Viji Murali, an IT veteran in higher education, has been named UC Davis’ chief information officer and vice provost of Information and Educational Technology.
“UC Davis is incredibly fortunate to recruit someone with Viji’s experience and expertise,” Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi said in announcing Murali’s appointment on July 7. “She is a leader in her field, and her efforts will be essential in realizing our Vision of Excellence.”
Murali is coming to UC Davis from Washington State University, where, since 2007, she has served as vice president for Information Services and CIO for the WSU system (including the main campus in Pullman and three urban campuses), and WSU Online, total enrollment more than 27,000.
She succeeds Pete Siegel, who left UC Davis a year ago. Professor Prasant Mohapatra has been serving as interim vice provost and CIO.
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter noted Murali’s nearly three decades of experience in higher education IT and said she “is prepared to leverage our broad IT resources toward building a more efficient university.”
Murali is set to start her new job on Aug. 18. “I am excited to be joining a university with such a wonderful reputation, to lead the IT enterprise that contributes to the university’s excellence, in everything from student success to research,” she said.
“I intend to develop a shared vision with the faculty, staff and students, and we will move the institution to even greater heights.”
Murali had not planned on a career in IT. “Life throws you a curve, and you have to figure out how to navigate that curve,” she said.
She received a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and chemistry from the Women’s College at Osmania University, India (1975), and a master’s in organic chemistry from Osmania’s College of Science (1977). She then joined the Regional Research Laboratory, affiliated with Osmania, and worked there toward a Ph.D. in organic chemistry until 1981, when, as a newlywed, she moved to the United States to join her husband, Subra Muralidharan, who was a postdoctoral researcher at Notre Dame and subsequently at Iowa State University.
As Murali considered whether to continue her Ph.D. studies — she would have had to start over — she talked with her father in India. “He’s a rocket scientist, literally,” she said. “He told me, ‘You are in the land of opportunity. Twenty years from now, technology will be the key.’”
And so she began studying computer science, doing two years of undergraduate work at Iowa State and then, when her husband moved to the University of Arizona, completing a master’s program there in 1987.
Her chemistry and science background has been very useful in her IT work. “I see technology as a catalyst for innovation,” she said.
She worked for the University of Arizona for 11 years, first in the College of Education as a systems administrator; and then in the Center for Computing and Information Technology as a programmer (as a principal and project lead, and computing manager), and, finally, as director of systems management.
From there she went to Western Michigan University, as vice president for Information Technology and CIO, 1999 to 2007, before joining WSU.
Among her major accomplishments at Washington State:
- High-speed connectivity for faculty (40GB capable), connecting WSU with other national research networks, including the Idaho Regional Optical Network, or IRON, and the Pacific Northwest Gigapop (Seattle).
- IRON connections for the urban campuses, allowing for the installation of several high-performance computing clusters for research.
- Wireless-N technologies and a new VoIP system.
- Classroom upgrades (across the state) to support high-definition video.
In conjunction with her WSU post, she is a board member of the Idaho Regional Optical Network, a collaboration of WSU, and the state of Idaho, its universities and hospital association, and the Idaho National Laboratory. She is serving this year as IRON president and chief executive officer, after being elected by the full board.