“You need to be willing to take risks. This is not a field for the timid,” says Margulies while discussing technology and higher education.
Margulies knows a lot about taking risks. A self-described “heat-seeker,” she has routinely taken on roles throughout her career where she had the opportunity to create monumental positive change, but that also had a fair amount of uncertainty.
Margulies was the founding director of MIT OpenCourseWare, MIT’s internationally acclaimed initiative to publish the teaching materials for their entire curriculum openly and freely over the Internet.
“Going to MIT OpenCourseWare was a huge risk because I was the first and only person that was hired to execute this exciting vision - and the clock was ticking,” says Margulies. “MIT had already made a public commitment to deliver the first courses in the fall and I was hired in May.”
However, the risk was worth it, and Margulies points to the MIT OpenCourseWare program as a great source of pride. “It was an incredibly bold and exciting experiment that came from the MIT faculty. It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to work on something that would have a huge impact on learners all over the world. I think it’s fair to say it’s a foundation for a lot of what is going on now in education with MOOCs and other online learning programs.”
Margulies is passionate about the importance of building communities and collaboration. A mission of MIT OpenCourseWare was to create the program in a way that others could emulate - Margulies worked with hundreds of universities to help them create their own programs.
At Harvard, she is working on a partnership with MIT called edX, which offers free online classes and MOOCs from top universities. Margulies says the venture is exciting because it’s making a real difference by not only improving education on the Harvard campus, but by expanding access to education.
Margulies also served a key role in the creation of the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center, which is another strategic partnership that includes four other universities and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Margulies says the Center, located in the western part of the state, enables Harvard to support university research at half the cost it would take to do it on campus. That support for research is helping lead to scientific breakthroughs - including the announcement in March 2014 that scientists had the first direct evidence that the universe expanded in the split seconds after the Big Bang. It was a theory first proposed by Albert Einstein, but one that had never been proven.
“It was an amazing feat,” says Margulies. “It took like 5 million hours of computing, 3 million of which were at this new facility. This was a huge scientific breakthrough that we were able to support through this strategic partnership.”
Margulies sees this as an exciting time in higher education and plans to continue focusing on building communities and increasing collaboration. “The CIO’s role is evolving from delivering a service to the institution to becoming a real strategic partner in advancing its core mission.”