St. Cloud State University’s Vice President for Technology Strategy and Chief Information Officer, Phil Thorson, is a finalist for the Twin Cities CIO of the Year ORBIE Awards. The Twin Cities CIO of the Year ORBIE Awards honor chief information officers who have demonstrated excellence in technology leadership. Thorson is one of seven finalists in the Nonprofit/Public Sector segment, which covers nonprofit, healthcare and education organizations. Thorson credits his team for this achievement, stating that much of his excitement about being named a finalist for the ORBIE awards is because this recognition represents everyone within his team and their profound impact to the campus community at St. Cloud State University.
Thorson has served as CIO at St. Cloud State since 2017, first moving into the role as interim CIO in 2017. He has held several progressive roles throughout his employment of over 30 years at St. Cloud State University, including serving as Deputy CIO from 2015-2017 and Director of Information Technology Services from 2007-2015.
Thorson is passionate about Information Technology Services (ITS) operating as a strategic business partner and outstanding service provider. Through consultation with many campus constituents, Thorson led the development of the IT Strategic Plan 2018 to help guide technology decisions and resource allocations. As a champion of the University’s new It’s Time strategy, Thorson has integrated It’s Time into the core of technology portfolio and operations planning. He has also implemented a department-wide Agile framework, an enhanced IT governance council, and a multifaceted relationship management structure to ensure Information Technology Services functions as an integrative and responsive collaborator with the rest of campus.
Under Thorson’s leadership, ITS has led significant advancements for St. Cloud State University. Recent accomplishments include digital transformation of products and services such as digitization of forms and process automation, implementation of a new customer relationship management tool to improve student success, curriculum modernization to better support faculty and improve St. Cloud State’s ability to deliver competitive products, implementation of an enterprise management service solution to enhance the customer experience in accessing information and services from several campus departments, and bold endeavors including St. Cloud State University’s new distinctive and comprehensive Esports program that emphasizes diversity, inclusion and student engagement.
Thorson led ITS to meet the ever-changing technology needs at St. Cloud State during the COVID-19 pandemic which often required quick, creative and innovative solutions. ITS worked diligently to equip classrooms and learning spaces with technology that offered flexible teaching and learning options. ITS helped campus community members get situated to teach, work and learn remotely by procuring and setting up hardware and software, developing new configurations and solutions for remote desktop capabilities, and providing effective technical support. ITS proactively provided critical communications to the campus community through many venues to ensure the campus community was technologically supported throughout the pandemic. As the COVID-19 situation improved, ITS assisted in helping the community return to campus and has continued to support online and hybrid delivery needs.
In addition to serving as a technology leader for St. Cloud State University, Thorson is highly engaged with the broader IT community, especially the Minnesota State system which is comprised of seven state universities and 30 technical and community colleges across the state. He has led St. Cloud State University through numerous Minnesota State-wide technology implementations including the D2L Learning Management System, StarID, Office 365 shared services and multi-factor authentication. He currently serves on multiple committees to provide technology leadership and advocacy including the Minnesota State CIO Advisory Council, the MN Learning Network Board, and the Society for Information Management (SIM) Minnesota Chapter.
Thorson leads with an emphasis on the “people side” of change management and works to build high-trust relationships with individuals at all levels of his organization and network. He enjoys connecting with other technology leaders in and out of Minnesota to share best practices and lessons learned in the spirit of collaborative and continuous technology leadership and improvement in higher education. He has presented on integrative leadership and digital transformation at multiple colleges including Boston College, Stanford University and the University of St. Thomas.
Award winners will be announced at the ORBIE Awards on Sept. 23 at the Hyatt Regency in Minneapolis.