Vigilance: How Information Security is Working to Protect

It seems like almost every week you read stories about giant hacks and millions of personal records lost or stolen. Yahoo! recently unveiled that data associated with 3 billion customer accounts was stolen. Equifax was breached and the personal information of 145.5 million people was compromised. MySpace, LinkedIn, eBay, Target – the list of companies from which hackers stole or compromised valuable personal data is long and seemingly always getting longer.

Like the rest of the modern world, Texas State University is not immune to such digital attacks. Using phishing, malware, ransomware and a host of other tactics, criminals from around the world are frequently trying to breach the university’s security to steal data about university students, staff, and faculty. In the face of these constant threats, the team in Texas State’s Information Security Office works diligently every day implementing security measures to protect the university, stopping the attacks they find, and offering education and advice to campus about how to protect themselves and the university both now and into the future.

In late 2016, the Information Security Office became a standalone unit of the Division of Information Technology, with Chief Information Security Officer Dan Owen reporting directly to Ken Pierce, the Vice President for Information Technology. The department was previously known as IT Security and was lower in the structure of the division. The change was meant to ramp up digital security effectiveness at Texas State and raise the level of knowledge and discussion about information security on campus. Information Security’s mission is two-fold: safeguard campus information resources and data, and educate faculty, staff, and students about the best ways to protect both their own and the university’s information resources, including protections from identity theft. At the time of the change, Pierce said, “I believe very strongly that we must have a safe and secure campus information infrastructure.” Texas State is constantly under attack from malicious actors. Would-be criminals make frequent attempts to gain access to everything from faculty and staff NetID credentials to federally protected student and health records. While the attacks are not new, the tactics are ever changing. In 2017, the rate of attacks was on the rise – and the tactics, particularly phishing attacks, have begun to shift their aim to the students.

“It’s a constant battle,” admits Owen.

This year, the security office has taken many steps to help in the battle against cyber criminals; revamping the Information Security website with a new, more user-friendly interface, designed to make it easier to find educational materials, campus outreach events, and other resources. They also developed their first online training course and increased educational outreach both to the information security and university communities through dedicated social media channels, @infosectxst on Twitter and InfoSecTXST on Facebook, with the help of the IT Division’s social media expert Nicholas Dunlap.

By Nicholas Dunlap

Office 365 Featured App: Power BI

Understanding data and communicating your data in a way others can understand is often difficult. A powerful solution to this problem is visualizing data. Power BI is here to do just that.

Power BI is a cloud-based analytics application, part of the Office 365 Suite, which enables users to visualize and analyze data better than ever before.

Dr. Carlos Solis, AVP of Instructional Technologies Support, shared with us how he uses Power BI to help him analyze and communicate his data.

To learn more about teams, find training, and log in, visit our Power BI page.

New TRACS Mobile App

University students today exist in a world of immediately accessible information, interactive learning, and robust content delivery, much of it accessed through mobile devices. A university must constantly innovate and actively engage with users to accept feedback and rapidly implement change to successfully deliver expected user experiences.


One of Instructional Technologies Support’s (ITS) primary goals is to develop reliable, innovative digital tools and solutions in partnership with the instructional community. ITS is one of the four units that make up the IT Division. An example of this innovation is the Sakai-based Learning Management System (LMS), TRACS, which delivers everything from course content to final grades. It was deployed in 2006, before the demand for an integrated mobile experience became a priority.

As time went on and ITS elevated its engagement with students and faculty, it became evident that a mobile TRACS application was necessary. In January 2017, a new version of the Texas State mobile app launched and the expectation of users quickly grew, as did the necessity to develop a connected TRACS mobile app. ITS staff were excited to create the TRACS app in-house and provide a smooth and engaging experience for users.

With that in mind, ITS’ talented development team set out to create an application to support the university’s mobile strategy and provide innovative learning solutions for students and faculty. A wide range of native functionality customized for exactly what the experienced users wanted was the goal. “The development of the TRACS mobile app was as much about the enhancement of the student experience as it was about the integration of mobile as a concept in the university’s instructional technology strategy,” said Dr. Carlos Solís, Associate Vice President of Instructional Technologies Support.

The TRACS mobile app launched in August 2017. User feedback following launch was fundamental to how ITS adapted the application to the specific needs of the students. With the desire to create something special, an ear tuned to the user base, and the rich talent of the development team, ITS successfully implemented a mobile learning application in the Texas State digital learning environment that met all desired outcomes. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

ITS continues to innovate within TRACS on both desktop and mobile. As staff further develop applications and take user feedback to enhance the experience we learn more about what it takes to be creative educators in a highly complex environment.

Ultimately, ITS seeks to deliver an experience to Texas State students on par with any other major university in the United States. ITS has a team of developers, creative designers, a learning design team, and digital content producers all supporting the ongoing innovation required to produce the robust experience the TRACS app provides. Additionally, as the Sakai platform evolves, so will the mobile app. This amazing bit of ingenuity was completely produced with the talented and skilled people we have right here at Texas State University.

