Making sure students, faculty, and staff members have access to the right online resources at Duke University — while barring others from viewing sensitive information — is just part of Klara Jelinkova’s daily challenge.

With Duke’s increasing community outreach and collaboration with outside researchers, the assistant vice president of information technology has to configure a system that grants access to the university’s IT infrastructure without compromising student and faculty identity.

The decentralization of campus technology has created dozens of web-based systems belonging to individual departments throughout a university, complicating infrastructure management for technology officials on campuses of every size.

Yet Jelinkova said higher education has advanced from the recent past, when school faculty and some students had to remember multiple usernames and passwords to access campus web sites.

Bringing single-login capabilities to college IT systems has simplified campus-based networks and made them more accessible, she said, but there is an ongoing struggle to make sure system users are denied access to information they aren’t supposed to see, such as identification numbers of other students.

When a Duke employee switches departments, she said, it’s critical that he has access to all the online resources of his new job, but is barred from viewing the budget, for instance, of his previous department.

"That’s the most burning issue that I think a lot of institutions are trying to resolve right now," said Jelinkova, a Durham, N.C., resident who worked as a senior strategist for research computing at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, before coming to Duke three years ago. "Everyone needs electronic access to the university, but how can we make sure we know who is entitled to what kind of access?"

She added: "We’re still looking for that solution. I don’t think higher ed is quite there yet."

Jelinkova said compartmentalization could be one solution to colleges’ struggles with identity management. By putting students enrolled in the same course into their own groups in the campus’s IT infrastructure, technology officials can more easily ensure that students will have access to the appropriate online class material, but will be barred from accessing information from other classes at the university.

"It will always be easier to manage in groups," she said.

Jelinkova, who came to the U.S. in 1990 after growing up in the Czech Republic, earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin in Slavic languages and economics, and has hosted national presentations on pressing IT issues such as technology infrastructure and identity management

Jelinkova’s grappling with the complexity and IT security of an interconnected campus is just the latest challenge in a life that has revolved around computers.

Jelinkova’s mother, Vera, became one of the first women in the Czech Republic to earn a computer science degree when she completed her education at Charles University in the late 1960s.

On weekends and holidays, Jelinkova went to work with her mother and eventually worked part-time in the early days of information technology.

"I was surrounded by Russian mainframes as big as a small house," said Jelinkova, 37, with a laugh. "I was really immersed in IT. In some way, even though I didn’t think of it at the time, I was mentored by her. … In hindsight, that was a wonderful gift."

Over her two decades in private-sector and higher education IT, Jelinkova has witnessed a stunning shift in information distribution. She recalled living in the Soviet bloc as a teenager, when families weren’t allowed to own copy machines because it could allow citizens to circulate news that was not approved by government officials. 

"It was a clamp-down environment," she said. "The change that we’re living through, the constant access to information–this has changed the environment we live in."

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