CommEX24 Speaker Spotlight: Heidi Thompson and Kaitlin Wilcox of Grinnell College on the Important Partnership between IAM and BI

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By Apryl Motley - Technical Writer & Communications Lead, Internet2 Trust and Identity/NET+ Service

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Can – and should – there be a partnership between identity and access management (IAM) and business intelligence (BI)? For Heidi Thompson and Kaitlin Wilcox, identity and access analyst and director of business insights, respectively, at Grinnell College, the answer is a resounding yes. 

Thompson and Wilcox have worked to develop a dynamic partnership between their two departments, one they believe will be critical as higher ed institutions progressively lean towards centralized analytics.

Kaitlin Wilcox posing for a photo.
Kaitlin Wilcox

They will share their insights and experience at the 2024 Internet2 Community Exchange (CommEX), March 4 – 7, in Chicago. Their session, “From Authentication to Analytics” will be part of the identity and access management track at CommEX.

Here’s more from the pair on how attendees will benefit from their session and CommEX overall.

What prompted you to submit a session on this topic? 

Wilcox: The work we are engaged in has presented a valuable opportunity to foster open communication within our department. Understanding each other’s progress and timelines has enabled us to identify new opportunities for collaboration. When our goals align, we don’t need to compete for resources; we have support for all our work. We hope sharing this will provide a little bit of encouragement to others dealing with the same challenges. 

Why is your topic an important one to address?  

Thompson: Identity is a key component of setting up the security around the data to be used in analytics. It’s paramount to begin with the end in mind and lay out a plan for how you get there.

Wilcox: While we often hear the refrain “don’t work in silos,” transitioning from silos to partnerships can be challenging to put into practice. Our presentation offers just one specific example (among many at other institutions) of a project that illustrates how this transition can be achieved and the ongoing benefits it brings to our teams. It’s crucial to consider how work in one area (authentication, in this case) impacts end users in an entirely different area (analytics). Connecting this entire lifecycle is pivotal for end user understanding and buy in. 

What do you hope attendees will learn from your presentation?   

Thompson: How to begin thinking about laying out the security for their data warehousing solutions to embrace identity roles and entitlements instead of individual assignments.

Wilcox: If attendees leave and think about the presentation even once after it’s over that’s great – what would be even better is if they took an idea back to their colleagues to discuss how they might better align their goals/work, so they don’t have to push ahead alone. IT is a team sport. 

What do you enjoy most about speaking about IAM?   

Thompson: IAM is a journey and not a destination. I continue to learn from what others have done and build on that knowledge for the future.  

In your experience, how has attending Community Exchange been beneficial or helpful to you? 
Wilcox: Community exchange is full of wonderful people, all more than willing to share their experiences and provide nuggets of insight I wouldn’t get anywhere else. I appreciate the community and expertise all gathered in one place.

Fun Facts about Heidi

Total Years at Grinell:
5 years

What She Likes Most About Her Job:
Finding solutions to access needs while also keeping security requirements in focus

Best Advice About IAM She Ever Received (& from whom):
Identity is the new perimeter! All the firewalls and hardware/software solutions can be thwarted if someone has the credentials to get through.

Fun Facts about Kaitlin

Total Years at Grinell:
10 years

What She Likes Most About Her Job:
I’m continually learning from my colleagues, who are not only incredibly intelligent but also a joy to work with.

2024 Internet2 Community Exchange logo

Interested in attending Heidi and Kaitlin’s presentation or the many other informative educational sessions at CommEX? Please visit the registration page to get details.

Check out some of the other sessions in the IAM track.

Session Name / Abstract Date Time Speaker(s)
T&I Steering/NET+ PAG Working Group Meeting Tues. Mar 5 7:00 – 8:15 a.m. TBD
From Authentication to Analytics Tues. Mar 5 10:15 – 11:15 a.m Heidi Thompson, Grinnell College
Kaitlin Wilcox, Grinnell College
Introducing MetrANOVA: A neutral, trusted, and open consortium for Advancing Network Observation and Analysis Tues. Mar 5 11:20 – 12:00 p.m. Ed Balas, ESnet
eduroam Special Interest Group Tues. Mar 5 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. eduroam Special Interest Group
Whither Wallets? Tues. Mar 5 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. Nicole Roy, Internet2
Dmitri Zagidulin, MIT
Leif Johansson, SUNET
IdPaaS Program: Federation Made Easy Tues. Mar 5 2:40 – 3:40 p.m. Albert Wu, Internet2
Deploying eduroam at a Statewide Level Tues. Mar 5 4:10 – 5:10 p.m. Sara Jeanes, Internet2
InCommon Futures 2 Wed. Mar 6 10:00 – 11:00 a.m. Kevin Morooney, Internet2
Marc Wallman, North Dakota State University
Trust, Identity, and Access for Learning and Research Across Borders Wed. Mar 6 11:10 – 12:00 p.m. Klaas Wierenga, GEANT
CACTI Working Meeting Wed. Mar 6 12:00 – 1:30 p.m. TBD
Microsoft Multilateral Federation Future Wed. Mar 6 1:30 – 2:30 p.m Corey Lee, Microsoft
Identity: Open Source Hosted & Managed Wed. Mar 6 2:40 – 3:40 p.m. Charise Arrowood, Unicon, Inc.
Natalie Alarcon, California State University, Dominguez Hills
Future-Proofing IAM Infrastructures Wed. Mar 6 4:10 – 5:10 p.m. Christopher Misra, University of Massachusetts
Lois Brooks, University of Wisconsin
Mairéad Martin, University of Illinois
Christopher Sedore, Tufts University
Trust, Collaboration, & Community Thu. Mar 7 8:30 – 9:30 a.m. David Bantz