My research interests center around leadership styles and development.

My recent project technology interests are in the development of research networks for small colleges and intelligent assistants for students.

Research Interests

Small College Research Networks

Science education and research as small schools is hampered by limited network resources conducive to data and instrument sharing. This research seeks a replicable approach to supporting community colleges research networks in collaboration with four-year research universities.

NSF Proposal #1925632. CC* Regional: Sun Corridor Network - Arizona Community College Research Expansion

Principal Investigator: Dr. Steven Burrell.

Northern Arizona University (NAU) is a founding member of the Sun Corridor Network (SCN) along with Arizona State University (ASU) and the University of Arizona (UA). SCN delivers research and education networking to Arizona’s research universities through high-speed connections and Internet2.

Research and specialized network connectivity at Arizona community colleges are limited and generally unavailable to academic or to specialized technical programs. This project connects one of the nation’s largest community college systems and the northern NAU collaborator to SCN.

Network expansion to Arizona’s community colleges enables research and education connectivity and support to the students and faculty of Maricopa Community College County District’s Estrella Mountain Community College (Goodyear, AZ), Chandler-Gilbert Community College (Chandler, AZ), Phoenix College (Phoenix, AZ) and Coconino Community College, (Flagstaff, AZ).

The network expansion advances the use of science-oriented workflows, high performance computing in undergraduate research, instrument sharing, STEM education, and homework gap connectivity and introduces wide area and campus networking capacities that align with cybersecurity academic requirements.

NAU and SCN will improve campus network performance, increasing external connectivity to each campus by connecting them to SCN as a regional aggregator. This leverages a strong existing regional relationship with NAU, a leader in rural and online programs and services. The proposal emphasizes outreach to determine needs and requirements, followed by design, workshops, and science network implementation.

By building new collaborations and by expanding connectivity, NAU and SCN improve undergraduate science and technical instruction for over 200,000 students in the Phoenix metropolitan area and northern Arizona.

CIO Strategies for Overcoming Gender Bias Obstacles in IT Organizations and Guidance for Men Who Want to Remove Them.

In 2015 a colleague and friend of mine, Dr. Bob Orr, of Georgia College and State University and I conversed over dinner one evening about the strategic importance and difficulties of recruiting high quality applicants to our institution’s IT services organizations in the face of rising competition for technology skills. We exclaimed about the lack of women applicants in our pools, and the excellent talents of the ones we were able to attract and retain. Citing the moral imperative and the mission of higher education, we decided it was incumbent upon us to do something about it and started discussing ways we could facilitate broader understanding among our colleagues about the opportunities, benefits and difficulties of recruiting, retaining, and developing women leaders in IT.

Women continue to face significant obstacles and gender bias as they pursue their careers in IT as evidenced by current research and news reports of misogyny. Many women discontinue their pursuit of leadership roles, perhaps due to the challenges of the biased environments they must navigate. The women CIOs interviewed in this study identified hardships that are inherent to the ascension of IT leadership roles, and those unique to women. These extraordinarily accomplished CIO’s were able to overcome gender biases through practiced self-reflection, calculated restraint, advanced education, excellent communication skills, and help from support networks.

It is incumbent upon current IT leadership to remove these hurdles and create environments where women are fairly recruited, compensated, developed, and retained equally with their male counterparts in our IT organizations. Organizational leaders must engage bias issues deeper in their organizations and create cultures that equally favors and celebrates gender diversity. In particular, leaders should find opportunities for women to demonstrate their potential and provide a safe environment for them to step forward and contribute. CIOs should also develop and recognize qualities beyond technical expertise that may be signs of future leadership potential in women.

CIOs must be exemplars and leaders who take responsibility for recognizing and changing their own conscious and unconscious gender biases. Leaders must recognize that men must play an active and influential role. These leaders must explicitly encourage and support men to engage in culture-changing action steps to eliminate gender bias and actively support women in our IT organizations. As one of the CIOs in this study said, “Both men and women must become better advocates for women earlier in ours and in their careers.”

IT Staff Turnover Intentions, Job Modification, and the Effects of Work Recognition at Large Public Higher Education Institutions.

Burrell, Steven C., "IT Staff Turnover Intentions, Job Modification, and the Effects of Work Recognition at Large Public Higher Education Institutions" (2014). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 1099.

