In this feature ATE Central continues our "I Am ATE" series, which showcases an ATE PI, staff member, industry partner, or other ATE stakeholder. We are excited to help spread the word about the wonderful people who are at the core of the ATE community and the innovative work everyone is doing.
Name: Ann Beheler
Title: Executive Director of Emerging Technology Grants
Institution: Collin College
Center name: National Convergence Technology Center
ATE Central: How did you become involved with ATE?
Beheler: In 2001 I became a Dean at Collin College, and my department had a very small ATE Project. The rest is history. We first proposed and received a Regional Center in Convergence Technology, awarded in 2004, and then proposed and received a National Center in Convergence Technology, awarded in 2012.
ATE Central: Tell us about the goals of the National Center for Convergence Technology.
Beheler: “Convergence” is the term our business team uses for Information Technology and Communications. Originally, the focus was on the changing need for technicians when IP data networking and telephony first began to merge. Now, it often refers to the converged data center. Our Center focuses on four major missions to equip colleges nationally to ensure their students are extremely “workforce ready” for the many high-paying jobs in the Information Technology area. First, we work with our national employer team to predict what “workforce ready” students must know and be able to do 12-36 months in the future; second, we work with over 70 colleges and universities to ensure curriculum is aligned with workforce needs; third, we provide free, employer-driven professional development for IT and Cybersecurity faculty nationally, so they can implement cutting-edge curriculum; fourth, we disseminate our work via webinars, conference presentations, and mentoring other individuals and colleges in a variety of ways.
ATE Central: What makes the work of your project or center unique?
Beheler: We are 100 percent employer driven by our National Business and Industry Leadership Team (BILT) that co-leads all our work. We meet with them four times a year: One meeting is to update our understanding of the knowledge, skills, and abilities they want “right-skilled” graduates to have. The other three discussions are via web meeting and focus primarily on industry trends, so that our colleges can get a head start on upcoming changes. We also collaborate with over 70 colleges and universities in a community of practice whereby all of us share the good work we all do, so that we capitalize on each other’s efforts.
ATE Central: What changes do you see in the future in the Information Technology/Cybersecurity field?
Beheler: The requirements for IT/Cyber are changing daily! At minimum, the massive move to cloud technologies, the growing implementation of robotic processes, the increasing impact of artificial intelligence and machine learning, and the increasing complexities of securing data mean that graduates of the future will have to know more and different technologies. Helping faculty and colleges across the nation to prepare for the future is our mission.
ATE Central: Do you have any advice for new ATE grantees?
Beheler: Think innovatively. An NSF ATE grant is not a contract. If something you proposed to do no longer makes sense, work with your program officer to redirect that aspect of the grant. Also, pay attention to compliance issues and seek out mentorship from experienced PIs. PIs are extremely busy, but almost all will make time to mentor grantees.
ATE Central: What's the best part about your work with ATE?
Beheler: Two best things come to mind: getting to see the impact of our work on students and their families, both for now and for future generations,andgetting to work with other PIs/Co-PIs and the NSF Program Officers, who are some of the most innovative people on earth!
ATE Central: What's your favorite way to spend a weekend?
Beheler: I like to spend weekends with my husband and with my daughter’s family (three grandchildren) who live in the area. In fact, we are moving to a farm near them in the next three or four years so that we can be more involved in their lives. I am also a frustrated artist and love to paint and do crafty things of all sorts.
ATE Central: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Beheler: The NSF ATE program allows colleges to focus on the massive range of students who are the workforce for our country. Getting to work with ATE is both a privilege and a sober responsibility, in that our efforts directly impact workers, their families, and the nation. It is the way for us to make that proverbial “difference” that many of us desire to make.