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  • Thursday (March 29) and Monday (April 2) are snow make-up days!

The GNA Insider

Where are they now? Michael Hofherr GNA ’95

Michael Hofherr, a 1995 graduate of Greater Nanticoke Area High School, is the Vice President
and Chief Information Officer of The Ohio State University.

Michael Hofherr, a 1995 graduate of Greater Nanticoke Area High School, is the Vice President and Chief Information Officer of The Ohio State University.

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When one walks across the stage for the final time, taking with them a diploma and countless treasured memories, a new journey begins. Whatever destination may await, one thing is for certain: our alum continues to make GNA proud.

The GNA Insider has had the unique opportunity to interview many GNA alumni who have impacted the world in which we live. From a doctor who has invented medical procedures that save the lives of people every day, to a lawyer who upholds and defends the Constitution of the United  States, there is no doubt that GNA has, is, and will continue to produce America’s best and brightest.

When  Michael Hofherr walked across the graduation stage in 1995, there was no way he could have envisioned where his journey would take him. All Mike knew was that he wanted to make a difference. Armed with determination, supporting friends and family, and a GNA diploma, Michael Hofherr worked his way into the upper echelons of one of the largest and most influential universities in the United States. Today, Mike is the Vice President and Chief Information Officer at The Ohio State University. The GNA Insider sat down with Michael to ask him a few questions.

 

What are your fondest memories of GNA?

The greatest memories I have are of my classmates. In fact, I am still friends with many of them today, and while we don’t see each other as often as we used to, the friends I made at GNA have always been the folks I can count on most of my life.   When we do get together, it’s like time hasn’t changed or there haven’t been gaps in our conversations  – we just pick up where we left off – we grew up together and in the end that counts for a lot.

 

Did you participate in any extracurricular activities while attending Greater Nanticoke Area?

I did. I played baseball, was a member of the golf team and was involved in the high school play “Oklahoma.”   I was also involved with basketball and as one of my biggest regrets, I played until my Junior year but quit because I thought I should be playing more. To this day I wished I would have stuck it out – the good news is I learned a lot from that lesson. I learned that no matter what, stick it out, work hard and good things will happen, but always remain humble and appreciate your role on the team. I think we had shirts made that said: “There is no I in Team”. The 16-year-old me didn’t appreciate that message; me of today knows that I can’t be successful without a team of folks who support our vision.

 

Can you explain the road from Nanticoke to your current Ohio State position?

I was fortunate to have parents and grandparents that believed in education. They pushed me to find the right college for my abilities and needs.

Wanting to move away from home, I attended the Indiana University of Pennsylvania earning a Bachelor’s of Communication Media. I immediately followed that by enrolling at Penn State University where I earned a Masters of Instructional Systems.

Following PSU I was recruited by Arthur Andersen in Chicago, Illinois where I accepted a position as a Junior Instructional Designer  (basically an entry level position that  was responsible for developing technology training solutions  for the Business Consulting practice). Four years later I returned to State College accepting a job as an instructional designer with the Smeal College of Business at Penn State. I stayed with Penn State for close to 8 years finishing my career as the Manager of Information Technology and e-Learning at Smeal before accepting a position at Ohio State as the Senior Director for Learning Technology.  I was in that role a little over a year when an opportunity arose to form a new organization in the University – The Office of Distance Education and e-Learning. Creating the office took a lot of work. In December of 2013, I was named the Associate Vice President for the Office. Roughly 8 months into that role, the Chief Information Officer for the University resigned and I was asked to step into the role on an Interim basis. As of April 1st, I was appointed the Vice President and Chief Information Officer for The Ohio State University. This includes oversight of both the Office of the Chief Information Officer and the Office of Distance Education and e-Learning.

 

Can you explain your position at The Ohio State University?