Information Technology (IT) leaders in public higher education are under increased pressures to leverage innovations in technology to address their institution’s strategic imperatives. CIOs modify jobs by increasing responsibilities or changing the tasks that IT workers perform. IT staff who experience job modification are susceptible to lower job satisfaction and increased turnover intentions. IT leaders in other industries have successfully used work recognition to improve job satisfaction but there is limited research pertaining to these conditions among higher education institutions. This study sought to determine the perceptions and effects of work recognition and job modification on the turnover intentions of IT workers employed at 71 large, publicly controlled, higher education institutions. The researcher conducted a quantitative study using structured equation modeling to measure the potential moderating effects of recognition on job satisfaction, affective commitment, and perceived organizational support as predictors of turnover intention. The researcher found that work recognition was effective at moderating the effects of responsibility increase and task replacement on job satisfaction for IT workers with respect to their preferences of work recognition types. IT workers perceptions of the relative strength and duration of various work recognitions was also determined. The findings contribute to the study of turnover antecedents by providing new information on the relationship between extrinsic and intrinsic motivations and turnover intentions of IT workers at the institutions studied. The conclusions have implications for practice among CIOs in large public institutions regarding the importance and characteristics of work recognition as a tool for retaining IT staff.

Implementing a New CRM System: How iPASS Supported the Transformation of Student Information at NAU

Although achieving consensus on a major undertaking is never a simple process, at Northern Arizona University (NAU), we developed buy-in for our Integrated Planning and Advising for Student Success (iPASS) grant project by beginning with an understanding of "why." Student-focused staff throughout NAU recognized the need to record student information in a single, shared platform. Their perspectives helped drive the implementation of a customer relationship management (CRM) system for institution-wide use. Article:

An Assessment of Salesforce™ Implementation as Student Retention Management System

Higher education institutions are under increasing pressures to graduate students at higher rates to meet legislative mandates and industry workforce needs. Institutions have turned to technological capabilities such as customer retention management systems to help them manage student success. Northern Arizona University (NAU) implemented the Salesforce™ CRM in 2016 and recast it as a student relationship management tool (SRM). This research study sought to understand factors leading to a successful Salesforce™ implementation and the ability to enhance job performance among users. A mixed methods research model was developed to test five hypotheses of SRM implementation. Perceptions of Salesforce™ users were measured in the context of their ability to leverage Salesforce™ in a student service and success environment. A structured equation model was developed from the findings which explained the relationship among various latent variables and describing the antecedents of Salesforce™ use in effectively supporting student success. The cumulative effects in the model contributed positively and significantly to the ability of staff to learn and apply the SRM resulting in improved ability of users to support students. Interviews of SRM users provided insights into improvements around implementation, administration and functional enhancements. Four of the five hypothesis developed for this research were supported and inform best practice concepts for SRM implementation. The model developed can be used for future research and could include measures of student outcomes with respect to applications of SRM. Full study and results.

Researching Computational History

I first used a computer in 1978 in an independent study class at Loveland High School. It was a Hewlett Packard. I wrote simple programs in BASIC, and later recreated those in ASM as we studied how computers worked. It was the beginning of a long and exciting professional journey. I've captured some landmark videos that mark my personal milestones and that of the computing industry.

1974 In this ABC interview from 1974, science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke makes the bold claim that one-day computers will allow people to work from home and access their banking records (and watch movies to survive a pandemic)

1975 The PDP computer was the first business computer that I was responsible for. I was the administrator for and programmed in a boutique student information and financial system ERP system called POISE on a DEC PDP 11/70. It was booted by setting the starting address through toggle switches on the front panel. Firmware was upgraded by copper wire wrapping configurations inside the main CPU cabinet. Here's Ken Olsen's interview talking about the evolution of Digital Equipment Corporation.

1984 We've come along way since 1984 when I unboxed the first MacIntosh at Colorado State University MSO Lab.

1987 Remember how futuristic The Knowledge Navigator seemed?

1994 What is the internet anyway? The Today Show @ 1994. LOL.

1999 Bezos talking about customer experience. Internet, schminternet.

Development Interests


A Google Dialogflow chatbot with integrations to Peoplesoft, ServiceNow, Salesforce, and Kommunicate.


Louie is a comprehensive Chatbot for NAU designed to answer a broad range of questions for prospective and current students. Louie chatbot was developed by IT Services in conjunction with NAU offices and lots of student focus group input. Louie is continuously learning new skills and knowledge, informed by use metrics and questions. For web users of the chatbot, we integrate live-agent capabilities with Kommunicate.


  • Web * (click the icon that pops up in the lower right corner of the screen).

