In survey, Villanova tops tech-savvy schools

Jeffrey Eisenberg

Last month, PC Magazine and The Princeton Review awarded Villanova University the top spot on its list of the “Top 20 Wired Colleges” in the country. ‘Nova beat MIT, which came in second, and Indiana University, in third.

Before 2006, Villanova was ranked three of the last four years. The highest it had ever previously earned on the list was sixth.

PC Magazine and The Princeton Review create this annual list by surveying the size and depth of technology offerings at the schools listed in The Princeton Review’s book, “Best 361 Colleges.”

“While many comment about most ‘wired,’ they do attempt to cover beyond just Internet access,” said University Information Technology Chief Information Officer Stephen Fugale. “It is supposed to be a broad look at how schools use technology and this past year there was a heavy student focus to it.”

Villanova was praised in particular for specialties such as its Applied Finance Lab, Dell laptop program for all students, extensive wireless network and useful online academic tools like NOVASIS and WebCT.

The main reason Villanova chose to improve campus technology was to benefit the community, not to move up in the rankings. Still, the recent honor is seen as a significant accomplishment.

“It’s always wonderful to receive this sort of attention and recognition, a fitting tribute to the hard work of so many people at Villanova,” said Dr. John Johannes, vice president for Academic Affairs. “The rankings themselves are not necessarily something that one can rely upon or overemphasize.”

Nonetheless, he said any recognition, whether academic, athletic or other, increases visibility and prestige.

“It can elevate Villanova from an ‘option’ on some prospective student’s list to ‘must investigate’ status,” he said.

UNIT continually makes progress on campus by working closely with college and University administrators to obtain the best understanding of the school’s needs.

UNIT also pays attention to insight gained from other colleges, conferences, the Student Government Association and students, faculty and staff. As a result, there are always new areas for improvement.

“I believe the University and UNIT feel good about the accomplishment, but you cannot stand still, [and] there is much more to do,” Fugale said.

Indeed, Villanova can expect to see a continuation of the activity that has helped to achieve its No. 1 ranking as “Most Wired College.”

“We are working on many projects, … [including] an e-laundry/suds system … doubling Internet bandwidth this semester … [and] planning a migration to a Microsoft exchange and Outlook e-mail platform,” Fugale said.

Fugale also mentioned an expansion of wireless capabilities on campus, a probable increase in the use of mobile devices, more podcasting of lectures and events and even the possibility of remote or virtual participation with such events.

Progress in technology will depend on the needs of members of the Villanova community.

In a recent poll on, 52 percent of those who answered listed an extension of wireless coverage as their first desire. According to Fugale, it is in the works.

“The actual use of technology … depends on faculty and students,” Johannes said. “And rankings don’t change the way we teach. Presumably it is that fine teaching and our fine graduates that earn us the rankings in the first place.”