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MCNC works to extend federated trust and identity solutions to K-12, Community Colleges in North Carolina

The non-profit organization explored the real driving force behind the technology on the North Carolina Research and Education Network this week during NCREN Community Day

MCNC, the non-profit operator of the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN), today announced a first-in-the-nation, proof of concept to extend InCommon Federated Identity Management (FIM) technologies from universities to now include K-12 education and community colleges in North Carolina  – giving participating institutions the ability to use a secure credential to safely access a wide array of online educational resources.

The details of the project were revealed this week during NCREN Community Day 2016 on Thursday and Friday (Nov. 3-4) at the DoubleTree by Hilton Raleigh Brownstone-University.

MCNC’s mission is to advance education, research, health care, public safety, and the overall levels of broadband connectivity available in North Carolina by providing a world-class network necessary for innovation, collaboration and economic development. More than 200 top education, government, and technology executives from North Carolina and beyond participated in discussions around this year’s theme: Network. Teamwork. Make Ideas Work.

In 2013, education and technology leaders in eight states began collaborating with InCommon (a service of Internet2) to extend advanced trust and identity solutions used at the nation’s top universities to K-12 and community college students, faculty and staff as part of a set of pilots. Over time, those pilots evolved to build the InCommon Steward Program, which is currently a proof of concept happening only in North Carolina in partnership with MCNC.

Ann West, Associate Vice President for Trust and Identity at Internet2, explained that the InCommon Steward Program extends the benefits of federated identity management to K-12 school districts and community colleges with a Steward (a state or regional network, in this case MCNC in North Carolina) who sets up and manages the organizational trust, relationship management and support, and InCommon providing the national trust infrastructure and operational experience.

“Trying to extend InCommon to all of K-14 education nationally would be too large to scale. We knew we had to work with our regional network partners that have these key relationships built in. InCommon puts the trust in trusted networks, and we’re so grateful that MCNC is collaborating with us on a workable solution that benefits both education and the regionals,” she said. “And, this work is generating a lot of interest from other states who are watching this very closely.”

MCNC Chief Technology Strategist Mark Johnson added that FIM technologies for K-12 education and community colleges will have an important role in North Carolina’s future.

“This is the right direction for North Carolina and other states, and it’s achievable by scaling statewide networks like NCREN,” added Johnson. “North Carolina could be the first state to successfully leverage a regional network and the existing InCommon infrastructure to create new possibilities with efficient, cost-effective and secure FIM technologies.”

MCNC also announced recipients of this year’s NCREN Community Awards.

The Robyn Render Endeavor Award was presented to Alfred Mays, Program Officer for Science Education and Diversity at the Burroughs Wellcome Fund. This recognition honors a devoted North Carolina leader who understood how technology could grow educational opportunity for all citizens and is annually presented to one or more persons who continually champion leadership, engagement, and support of MCNC’s overarching mission and goals for North Carolina.

The Empower Award was presented to Maurice Ferrell, assistant director at UNC School of Government’s Center for Public Technology. When NCREN experienced considerable growth in 2008, the organization introduced the Empower Award to recognize individuals who were not long-time members of the NCREN Community but made an immediate impact upon engagement.

Finally, Candace Holder, Vice President and CIO of Technology Services at Surry Community College, was selected by her peers for the Community Choice Award. This award engages the NCREN membership from beginning to end, with input on nominees and recipients determined by the online voting.

NCREN Community Day 2016 was sponsored by: Zettabye Sponsor: Cisco Systems; Gigabyte Sponsors: Arbor Networks, CenturyLink, Conterra, Time Warner Cable Business Class; Megabyte Sponsors: AT&T, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, MediaSite by Sonic Foundry, SonicWALL, Zscaler; and Door Prize Sponsors: BalsamWest, ECC Technologies, Financial Directions Group, Identity Automation, NWN Corporation, Presidio, Smith Anderson, and Womble Carlyle.