Blog: Bill Wrobleski

Bill Wrobleski has been the Director of Technical Infrastructure Operations for the University of Michigan’s Administrative Information Services (MAIS) since 2000. He is responsible for MAIS’s technical operations which include databases, servers, data centers, hardware and software.

Bill began his career at the University of Michigan in 1984 where he worked as a microcomputer help desk consultant and taught non-credit computing classes at the University for seven years.

From 1991-1996, while at the U-M’s Information Technology Division (now Information Technology Central Services), Bill evaluated and implemented new technologies for administrative systems as a member of the Technology Assessment Group. In collaboration with other U-M schools and colleges, the Technology Assessment Group built a software interface for U-M students to access grades. His accomplishments in this position included implementing the University’s first web-based self-service system for students (Wolverine Access) and contributing to the development of the University' original Data Warehouse.

He was the Technical Infrastructure Manager for the M-Pathways Project from 1996-2000 and was responsible for designing, implementing and maintaining M-Pathway’s infrastructure. M-Pathways is an enterprise-wide resource planning system across the U-M core business areas.

Representing U-M, Bill has served on the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) for the Higher Education User Group (HEUG) since 2002. HEUG is a user group for PeopleSoft/Oracle Higher Education users to share information with other users and directly to Oracle. The TAG is the primary technical group for the HEUG, and provides input to PeopleSoft/Oracle on the needs of higher education as it relates to their product suites.  He co-authored two HEUG Technical Advisory Group Whitepapers in 2005 and 2006, offering tactical advice on the implication of new Fusion applications and strategic guidelines for educational institutions.

Bill graduated from U-M in 1980 with a B.A., with a double major in computer science and economics.

He is married and has two children. In his spare time, Wrobleski enjoys fitness activities such as running and biking.

Bill will be writing about how we can balance our tech needs against the need to lead a 'greener' lifestyle.


Bill Wrobleski - Most Recent Posts:

Bill Wrobleski - Post 3: U-M is the leader & the best… and your organization can be, too!

We're competitive here at the University of Michigan. We want to offer the best education. We want to have the best researchers. And, of course, we want to have the best football team. 

However, when it comes to the environment, one University alone cannot be the winner. We only win if all of us work together to radically reverse the negative effects that humankind is having on the environment.  

Truth is there isn't a lot of magic to what we're doing here at the University of Michigan with green IT.  The steps we’re taking can be followed by just about any business, university or other organization.  You just need to make it a priority. 

If it helps, here are some of the lessons we've learned along the way: 

  • An effective effort will need to include a series of small projects, which can engage people in different ways and on different topics. For example, we working on ten different initiatives such as  eWaste recycling, data centers, workstations and student awareness.
  • There are a large number of people that are passionate for environmental issues. You can leverage this passion by developing volunteer opportunities to help. Our teams are staffed by volunteers who graciously donate considerable time to help with our efforts. We absolutely couldn’t do it our volunteers. People like Julie Weatherbee are what make us a leader and the best. (We also have a very small-dedicated team to help support the volunteers and keep things moving smoothly.)
  • Make it as easy as you can for people to "do the right thing."  For example, people will buy green equipment if it's easy for them to identify which items meet the green standards. Also, not everyone knows how to set-up power saving settings on their workstations, so departmental IT staff are critical to pushing these changes across their units.

If it will help you, please use any of our materials off our web site to get your own program going. 

You’ll find best practices for personal computers and data centers. 

You'll also find ideas for projects that may energize your community around green IT. Our Big Ten competitors such as Ohio State and the University of Illinois are using these resources too.

Lastly, have some fun! Just power down before you go play.  

Bill Wrobleski - Post 2: It takes a village

Since technology is distributed so widely across any university, and nearly every person on campus uses it, it’s impossible to make broad sweeping changes in a "top down" fashion. Instead, big improvements can only be achieved if we can engage people from all parts of our campus.

As we've worked with people at the University of Michigan, we have found two interesting things:

First, most people don't realize the amount of natural resources that the University uses to support information technology (it may make up as much as 5% of the electricity that the University uses). 

Second, most people want to do the right thing, but they aren’t always sure what they should do. For example, many people have been told that it's fine to leave their computer on all night (we disagree).

We've also learned that while most people agree that we should conserve resources, unless it's easy to do they typically won't change their behavior. According to our experts, most environmental problems are actually people problems.

Therefore, our approach focuses on individuals. We have events, projects and materials, designed to engage and inform our students, faculty and staff so they make conscious choices to reduce energy consumption relating to IT devices. If everyone can make small behavioral changes, it will add up to big improvements for the University. Simple changes like avoiding printing whenever possible (do you really need that email on paper too?), and using power management settings on your computer results in significant positive environmental impact. 

But, it's not all about individual behavior; we also need to make institutional changes as well. 

The University’s Climate Savers Computing Initiative is trying to incorporate green IT practices into all facets of operations. For example, we are working on changing the University's buying practices so that power utilization (not just initial purchase price) is an important consideration in the purchasing decision.  Also, we’re working on shutting down some of our most inefficient computer data centers.

Environmental change is not an easy task. It takes all of us. But, individuals and organizations can make a difference if we all work together. So save a tree, turn off your computers and unplug.

Join us by taking the Climate Savers
green computing pledge too.  

Bill Wrobleski - Post 1: Why UM Chose IT for Going Green

I'd like to start by assuring all of our loyal alumni out there that while we are committed to "going green," the University of Michigan will always remain maize and blue! Despite our aversion to the color green, Michigan is trying to lead the way in a wide range of sustainability efforts including the efficient use of information technology.   

Technology is ubiquitous. Today every classroom, dorm room, library and even sporting venues are full of technical equipment. Technology brings great value to learning and teaching; but along with this great value comes a negative effect on our environment. With each new device plugged in at the University, our carbon footprint grows a little larger.

Unfortunately, much of the electricity used to power equipment is wasted; the Environmental Protection Agency says the average PC wastes 50% of its power! Many devices have inefficient components or designs and use far more energy than necessary. Additionally, it's common to see equipment sit idle for hours (even days) as it burns power. People faithfully turn off the lights in their office before they head home, but they leave their computer, printer and other equipment running all night long.

We want to change that behavior.

We challenge people to turn on computing equipment only when they need it, not automatically at the start of their day. People have reported surprising results; they didn't use their printer for days.

Adding to this problem is the fact that computer equipment generates a lot of heat; therefore, air conditioning is often required to cool equipment to keep it from breaking. This is particularly a big problem in some of our large data centers where large numbers of computers run.  For example, University researchers need to rely on "clusters" of dozens or even hundreds of computers to process data to solve difficult scientific problems. These computers require plenty of electricity to operate and plenty of electricity to cool.

Standalone servers are problematic too. They can throw a whole building's climate control off. For example, one server that we relocated from the basement of our Fleming building to a climate-controlled data center will reduce the utility bill $97,000 a year.

Electrical usage is not the only problem. The University also prints millions of pages of paper a year; everything from dissertations to accounting statements. Unfortunately, we probably print much more than we need to. 

For example, according to GreenPrint Technologies, every year Americans print enough e-mail messages to build a 10-foot-high paper wall that would stretch from New York to Tokyo and beyond. How much is the University contributing to this wall? We know we store enough scanned images to pave a 9.4 mile long trail.

For these reasons, the University has identified information technology as an important target for our green efforts. We believe we can significantly reduce our impact on the environment (and save money at the same time) by tackling these problems head-on.

Go Blue and live green,