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Stacia Zelick: New CIO comes to PPPL with a passion for research

Stacia Zelick, PPPL’s new chief information officer, brings years of experience in information technology to the job, along with a willingness to literally get her hands dirty. She also brings with her a disco ball for her office that has yet to be unpacked.

A friend gave Zelick the disco ball when she was at her first job and it has followed her from job to job ever since. She plans to install it and play music in her office once she has permanent quarters. (She is currently in a temporary office on the third floor). “Every once in a while you just have to unwind by singing and dancing it out,” Zelick said. “I love what I do and I do what I love. My management style is very open. People can come to me with anything and everything. That’s always what’s been given to me by my supervisors, colleagues and professors and I think I’m just paying it forward.”

Zelick, whose first name is pronounced “Stay-sha,” said she likes the fact that she will have the opportunity to get involved in day-to-day operations. In her previous job as director of Information Technology at Rutgers University-Newark, Zelick managed a budget of more than $4 million and a staff of 26 full-time employees and 100 student employees. When her staff was busy helping students connect their computers to the network during moving-in weekend each fall, Zelick worked alongside them. “I love being hands-on,” Zelick said. “I never ask my staff to do anything I wouldn’t do and creating the team mentality in my department starts with me.”

Designed computing facilities

At Rutgers University-Newark, Zelick was in charge of several projects to enhance the campus’s computing services, infrastructure and national profile, some of which she designed herself. She created a $350,000 expansion of the library computing facility that housed 100 state of the art computers. She devised the campus’s first-ever high-performance computing cluster for researchers — a $1.5 million project that included a $700,000 80-node computing cluster made possible through a grant from the New Jersey Equipment Leasing Fund and a $350,000 data center enhancement project.

Zelick’s wealth of experience, particularly related to research, made her the top candidate for the position, said Adam Cohen, PPPL’s deputy director for operations. “Stacia comes to PPPL with over 15 years of experience as an information technology professional, most recently at Rutgers. She brings vision and strategic leadership to our information technology efforts,” Cohen said. “IT continues to grow as a critical element for accomplishing our missions and running our organization, and her efforts and those of her organization will be vital for this Lab’s success. I look forward to working with her and watching her enthusiastic approach have a positive impact Lab-wide!"

Zelick fills the position last held by Steve Baumgartner, who retired on April 1, 2014. Jim Hirsch and Bill Davis led the department for a year until Adam Cohen took over the position as interim CIO in April for one month.

A computer whiz from an early age

A native of Union, New Jersey, Zelick was the first kid on her block to get an early personal computer and her friends flocked to see it. She has been fascinated by computers ever since. “I like challenges, and it was challenging to have a computer when no one else had one and to be the one to figure it all out – and fix whatever you break,” she said. “I like putting pieces of puzzles together so it was fun for me. I’m such a nerd!”

Zelick earned a B.A. in computer information systems from a joint program at Rutgers University and the New Jersey Institute of Technology. She went on to get an MBA in management information systems from Montclair State University and a PhD in organization and management, with a specialization in information technology management, from Capella University, a Minnesota-based institution that delivers most of its education online.

Zelick’s father, Ray Zelick, lives with her in their two-family house. They currently reside in Vernon, New Jersey, which is 10 minutes from Warwick, New York, and 90 miles from PPPL. She plans to relocate soon. She and her father have five rescue dogs. She is an athlete who enjoys kickboxing and outdoor activities like running and skiing. She and her father, who grew up in Pittsburgh, are football fans who root for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Began career in higher education at UMDNJ

Zelick began her career in higher education as a user support specialist at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. She later became the manager of the Computer Assisted Learning Environment (CALE) at Montclair State University and managed the teaching and learning computing facilities throughout the campus at Montclair State. Two years later, she became director of Technical Support Services at the university, a position she held for eight years. She led the Technology Solutions Center, including the teaching and computing facilities, the university helpdesk, desktop support, repair, and audiovisual services. She also taught IT courses in Montclair’s School of Business.

Zelick went on to become IT manager at Kent State University, where she was executive director of Disaster Recovery, Infrastructure and Security for about one year before becoming executive director of Service Management at the Ohio school. She and her team completed a number of projects including designing a disaster recovery and business continuity strategy, completing the university’s first successful disaster recovery exercise, and completing an email migration of 7,000 users to a cloud email solution.

Zelick looks forward to leading PPPL’s IT department and shaping the department’s strategic plan for the coming years. “That’s huge because I’ve always been part of the process but I’ve never been the one to lead the process,” she said.

She is especially enthusiastic about supporting PPPL’s research goals. “The research being done here is critical, and to have an impact on that research with the services provided through ITD is priceless,” she said. “I know I can make a difference here.”

U.S. Department of Energy
Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory managed by Princeton University.

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