Campus & Community

Innovative higher-ed IT veteran named new CIO

Klara Jelinkova joins Harvard after stints at Rice, Duke, Chicago, and Wisconsin

6 min read
Klara Jelinkova.

Klara Jelinkova will begin her tenure Sept. 13.

Photo by Tommy LaVergne

Klara Jelinkova, who developed a reputation as an innovator in her nearly three decades in information technology at major U.S. research universities, has been named vice president and University chief information officer, Harvard announced today. Jelinkova begins her tenure Sept. 13.

“Klara brings with her to Harvard a long track record of building effective and collaborative IT organizations to support the teaching and research missions of a number of higher-education institutions, with particular expertise in developing dynamic online learning platforms, creating robust research computing resources, and facilitating a secure IT infrastructure,” said Executive Vice President Katie Lapp. “We are excited for her to begin here.”

Jelinkova comes to Harvard from Rice University, where she has served as vice president for international operations and IT for more than six years. Prior to that, she was CIO and senior associate vice president at the University of Chicago, and she has held senior positions in IT at Duke University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“I am absolutely delighted to have been selected vice president and University chief information officer,” said Jelinkova. “I look forward to working closely with the strong HUIT team to build on their successes and to pursue new and exciting opportunities in support of the academic and research endeavors of Harvard into the future.”

While at Rice, Jelinkova led in the creation and development of a new IT organization while engaging the points of view of key university-wide stakeholders, across schools and units.

“We brought Klara to Rice from the University of Chicago 6½ years ago to build a central information technology organization, and she has succeeded spectacularly on every front, from cybersecurity to investing in research computing, to building new administrative systems,” said Rice President David Leebron ’77, J.D. ’79. “She is simply one of the best people I have ever worked with. Her creative, collaborative, and innovative approaches have extended her impact on the university in many dimensions beyond IT, including international programs and digital education. We are very sorry to lose her given her extraordinary contributions, but pleased that she will continue contributing both within, and outside of, Harvard to advance the academic missions of universities through thoughtful and bold approaches to technology.”

“What really has struck me with Klara is that she takes a uniquely energetic and active interest in every part of the University,” said Harvard Graduate School of Design Dean Sarah Whiting, who worked closely with Jelinkova during her time at Rice before taking the helm at GSD in 2019. “I think of her as a humanist, in that she is always deeply engaged and excited to be part of conversations that stretch across departments, Schools, and units. She truly sees things as a University citizen should.”

Jelinkova also oversaw the integration of technology into teaching and learning on a broad scale at Rice, working closely with faculty members, Rice Online, and the Center for Teaching Excellence to address emergent needs. These relationships led to the successful migration to entirely online learning in March 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and, later, to a dual-delivery learning platform for the following fall.

“We are at a pivotal point in higher education, where we have a chance to really rethink how we can serve more people,” said Jelinkova. “New online-learning platforms offer us the opportunity to think differently about how to address existing inequities in education. And Harvard is at the forefront of this conversation. I look forward to working closely with colleagues to solve this problem, which I believe to be one of the pressing issues of our day.”

While at the University of Wisconsin, Jelinkova chaired the Division of Information Technology’s Equity and Diversity Committee, and she has continued to invest significant time on issues related to equity and inclusion through professional development and formal training for her staff. She also spearheaded new digital-accessibility initiatives at the University of Chicago and at Rice.

As University CIO, Jelinkova will also serve as the information technology leader for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “I couldn’t be more delighted that Klara is joining Harvard in this critically important role,” said Claudine Gay, Edgerley Family Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “She so clearly gets it that success is about more than just the ‘hardware’ of technology and resources; it’s also about the ‘software’ of people and culture. She has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to equity, inclusion, and belonging in the teams she has led and fostered strong and collaborative relationships with faculty, researchers, staff, and students to ensure that her work was aligned with their needs and interests.”

“My personal commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion is based partially on my own experience, as a woman and an immigrant to this country who has climbed up the ranks to become a CIO at a major university,” said Jelinkova, who is originally from what is now the Czech Republic. “I am grateful that I have always found the places where I have worked to be committed to including different voices, and this is a commitment I share deeply in my own work.”

While at Rice, Jelinkova supported the growth of the Center for Research Computing by working with faculty, administration, and the board to establish a dedicated endowment for research computing, creating research facilitator positions to advise faculty and a dedicated position to help faculty ensure the security of their research data. Her time at Duke, Chicago, and Rice were also marked by her leadership in cybersecurity as an institutional priority

“Throughout her career, Klara has worked closely with faculty to offer the information technology support they need for their research and teaching,” said Harvard Provost Alan M. Garber. “She has done so extraordinarily well. She understands that the modern university cannot thrive unless it protects data security and privacy, while at the same time it ensures the free exchange of ideas. She is an innovator who appreciates that these two goals are not in conflict. They are complementary. I look forward to partnering with her on new opportunities to harness technology to advance the University’s academic mission.”

Jelinkova continued her own education during her time at Rice, completing a master’s of education at Boston University while beginning work on a doctor of education degree with Johns Hopkins University. She holds a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in economics and Slavic languages.

Jelinkova follows Anne Margulies, who retired in May, in the role of CIO. She will be joined in the Boston area by her husband, Jim, and her 21-year-old chinchilla.