Jennifer Sparrow, senior director of networked knowledge ventures and emerging technologies within Information Technology at Virginia Tech has been named a 2013 recipient of the EDUCAUSE Rising Star award.

EDUCAUSE is the leading organization for leaders and managers of information technology in higher education. The EDUCAUSE awards recognize information technology innovators whose efforts have advanced the common good through exceptional leadership and accomplishments.

Since coming to Virginia Tech in 2009, Sparrow has transformed the areas under her direction, and taken on a variety of leadership roles that serve the goals of Information Technology and the university as a whole. She has also demonstrated a new and accessible vision of the digital future for the students, faculty, and staff who come to her office in search of new ways to teach, create, and share information.

At Virginia Tech, Sparrow began by changing the InnovationSpace, located on the first floor of Torgersen Hall, from a multimedia lab into a collaborative space for the discovery, exploration, and delivery of technology tools and teaching methodologies. She accomplished this through outreach, training, and the creation of a 'sandbox' learning space to speed the adoption of emerging technologies and encourage faculty and students to think differently about their teaching and learning. 

Use of the InnovationSpace has tripled since 2009. The space now functions as the hub for a variety of new projects that leverage technology to improve teaching, research, and outreach across the university, with projects that include eTextbooks, digital narratives, learning space design, decentralized testing and alternative assessment, and technology for engaging learners.

Sparrow focuses on creating a climate of open communication between Information Technology and academic and administrative departments on campus to ensure a high level of responsiveness for both continuity of operations and customer service. 

In addition to management of InnovationSpace, Sparrow's role within the division's Technology-enhanced and Online Strategies now includes responsibility over Assistive Technologies and Digital Media Services.

Sparrow has worked directly with faculty and staff throughout the university to create and deliver workshops and study groups designed to meet the needs of faculty and students, incorporating emerging technologies to promote greater engagement for each participant. 

In recommending her for the EDUCAUSE award, sociology professor David Brunsma wrote, “Dr. Sparrow is an incredibly valuable talent that most certainly deserves deepest recognition for her craft. … Her work exists on the precarious edge of professionalism, vision, creativity, and innovation.”

At every level of her work, Sparrow has seized opportunities to go beyond stated expectations. Reflecting on the success of her outreach efforts, the visible impacts of the projects she has implemented, and her increasing departmental responsibilities, Sparrow has been invited to participate in long-range planning at both the central Information Technology and university levels; specifically, to provide the committees with a vision for educational technologies. 

Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer Scott Midkiff notes, “She has the vision, creativity, organizational skills, and ability to collaborate both internally and beyond to help us achieve our goals for the networked university - goals that are at the intersection of learning and information technology.”

Sparrow holds a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from the University of Central Florida, and a master’s degree focusing in educational technology from Florida Gulf Coast University. Her undergraduate education was completed at Smith College, where she received a bachelor’s degree in government. 

The award was presented at the EDUCAUSE Annual Conference, held Oct. 15 through 18 in Anaheim, Calif.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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