By Joel Ausanka

Alkek Library: Transforming to Enhance Connectivity

In the fall of 2016, the Albert B. Alkek Library unveiled a redesigned main floor, a first step in an ongoing effort to transform the library to better accommodate the needs of students, faculty and researchers in the digital age. The campus community responded well to the newly designed space and its features, passing through the doors of the Alkek in record numbers to explore, create and discover within its walls.

The upgraded Alkek main floor offers the right environment to plug in, whether connecting with a study group, to the right resource, to a workshop or open discussion, making online connections through the library’s workstations, or powering up personal devices.

The heightened connectivity is due, in part, to infrastructure upgrades that increased electrical and data capacity, allowing for better access to digital information and learning resources. The added electrical sources run beneath the raised floor and connect the many computer and printing stations. Moveable power towers scattered throughout the various spaces on the floor allow patrons to plug in or recharge their own devices.

“It didn’t take long for people to embrace the renovated library space on the main floor. It quickly became the favorite destination for students,” said Joan Heath, associate vice president and university librarian. “It is very gratifying to see each and every space on the floor being used exactly as planned.”

Flexible and engaging furniture in the largely open space facilitates both collaboration and independent work with clusters of computers and workstations, moveable furnishings and dry-erase boards for groups or individuals to customize their workspace to suite their comfort and needs.

Patrons have also embraced other spaces on the floor, including a media center with televisions and media stations, a café, a large number of stand-up print stations and a glass display case for 3D printed creations.

The open theater offers an inviting space for workshops, activities and instruction. The area was well-used during the year, hosting a poetry reading, a makerspace day, a series of forums for civil discourse, therapy dog visits and many other workshops and activities open to all. The semi-open area attracts attention and lets library patrons know they are welcome to participate in the events.

Prior to the start of the fall 2017 semester, four collaboration areas on the floor were enclosed with glass walls to add another modern space for groups to collaborate. The rooms are equipped with large monitors and connection stations embedded in a conference table so groups can share presentations and online resources. The glass walls have dry-erase areas for group note-taking and calculating.

Also during the year, the library completed plans for future upgrades that will add more technology-rich resources and collaboration spaces. A new video/audio presentation studio is being added to the first floor of the library. The YouStar Studio will allow faculty and students to create high-quality presentations in a do- it-yourself environment that requires no expertise to produce. The studio opened in the spring of 2018. Construction of other library upgrades is expected to begin in late 2018 or early 2019. Upgrades include additional video presentation and practice labs, a virtual reality and makerspace center, 3D technologies, a digital media center, a GIS/data research hub, technology-centric group study and collaboration spaces, flexible model classrooms with robust technology, and an expanded café.

By Debbie Pitts

[News] Commencement update for TXST Mobile

Everyone at Texas State is excited about this semester’s upcoming commencement. We want all graduating Bobcats and their families to have the best possible experience during this major life milestone.

Cue the TXST Mobile app and the latest update, dedicated to making your commencement great. After downloading or updating the app, you’ll be able to:

• Get parking directions (lot specific) + shuttle information
• Check the graduation event schedule
• Watch the live stream of commencement – great for friends and family who can’t attend in person!
• Download the full program

Commencement Update Screenshot 1Commencement Update Screenshot 2









In addition, graduates will have “day of” instructions and guides with information about the check-in process, what to bring, what to wear, etc.

The mobile app is available in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.

Be sure to remind your friends and families to download the app in time for commencement!


New Ink Analysis in Microsoft 365

 Office 365 Ink

Microsoft has added some exciting new updates to Office 365 for users who use a stylus on devices like a Microsoft Surface, or an Apple pencil. The new ink capabilities in PowerPoint and Word are really cool new features that you will want to check out.

In PowerPoint, it is now easier than ever to convert hand-drawn content into text and objects. With enhanced recognition of drawn shapes, such as hearts and clouds, you have the freedom to personalize your PowerPoint using a pen further than what has been possible in the past.

PowerPoint screenshot

In Word, with new ink gestures for editing, you can add handwritten text to a document and interact with existing content using a pen. You can easily split paragraphs into multiple lines, insert words into existing sentences, and join sentences, using more natural pen gestures.

Word Microsoft Ink

These exciting new updates are available now to users at Texas State with compatible devices. Make sure you have the latest version of Office and then check them out!

To learn more about Office 365 or to sign in, visit the Office 365 page.

[VIDEO] Google showcases future of video with first virtual reality Doodle

Today’s Google Doodle demonstrates that VR is the future of video content. The illustrated or animated image on the Google homepage is a fully immersive, virtual reality video, honoring French filmmaker Georges Méliès, a magician, filmmaker, and visual artist.

