IT department makes TCS Education System stand out


When Rick Merrick joined TCS Education System seven years ago as associate vice president of IT applications, information technology was not at the forefront of innovation. But TCS Education System President Michael Horowitz, Ph.D., envisioned a department that would offer best-in-class tech solutions to improve the student experience at our partner colleges, and he tasked Merrick with seeing it through.

Back then, Merrick would start his weekly stand-up meetings by recapping how many outages there had been that week or even day, circumstances depending. It wasn’t unusual for the internet to go out multiple times throughout the day. It’s not hard for him to remember the department he came into at a time that technology and implementation were quickly evolving (as they always are, he is quick to point out).

“I knew I was coming into an IT Department that would need to transform: applications were clunky, integrations didn’t work, the internet was going down constantly,” he says. “But TCS Education System was devoted to finding solutions so that we could deliver the best service to our community.”

Merrick became chief information officer in 2015. While his responsibilities grew, TCS Education System was growing just as much—from two colleges to six, a dozen or so programs to almost 100, less than 4,000 students educated annually to nearly 9,000—all with the help of a steady, stable IT Department.

In 2016, 6.3 million students in the U.S. took at least one online class, and the figure continues to grow. All of our partner schools now rely on robust online classroom offerings. This meant that Merrick had to take a department from simply being functional, to truly being great.

Through all the various building moves, build-outs, onboarding new partner colleges, managing campuses across the country, and meeting online needs, Merrick has found that the key to consistency is through common standards of service from the top down. “We have a great IT staff in place at each of the schools. We all have the same standards so we can track all the way down to each campus, and the campuses manage and track their metrics and performance so that we’re all under one umbrella. We’re all working toward being best-in-class, so that the students can be best-in-class.”

In order to provide the best services for students at partner colleges, it’s important for the IT Department and Merrick to be ahead of advancements in the field. One of the ways Merrick does this is through his involvement with professional IT organizations like SIM-Chicago. SIM is a nationwide network of thought leaders in the technology and business fields, and Merrick currently serves as president for the Chicago chapter.

“We bring in experts from across different fields to talk about the issues, talk about what they’re seeing now, and what’s being put in place for the future,” Merrick says. “There’s no better time to be in technology than right now because of the rapid change. It’s exciting because in order to meet the challenges that come up, you have to innovate quickly.”

Merrick brings this same excitement to reimagining higher education with The Community Solution. “Through IT, there is a demand and an opportunity to provide economies-of-scale technology solutions that truly change a student’s life. One of the main tenets of The Community Solution is that if we can bring all of us together to attain a certain scale, it makes innovative solutions more accessible for all,” he says.

Today, TCS Education System can provide better student solutions through stronger IT connections and hybrid-online learning models, thanks to Merrick and his elite IT Department.