Lori Shipley

From a small farm to the big swamp: COMPASS Project Director Lori Shipley brings problem-solving, higher education experience to UF

University of Florida COMPASS welcomes its newest team member, Lori Shipley, who hails from Paris, population 8,561.

That’s Paris, Illinois, of course.

Shipley, the youngest of six siblings, was raised on a corn and soybean farm, complete with cows, chickens and pigs. It’s an inauspicious starting point for a fruitful career in computer systems and project management – or so one might think.

But Shipley credits a farm-cultivated problem-solving mentality, and a creative mindset heightened by a love of art, to her success in a field as far away from farming as Paris is from, well, Paris.

Shipley joins the COMPASS team as a consultant from Sierra-Cedar Inc., having previously served as project manager for Project LionPATH, Penn State University’s student information systems (SIS) implementation project.  Here in Gainesville, she’ll be leading UF through the COMPASS SIS implementation as a project director along with UF’s own Jim Freymann.

Not unlike solving a puzzle, Shipley describes her role as “making sure all the moving parts move together to accomplish our goals in the timeline we’ve set out.”

Although she’s been on the project for less than a month, Shipley says she’s encouraged by her initial impressions of UF, the COMPASS team and its efforts.

“I’m very impressed with the resources we have here at UF and how knowledgeable the team is on the history surrounding the university,” Shipley said. “You have to have that knowledge of the history to successfully implement a project of this scope and size.”

Shipley’s perspective comes from decades of experience within higher education. Her first computer-related higher-education job was at Indiana State University, working for the dean of Student Administrative Services. She has since worked for and implemented student information systems projects at Purdue University, Vanderbilt University and the University of Miami.

Lori Shipley, pictured second from right, joins, from left to right, Jim Freymann, Dawnn Bean, Peter Harden and Owen Callahan of the COMPASS Project Management Office

Shipley says she prefers big projects, big teams and big goals.

Penn State’s Project LionPATH took three years to complete, and COMPASS’s timeline is comparable. Both UF and Penn State are large public universities and, although they have their major differences, both universities’ SIS implementations are a working collaboration between university staff and consultant-employed subject-matter experts (SMEs).

In fact, Project LionPATH was Shipley’s first project as a consultant, having previously overseen SIS implementations as a university staff member. However, in November 2013 she joined Sierra-Cedar Inc., an industry leading consultant firm with, as described on its website, “consulting, technical, and managed services for the deployment, management, and optimization of next generation applications and technology.”

Sierra-Cedar consultants, like Shipley, are currently and will continue working alongside UF staff for the duration of the COMPASS project to ensure a timely and successful implementation.

“Sierra-Cedar is very higher-education focused, and I felt like I knew everyone day one,” Shipley said. “[Sierra-Cedar consultants] either were a registrar or a director of student financials, and they come out of higher education, at least from a functional perspective. It’s very much a close-knit family.”

For Shipley that will make two higher-education-centered families, as her husband, John Shipley, has more than 30 years of experience managing the areas of finance for large universities. And although they currently call Nashville home, one can tell, listening to Shipley speak, that she also feels at home on campus, surrounded by the students she’s doing her part to help.

“There’s nothing better than walking through campus as soon as the students return and seeing all of that energy,” Shipley said. “People who go on projects, we usually get put in off-campus buildings because it’s convenient, but you really need to walk on campus a couple of days and remember what it is you’re doing and who you’re doing it for: those students and that energy.”