Supporting public sector IT leaders through Certified Government Chief Information Officers Training

Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and IT directors in the public sector continue to face increasing challenges and responsibilities as technology evolves. Facing a continual expansion of technology and role responsibility, ever-increasing security threats, and keeping up with the rapid pace of new technology, IT leaders must have a broad understanding of leadership, regulations, and business to be truly influential in their organizations.

In 2005, Shannon Tufts, School of Government faculty member and director of the Center for Public Technology, designed and implemented the nation’s first local government Certified Government Chief Information Officers (CGCIO) program in direct response to these challenges. The program has been running ever since.

“I love serving public servants and helping make their work more meaningful and manageable,” said Tufts. “The IT professionals that we are blessed to have in the public sector are world-class, yet they feel called to serve in a public service capacity. They need to be honored, celebrated, encouraged, and valued.”

Over 18 years, hundreds of alums have taken the CGCIO course, learning tools to manage and improve their organizational technology assets as well as leadership skills that elevate their strategic value in an organization.  

The program offers guidance on topics such as: cybersecurity, strategic planning, legal aspects of IT, procurement, and contracting regulations and best practices, among others.

“It goes well beyond education and training; it is a community of public sector IT colleagues who care about helping each other and making all of our governments work for the maximum benefit of our residents,” said Tufts.

Originally offered for IT professionals working in North Carolina local governments, Tufts recognized the need for other audiences and expanded the program to be available to state agencies, K-12 agencies, and nationally.

With knowledge and best practices under their belt, many participants have found the program boosted their career. “Several alums have been promoted to assistant city/county manager positions, along with promotions into key CIO roles if they were not already in that position,” said Tufts.

Zach Loch, current Associate Vice Chancellor and Chief Information Officer for East Carolina University, is one such alum.

“The CGCIO program helped widen my perspective and deepen my understanding on all of the issues facing modern day CIO’s in the public sector,” said Loch. “As I transitioned from IT Director to CIO shortly after having completed the program, I found myself referring back to the knowledge I gained repeatedly.  I would highly recommend the CGCIO program.”

Katina Blue, another alum and current Associate Vice Chancellor of Information Resources and Chief Information Officer of UNC Pembroke, had a similar experience.

“The CGCIO program afforded me the opportunity to network with agency and higher education leaders whom I still affiliate with to this day. The content shared helped me to better understand the role of the CIO, leadership styles, governmental policies, and strategies for managing effective teams,” she said.

“It was a financial and time investment well spent. Since graduating, I have been fortunate to serve as CIO as the State of NC Auditor’s Office and UNC Pembroke.”

The influence of the CGCIO program is evident in many institutions across the state, including the UNC System. Maurice Ferrell, current Vice President of Information Technology & CIO of UNC Systems Office formerly taught the program at the School of Government. Additionally, four current Chief Information Officers of UNC system schools have gone through the program:

  • Constance Mallette—current Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer for the Division of Finance and Administration at Winston-Salem University
  • Katina Blue—current Associate Vice Chancellor of Information Resources and Chief Information Officer of UNC Pembroke
  • Hector Molina—current Vice Chancellor for Information Technology and Telecommunications Services and Chief Information Officer of Fayetteville State University
  • Zach Loch—current Associate Vice Chancellor and Chief Information Officer for East Carolina University  

The next cohort of the CGCIO program begins August 2023.