In a nut shell, any centralized technology applications and services for the University, report to my offices. I am responsible for roughly $50,000,000 in information technology and spend another $12,000,000 on e-Learning and Distance Education. These systems and programs are at the heart of what makes Ohio State work on a day to day basis. Ohio State has roughly 55,000 students on our Columbus,  Ohio campus, with 8,000 teaching and research faculty and thousands of staff to support all the functions of the University. We are more than a football team that handily beats Penn State (I had to throw that in there)! Our central technology staff is made up of approximately 350 people, and our eLearning staff is made up of about 100 people. In all, close to 450 people help to run the systems that support the University – in this structure, about 20 of those folks report to me directly. My primary responsibility is in setting the direction for our financial spending – in other words, we seek spending methods that would be most beneficial to the faculty and students of the University. It is about setting the strategic  direction that supports the mission of the University (being the Land Grant Institute to Ohio) and that aligns with other strategic initiatives across campus. For example, our marching band was recently featured in a national TV commercial for Apple based on their innovative use of iPads – that would not have happened without a strategic and concentrated effort to get wi-fi to their indoor/outdoor practice facilities. To reemphasize what I said earlier – there is definitely no I in team – no one works in a silo – everyone depends on someone else and teamwork is a key component of getting these things done.

Mike Hofherr, GNA ’95, presents at The Ohio State University.

What is the most interesting aspect of your job?

The most interesting part of my job is the interaction with people from across the University, the state, the country, and the world. In any given day I can be meeting with analysts on my team, discussing strategy with the governor’s office, or traveling to London for a conference on the newest technology trends in higher education. A close second is simply the amount of “cool” things we get to work with. In the technology field, we always have access to the latest and greatest gadget or software which is really fun – as for most of us technology isn’t just our job but our hobby.

 

What are some challenges you face in your current occupation?

The biggest challenge is determining how we are going to deal with the rising cost of higher education. We need to keep college affordable for everyone, but the demands for our services have never been higher. With those demands come price tags – so it is always a balance of what people would like us to do and what we can do given budget restrictions. Another big challenge is time management. I usually arrive at the office between  7AM-7:30 AM and on most nights do not leave before 6 PM with at least two nights a week having a business dinner or University event. My work week quickly adds up to 50+ hours. Making time for my family on nights and weekends is important. There is always work to do and being disciplined enough to step back and make time for myself and for my family is always a challenge.

 

What is the best advice you can offer a student currently attending GNA?

Four things:

  1. Read!!! – as much as you can. Sports magazines, fiction, nonfiction, newspapers, classics, websites, etc. This will keep you current and will help you hold intelligent conversations when looking for jobs or networking with people. You need to know that  Michelangelo was a Renaissance painter  and not just a fighting turtle trained  by Splinter. You need to know that A Tale of Two Cities was written by Charles Dickens and focuses on the plight of French peasants demoralized by the aristocracy. If you want to be successful, the first step is educating yourself.
  2. Ask!!! – the worst thing someone can tell you is NO. If you don’t ask for things you’ll never get them.  With that comes failure – a lot of folks will say NO  to you over the course of your career it’s how you respond to that  NO  that makes you stronger.  Go back, rethink your ideas, work harder, get more information – then ask again. Repeat, repeat, repeat until someone says YES!
  3. Be Brave, be humble, and be accepting – Force yourself to do things you are uncomfortable with; meet people from different cultures, religions, and countries. Travel! Live far away from home! Eat new foods! Try new activities! Go abroad! Never forget your values! Always say “please” and “thank you”! Find what makes you happy and go out and do it!
  1. Simplify – I played baseball for Coach John Kashatus and Coach Tom Kiewlak. I remember distinctly a practice where I screwed something up. I remember Coach Kiewlak telling me, “Hofherr, baseball is an easy game. We just need to score more runs than the other team. You, not catching ground balls makes it hard for us to do that.” It’s a fun lesson but one that sticks with me to this day- in the end, it doesn’t matter about who bats where or what pitch you throw, it’s simply who has more runs. If you keep life simple, you read, you ask, you’re humble, brave, and accepting  – you will be just fine. Good things happen to good people – coming from Greater Nanticoke Area I know you have a bunch of great folks leading the way. Except for that  Coach Beggs fellow – he’s trouble  ;)!

Lastly, I’d just like to thank you the students, for sharing these questions and asking me to be part of your campus paper – I am never so proud as when I talk about where I came from and given the opportunity to give back this small piece is such an honor. I wouldn’t have any of this without the great support from my family, especially from my immediate family. Thank your parents and grandparents; mine was so instrumental in helping me achieve the success I have today.

Good Luck, Mike

 

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Where are they now? Michael Hofherr GNA ’95