  • By phone 301-304-7415

  • Text (928 440 1576). Still working on some formatting for SMS - Louie may hiccup some.

  • Google Home and Droid Phones (say, “OK Google Talk to Louie Lumberjack”). Working around limitations of the Google platform that don't allow for external references.

  • Amazon Alexa / echo dot (ALPHA testing, no general access yet - soon though!)

What can Louie Do?

Louie can answer many simple questions and requests like:

  • I’d like to schedule an appointment with my advisor. (Salesforce integration)

  • When is graduation? (WordPress integration)

  • I'd like to submit a request for assistance (Service Now integration)

  • Tell me about orientation.

  • Are we having a snow day? (Integration with Wordpress)

  • Where is the Geology building? (WordPress + Google integration)

  • Where can I get tutoring help?

  • What’s the weather outside? (API)

  • What’s the status of the math lab? (API)

  • Is the pool open? (Google search API)

Louie’s Technology Stack

Louie chatbot is built on Google’s DialogFlow technology and can be accessed via web pages, telephone, text messaging, and Android smart phones. It can also run on Google Home and Amazon Alexa devices.

Louie is integrated with core NAU systems such as ServiceNow, Salesforce, NAU Events, and WordPress. Louie has been designed to use those systems as sources of information maintained by NAU offices without having to learn new systems, code, or update any special Dialogflow skills.

Louie is also integrated with Google search and maps engine and with the Google Assistant to leverage Google information and systems for wayfinding and other information.

Integrations have also been built with, a web chat application that allows for seamless monitoring of Louie and human intervention when needed or requested. The ITS Service Desk will act as the initial monitor of Louie but we expect others to adopt this service as well.

What’s on the Roadmap for Louie?

We’re thinking about creating special Louie chatbots for specific purposes and audiences to avoid language and context confusion and allow responses that are more focused and exact. For example, Louie Online could deal with information specific to online students and faculty. Louie Services could specialize in OGEI Service Delivery.

In conjunction with upgrades to NAUgo, we will be supporting the personalization of Louie Chatbot. While Louie currently supports authentication and device association with google email identities, we’ll add capabilities so that when you are accessing Louie chatbot on your smart device he will be able to answer personal questions like, what is my class schedule, and who is my advisor, along with google integrations like, what’s my schedule today?

Student Opportunities

Students have provided valuable input to Louie development through focus groups and testing. Several students have completed workshops and are actively working on the project. Students interested in learning how to develop chatbots can take a short non-credit course to earn a competency badge from NAU. Contact for information.

Ideas, Problem or Suggestion?

We encourage you to try using the web chat service on this page to put Louie to the test. He knows a lot about NAU, but is continuing to learn from use and additional skills and knowledge (intents) we develop. .

Questions and comments can also be directed to via email.

Chatbot References I Find Useful:

Question answering experiments with the Dialogflow FAQ Knowledge Connectors

The Must Know Dialogflow concepts

EagleBot: A Chatbot Based Multi-Tier Question Answering System for Retrieving Answers From Heterogeneous Sources Using BERT

So, You Think You Need A Chatbot A Guide to Navigating AI in Higher Education

ROSEE - RobOtic Student Enhanced Experience

For those of you who may not have grown up with The Jetsons, we met Rosey in episode one in 1962. Nearly sixty years later, the idea of Rosey remains intriguing and we're getting really close e to getting a real Rosey in the 21st century. I launched a project recently to leverage Google technologies to re-create the idea of an empathetic but task-driven robotic caregiver for college students. I call her ROSEE.

The idea behind ROSEE is to expand on this chatbot tech I've been working on for a couple of years now, leveraging AI technology to provide guidance and information to students as they navigate through their day-to-day complexities in our institutions. Leveraging Google technologies I am creating a personalized experience that guides and encourages students through their higher education experience.

Like Sophia and other humanoid robots, I am interested to develop ROSEE into more than just that virtual voice that lives in your phone, watch, or Google home device. She will evolve from a knowledge navigator to a tutor, success coach, or even a teacher- but probably not your maid, though she might control your Roomba. Coupled with robotics, the evolution of ROSEE might be something more like JARVIS' (Just A Rather Very Intelligent System) evolution to Vision, without the mind stone of course. The exciting thing is that we now have most of the technological parts to make this a reality - and a really good use case.

We're about 2 sprints away from piloting ROSEE. Open the pod bay doors HAL, ROSEE wants out!