Clark Atlanta University




Atlanta, GA



Clark Atlanta University’s (CAU’s) mission is to prepare a
diverse community of learners to excel and to become responsible,
productive, and innovative citizen leaders, locally and globally.
The origins of the university—Clark College, the first private liberal
arts school in the country for African Americans, and Atlanta
University, the nation’s oldest graduate institution—date back
to the Reconstruction. In 1988, the university consolidated Clark
College and Atlanta University on a single campus in the heart of
Atlanta, and today it offers 38 undergraduate, graduate, doctoral
degree, and specialist programs and develops socially, globally
responsible leaders. 


By 2009, however, CAU realized its aged and inflexible
telecommunications system had failed to keep pace with larger
technological changes. The system’s limitations reached a critical
point in 2010, when parents inquiring about changes in federal
financial aid policies flooded the school with nearly three times
the normal call volume and overwhelmed the system. At that
point, CAU’s new associate vice president and CIO Reggie
Brinson had been on the job less than a year. “We couldn’t see
all the calls that were coming in,” he recalls. “This was unacceptable.”
CAU then tasked him with finding an adequate solution
that would significantly reduce costs while providing improved
functionality and expanded capability. 

The incident only served to underscore larger ongoing communications
challenges that needed to be addressed, including:
•  The legacy PBX had reached the end of its life and would not
allow CAU to fully exploit the voice over IP capability of the 
switch; an upgrade would have required investing in a new
server and software.
• CAU’s annual contract with its long-term service provider
was costly and about to expire, leading it to reconsider its
entire approach to communications systems and contracts.
• CAU wanted a flexible unified communications system
that could easily manage the university’s extensive network
and volume of phones and integrate faxes, SMS, and voice
messaging communications, especially with fluctuating call
volumes during the registration period.
• Budget constraints, coupled with increased communications
demands, necessitated taking a smarter, longer-term
approach to technology. 


From the time Brinson arrived at CAU, he knew that the
school’s communications capabilities were rapidly becoming
obsolete. Working closely with Phyllis McCrary, manager of telecommunications,
he proposed moving CAU to a campus-wide IP unified communications system that would move the school to IP phones, improve call center capability, and allow the phasing out
of many analog phones. CAU looked at several solutions but ultimately chose a
carrier-grade, open, native SIP-based unified communications application from Siemens Enterprise Communications, including the OpenScape Voice application and OpenScape Contact Center running on the OpenScape UC Server. Because the OpenScape 
solution uses open standards, CAU envisions integrating its communications system with its new Microsoft Live@edu student e-mail system and SharePoint® collaboration platform for faculty and staff.
To advise the university and implement the system, CAU chose Black Box Network Services. “We were looking to acquire a solu tion we could depend upon in terms of its longevity and fit, and looking progressively at where the capabilities would go forth,”
Brinson says. “We didn’t want to repeat the past.”


The move to OpenScape Voice running on Siemens Enterprise
Communications OpenScape UC Server eliminated the
shortcomings associated with simply extending CAU’s legacy
telecommunications platform and delivered new capabilities
to meet the future needs of the university. 

Some of the most notable benefits include:
  • A 50 percent reduction in ongoing support costs. CAU was locked into a costly contract with a company whose solution would not provide the full capabilities CAU demanded and was near the end of its life. By switching to a Siemens Enterprise OpenScape solution and Black Box consulting services, CAU eliminated expenses related to forced, “Band-Aid” type fixes and add-ons. 

  • New capabilities and convenience delivered to students,
    faculty, and staff. Users can take advantage of integrated IP
    phone, voice messaging, and SMS communications anywhere on
    campus. The university now provides true mobile gained Caller
    ID and an expanded call center feature set to handle inbound
    calls more efficiently.
  • A responsive and visionary support partner. CAU was able to move from an unsatisfactory support relationship to one that “not only met our current business requirements but could help us with what we should be looking at going forward.”
  • Minimized disruption. By adopting a phased approach to
    implementation, CAU needed a solution that was flexible
    enough to accommodate continued use of analog phones
    for an unspecified period of time.
  • An immediate positive impact on users. With the Siemens® open, standards-based OpenScape UC solution and the security of ongoing support from Black Box, CAU was able to immediately give users a greater array of options and services, reducing frustration and call wait times. The additional flexibility, scalability, and features of OpenScape ensure that the University can
    plan for and keep pace with emerging communications trends
    to meet the future needs of the faculty, students, and extended
    CAU family.