Vice provost, CIO speaks to students about changing technological landscape


CW File

Jackson Fuentes

Approximately 30 students and Honors College Assembly (HCA) members gathered in Lloyd Hall Monday night to listen to a lecture given by John McGowan, the University of Alabama’s vice provost and chief information officer. McGowan’s speech, which was hosted by the HCA, revolved around the changing landscape of technology as it evolves and revolutionizes over time.

Throughout his speech, McGowan emphasized the growing need for adaptation among individuals and corporations as more and more entities begin cutting jobs around the world.

“We’ve got to get smarter about what we are trying to do” McGowan said.  “Ships and trains are transporting without people… Stores and malls are closing… [and] FedEx, USPS and UPS are autonomizing.  There will be a significant chasm between those that have and those that have not.”  

McGowan also provided the audience with several keys to success that he had acquired over his years of experience and  urged students to develop good communication skills, take an internship and study a subject outside of their intended field of study. 

Zach Weske, a freshman studying computer science, reflected on both the challenges and keys to success presented by McGowan.

“Dr. McGowan’s challenges helped to broaden my horizons when considering what we should prepare and look out for in the future,” Weske said. 

In addition to McGowan’s emphasis on humanity versus automation in the technological sphere, he, a former National Security Agency (NSA) employee, spoke on the importance of cybersecurity in our world today.  McGowan spoke on the possibility of America’s next war being cyber in nature, emphasizing the need for security in such a technologically-dependent age.

“The network is the computer,” McGowan said. “The network is everything. It frightens me… I get very concerned about how this will affect every one of us.” 

James Thompson, a freshman electrical engineering major, found the lecture to be informative. 

“He was clearly well-versed, and he has a lot of experience in different topics that we were discussing,” Thompson said. “I think overall he gave a really intriguing and well considered theme to his message.  He not only discussed advances in technology and the history of technology, but also things to watch out for as technology changes.”