The McDonough School of Business Technology Center was established in late 1983 when the School of Business Administration (SBA), as it was then called, moved into its new home in the freshly renovated Old North Building. The computing facility boasted an IBM PC-equipped laboratory for student use, as well as a VAX 11/750 minicomputer and an IBM System 4341 computer with VM/SP operating system for use by faculty to conduct research. The computer lab was located in the basement of the building and had been made possible by a generous gift from Lou and Maureen Boland, chairpersons of the school’s Parents Council. The Boland Information Systems Laboratory (BISL) was staffed by students and managed on a part-time basis initially by a faculty member. In 1985, oversight was transferred to the school’s newly created director of administration position.
In 1989 William Moncrief was hired as the school’s first full-time director of computing and technical services. He put together a staff consisting of two full-time employees and seven FTE of student workers, and he added a computing lab for MBA students in the attic of Old North. In 1991 the undergraduate computer lab moved from Old North to the basement of the Copley Building, and the vacated Old North space became a computer teaching classroom called the Decision Support Center. A year later, all computing operations, save for the MBA lab, were consolidated in the basement of 3600 N St. NW, a building next to Wisemiller’s that previously had housed the Georgetown University shop, a men’s clothing store. The Old North basement classroom was repurposed to become the school’s first MBA Career Center. At the same time, several faculty members moved their offices to the first floor of 3600 N St., as the school already had outgrown the Old North building.
In the mid-1990s the school dropped the word “Administration” from its name and became the Georgetown School of Business (GSB), leading to the Tech Center’s acronym of GSBTC. Although the BISL (rhymes with “missile”) moniker really belonged only to the original Old North computing facility, the Tech Center continued to honor the Bolands’ gift by referring to the 3600 N St. space as the BISL as well. As the school continued to grow, so did GSBTC. At the time, many students did not have personal or portable PCs, so the computer labs at 3600 N St. were required facilities. Services such as e-mail and network data storage were becoming important, and printing services always were in demand. All Tech Center staff had offices in the underground space at 3600 N St., co-located with the undergraduate computer lab, printers, and servers in very cramped quarters.
In 1994, the school hired its second director of computing and technical services, John Carpenter. The GSBTC developed the first GSB web page in 1995 and created a web team (one person) to support it. By this time the staff had grown to five full-time employees. The same year saw the design and construction of the first truly professional network server facilities. Up to that time, GSBTC servers were quite literally sometimes constructed in cardboard boxes. Personal computer types were standardized and provided on a regularly updated schedule, and there was a conscious move away from ad-hoc IT support to a more professional model. In 1998, the school was renamed the McDonough School of Business when Robert McDonough (F’49), donated $30 million to the school. Thus, GSBTC became MSBTC.
The services provided in the Tech Center’s early days seem primitive to us now, but they actually were well ahead of most other institutions. For many years, up to the early 2000s, the Tech Center ran the data storage and e-mail systems for the entire university. There was no such thing as a university backbone network, so the physical network consisted of a collection of leased phone lines and several varieties of ethernet wire (thin, thick, twisted pair, cat 3, and cat 5). There was no wireless service until the school renovated and moved its graduate and executive education operations and classes into leased space on the second floor of the Car Barn in 1999. These new spaces reflected advanced classroom design and the best networking available. The Car Barn facilities served the McDonough School of Business for 10 years while all of its stakeholders waited and hoped for approval to begin construction of a new business school building.
Georgetown IT advanced in the 2000s, and many services formerly provided by the McDonough School were switched to the central University Information Services department. The Tech Center made a decision to leverage the improving UIS services whenever possible and concentrated on providing additional value to the business school community. The model adopted at the time was to emulate a “Progressive Corporate Environment,” a model that continues today, although its implementation and the services offered have changed dramatically.
In 2004, MSBTC moved to facilities in the New South Building. It was an interesting evolution that reflected the flexible and adaptive nature of the Tech Center. Because of very late notice that MSBTC needed to vacate the basement at 3600 N Street, the New South space (an old cafeteria) was not in any shape to house a computing facility. Once the space was provided by GU Facilities, however, MSBTC quickly started transforming the square footage without any concrete construction plans. If it was decided that a wall or an electrical outlet was needed, a mark was made on the floor and the staff built out the space accordingly. MSBTC constructed the New South space, including a lab, a server room, and office spaces, and then moved in, all within the space of 60 days….with the actual move coming over the Christmas break. MSBTC network services were interrupted for only 18 hours on a single weekend.
While the New South space was comfortable and had a magnificent view, the McDonough School of Business at this point had offices and classrooms in six locations on campus and as far off campus as a building across Prospect St. from Booeymonger’s. The varied locations and network configurations made support more difficult.
When the Rafik B. Hariri Building was completd in 2009, the school was united in a single, modern business school facility. Hariri was the result of many years of inspired leadership and planning. It was designed to incorporate IT from the start and the emphasis shows. It is easily the most IT-capable building on campus and a model for business schools everywhere. McDonough School users now enjoy co-located tech support and many advanced services, virtually all of which can be provided directly to the user’s PC, eliminating the need for computer labs. Over the years the organization of the Tech Center Staff has continually changed to reflect support for emerging services. This continues to today with the establishment of the AV and Apps Development teams in recent years. The full-time Tech Center staff now numbers 16; and a new CIO, Michael Borbacs, took the helm in 2019 after the retirement of John Carpenter. The emphasis on providing services modeled after the Progressive Corporate Environment and directed exclusively to McDonough School of Business students, faculty, and staff remains.