Styled in a way that will most likely remind viewers of a Disney or Pixar short film, the “Doodle starts with Méliès setting up a camera in front of a black-and-white scene showing the moon, several stars, and a rocket ship, likely a tribute to his famous film A Trip to the Moon. Similar references are made throughout the Doodle, including a scene in which a cartoon version of Méliès emerges from a giant playing card, as he does in his film The Living Playing Cards, which was released in 1905.”

Virtual reality devices are becoming more and more accessible and affordable. Just this week Facebook launched the new Oculus Go, a $200 stand-alone virtual reality headset. No doubt, others will soon likely follow, flooding the marketing with a wide array of virtual reality devices and the content is sure to follow.

TXST Mobile Update: Holds

txst mobile

If you have an outstanding parking ticket or library fine, or any other hold that would stop you from graduating, getting your grades, or registering for the next semester, TXST Mobile now can alert you so you can get it fixed.

This week’s update to the official TXST Mobile app provides a new “Holds” module that will help students to see what hold is placed on their account and who to contact to resolve it.

That’s not all that is new: To help you better manage your messages, you can now mark notifications as read, or delete them and keep your inbox clean and organized.

You can download the app in the App and the Play stores today!

Learn more about the app and stay up to date with all the latest news and updates at

Preserving Collections: Archives and Research Center Opens

Archives and Research Center

Nearly 10 years of planning, evaluating, designing, cataloging, preparation and construction came to fruition with the opening of the new state-of-the-art Archives and Research Center (ARC) in September 2017. The ARC is the second building located at the Science, Technology, and Advanced Research (STAR) Park campus in San Marcos.

“This facility supports the university’s efforts to become a nationally recognized research university,” said Texas State Vice President for Information Technology Ken Pierce. “Research will happen here. And as we move some research materials to this building, we make way for new research resources, technology and collaborative research opportunities at the Albert B. Alkek Library.”

With the new ARC facility, Texas State joins other major research universities like Harvard, Stanford, Rice, The University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M and many others who have built similar high-density, climate-controlled storage facilities to house and preserve their valuable collections and research materials.

The 14,000 square-foot ARC features high-density shelving rising 35 feet high, contains more than six miles of shelf space, and is environmentally controlled at 50°F with 30 percent relative humidity for ideal preservation of most materials. Unique to the Texas State facility is a secondary climate-controlled environment that will preserve art and artifacts that need a slightly higher temperature and humidity level. Items that need cooler temperatures, but could become brittle in the extreme cold and dry environment, like oil paintings and wooden artifacts, will be stored in the Art and Artifacts room at 68°F and 40 percent relative humidity. More than 600,000 library items and 3,000 linear feet of archival and Wittliff Collections materials will be moved into the ARC in the next two years.

The ARC building provides two climate-controlled environments with cold temperatures and low humidity that will prolong the life of materials from The Wittliff Collections, University Archives and the Alkek Library, keeping them available for exploration and discovery, while supporting the growth of the Alkek Library and Texas State. The new library facility is open to the public and includes a reading room to allow students, faculty, staff and researchers to review and interact with materials on site. Daily transportation of materials checked out from the ARC to the Alkek Library make accessing materials quick and easy so patrons on the San Marcos campus will not need to drive to STAR Park to retrieve desired items.

The opening of the ARC also advances planned improvements to the Alkek Library to meet the needs of today’s digitally focused students. The migration of seldom- circulated, but valuable resources from the Alkek to the ARC will free up space for the addition of modern, technology-rich learning commons features and expansion of The Wittliff Collections exhibit space that will make the Alkek Library a showcase information and research facility.

“As the ARC makes way for the Alkek to evolve into a more modern library, generous space will continue to be dedicated to new and in-demand book stacks, resource materials, and quiet independent study areas so that students and faculty can find learning environments that best suit their individual preferences,” said Texas State President Denise Trauth.

Planned library additions include a virtual reality and makerspace center, 3D technologies, video presentation studios and practice labs, a digital media center, a GIS/data research hub, technology-centric group study and collaboration spaces, flexible model classrooms with robust technology, and a café.

By Debbie Pitts

Office 365 Featured App: Teams

Many people find it challenging to pick one tool to collaborate with a team or group quickly and effectively. That’s where Microsoft Teams comes in. Part of the Office 365 suite, Teams is a tool designed for instant and persistent collaboration – including chatting and file sharing. Teams also has a host of extensions that can help you integrate with products outside of Microsoft.

Free to all students, faculty, and staff at Texas State, Teams is the solution you need when it comes to increasing productivity and communication in your group.

Catherine Stevens, Assistant Director of Client Services (ITAC), gave us her perspective on how Microsoft Teams helps her work groups get it done. Check it out below.

To learn more about teams, find training, and log in, visit our Teams featured app page.