications and information processing. Infrastructure and connectivity are expensive, and we must invest wisely in order to meet our current and future needs.

Students today are connected as never before with each other, with their teachers and with the world. A pioneer in making IT an integral part of the undergraduate experience, UCLA was the first university to provide every undergraduate student with a personalized home page linked to a Web site for every course in which he or she is enrolled. From their home pages, which essentially are dynamic portals, UCLA students can access a wealth of information. They can send e-mail, get their test scores and grades, find a library book, read the student newspaper, monitor their degree progress, consult an academic counselor and keep up with the activities of their favorite clubs - all without leaving their residence halls.

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