Even to many in the academic community, Marquette University is more known for its Final Four appearances in basketball than the 0s and 1s behind its data management degrees. But professors at the Jesuit university are applying internal strategies and industry connections to add modernity and prominence from the changing real-world needs of students in its Mathematics, Statistics and Computing Sciences program.
Gary Krenz, department chairman and professor for 26 years at the university, said the dot com meltdown a decade ago scared away a generation of data management students. Now, he said universities have had to play catch up and find new ways to connect with the industry, particularly if “you’re not on one of the coasts,” where Milwaukee’s Marquette definitely is not.
“You’re seeing companies ask, ‘How can we get to these kids with these types of skills, who can do BI, architecture and security?’,” Krenz says. “There is a lot of demand right now and it’s ramping up.”
Academia in general hasn’t done the greatest job of preparing students with the breadth of IT and business know-how enterprises expect in the bustling information management field. One study pointed to a significant gap in cooperation between computing education and business learning, particularly in preparation for cutting edge careers in big data, cloud computing and analytics.
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Thomas Kaczmarek, Ph.D, M.S. in Computing director, said “breaking down silos” between business and computing practices has been central to his mission at Marquette. Coming from the private sector to serve education in information management, Kaczmarek previously worked on massive data management projects at General Motors and at various West Coast start-ups. That’s helped guide his influence opening up course paths to include studies with Marquette’s Graduate School of Management, and he regularly steers students toward complementary business coursework.
“We believe that breadth and depth need to be in balance in the graduate program,” he said. “There is an ongoing process that includes job openings and internships, and a lot [of opportunity] to show [students] the skills people are looking for.”
While Marquette may not be nestled in Silicon Valley, professors have made connections for students in data management and bioinformatics opportunities at the Wisconsin Medical College and the Great Lakes Water Institute. The university has held focus groups with health care and insurance CIOs to gauge needs and guide internships, and dozens of enterprises are joining in a new technical career fair. Along with his work on campus with the business department, Kaczmarek held Web seminars over the summer on hot topics like big data, semantic technology and BI trends. The department has added a social opportunity with information and updates on Twitter and LinkedIn to complement school website info, and there are regular networking events with local business leaders, alumni, students and faculty.
With the fall semester set to start in a few weeks, Krenz noted that student interest and enrollment in the BI field is creeping up. As modern coursework and connections to the industry are expanded at the university, Krenz said his big problem is getting undergraduate students to see the various employment possibilities in areas such as BI, supply chain management and marketing data.
“There are a lot of [job] opportunities in the sweet spots of data and computing here. The students, they may not have a position starting in January, but by March, they’re employed,” Krenz said.
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