As director of information systems, Shymanski pioneered a digital environment of security and productivity for CPH faculty, staff and students.
The rise of the Internet has offered academic institutions like the College of Public Health myriad opportunities to enhance efficiency, communication and collaboration, while at the same time posing challenges and risks that could compromise the security of great work and research.
Enter Don Shymanski, director of information systems (IS) at CPH, who for the past 15 years has ensured that the college provides its faculty, staff and students a well-maintained, secure, up-to-date and user-friendly digital infrastructure.
Shymanski transitions this week into a new role as information technology director and chief information officer at Ohio State’s College of Veterinary Medicine, leaving behind a footprint of innovation, top-notch customer service and pure friendship at CPH.
Hailing from northeast Ohio, Shymanski first came to Ohio State in 2001. He took a pass at a few unsatisfying majors before landing a full-time job at Ohio State’s main IT service desk, “8help.” An opportunity presented itself at what was then the School of Public Health within the College of Medicine, and in 2002 Shymanski was hired as a systems developer engineer.
The school’s faculty and staff at the time were scattered among several locations on campus. Interim Dean Dev Pathak wanted to unify them onto one network and email system, and Shymanski became his go-to guy.
“Being able to unify everybody through a bunch of fiber optic cables so that we could share files and use email together would probably be one of the most important things that I wound up doing,” Shymanski said.
In recognition of Shymanski’s efforts, he was given the inaugural CPH Employee of the Year award in 2004.
Within a few years, his role grew to a systems manager, and later to director of information systems, which allowed him to build a team of web developers and other IT support staff.
One of the critical ways Shymanski and his team supported students in those early days was expanding computer labs.
“Investing in the lab structure for them to be able to do everything that they needed to do would probably be one of the biggest things that I did to help the students at the beginning,” Shymanski said.
He considers the CPH office of IS unique in its approach to providing students walk-in technical support for personal laptops, file retrieval and more.
“I think that has a great impact because all the students that get that type of support really feel that they have a home here, as opposed to ‘that’s not here, you need to go across campus.’”
The School of Public Health became a college in 2007, and in 2011 faculty and staff coalesced into Cunz Hall. The building underwent intensive renovation before the move, and Shymanski had the opportunity to have a seat at the table.
“I was lucky enough to be on the executive project team, so I was very in tune with everything that went on with this renovation,” Shymanski said. “Obviously, a certain percentage [of the budget] was dedicated to technology, and then we had to figure out what everybody wanted and see what we could fit within that budget scheme.”
CPH facilities manager Renee Watts, also a major player in the Cunz Hall renovation and migration, said that Shymanski contributed more than just IT expertise.
“With Don on the Cunz project team, he fought for technology upgrades and enhancements beyond the OSU norm for building renovations at the time,” Watts said. “Not only was his IT knowledge critical to the project, but his overall knowledge of building construction was instrumental to the renovation of Cunz Hall.”
Shymanski developed a disaster recovery and business continuity plan for the college, a three-year process that was eventually adopted by Ohio State. The university also followed Shymanski’s lead and implemented platforms for email (Microsoft Exchange) and lecture recording (Mediasite and Adobe Connect) that were being used by the College of Public Health.
“It was always nice to kind of be at the front of some of the trends,” Shymanski said. “That was something that being a small department allowed us to do.”
Associate Dean for Research Chris Weghorst, PhD, has worked with Shymanski during his tenure at CPH on—among many other things—projects involving the security of large data sets used by the college’s investigators.
“Don has been kind of an integral part of research in many different ways,” Weghorst said. “He’s been on the forefront of identifying risks, being compliant, helping with training. It’s been really helpful.”
Weghorst characterized Shymanski as customer service-oriented, helpful and passionate about his work. “You get the feeling that when Don talks about the college that he’s talking about family.”
Over the years, Shymanski helped Weghorst and his team in the office of research strategize and implement ways to leverage the web to optimize how research is performed at the college, with Shymanski always being honest with what can and cannot be done.
“The transformation that’s occurred in the office of IS has been dramatic,” Weghorst added. “We’re going to miss him.”
“Don has come a long way since his one-man office in the patient bathroom in Starling Loving Hall. This opportunity with Vet Med is long-overdue and a challenge he will embrace fully. It’s been such a pleasure seeing his professional growth over the 15 years we’ve been friends and I wish him all the best.” — Renee Watts, CPH facilities manager
Leaving the familiarity of the College of Public Health for a new, challenging opportunity has been a “mixed bag of emotions,” Shymanski said. “I really know this place; I can run it with my eyes shut so to speak. It’s very easy to be comfortable here. I’ll be leaving behind quite a bit of friendships and family.”
Along with his new role at veterinary medicine, Shymanski is also excited and honored to have been selected by Vice President and Chief Information Officer Michael Hofherr to be one of Ohio State’s representatives in the MOR (Maximizing Organizational Resources) IT leadership program, something he was nominated for by IT colleagues across the university.
“I’ll be traveling for about five weeks over the next year with all the high-level leaders at the Office of the Chief Information Officer and really getting to know them; going through this tremendous leadership program that’s focused on making you the best leader that you can be and finding any weak spots and honing in on those and making them better,” Shymanski said. “That, coupled with the IT director position, is just super exciting for me. I think it’s time to spread my wings and see how far I can fly here. I think this is a great opportunity to do so.”