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Whitewater upgrades tech degree program

Whitewater, Wis. - The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater has revamped a key information technology degree course line, developing what is now known as the Information Technology Infrastructure program.

The program, the successor the previously offered Computer End-User Technologies program, is a product of joint work between the school and the business sector, and will begin this fall semester. It places a far greater emphasis than its predecessor on networking in addition to basic programming, according to Professor John Chenoweth, and will modify itself from semester to semester in response to feedback from the private sector about the ever-changing needs of the IT sector.

"Two years ago we sat down with an industry advisory board and asked them the question: What sort of computer degree program should a school like the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater be offering in order to satisfy the needs of companies in the region?" explained Bob Horton, chair of the Information Technology and Business Education department at UW-Whitewater's College of Business and Economics.

After students have received basic courses in Java programming, database management and networking, they will then branch off into their respective disciplines and later take on internships with private businesses before completing the program.

"I think it's really important that the universities are very attuned to the changing market that's out there," said Mary Herdrich, IT manager for West Bend Mutual Insurance and a member of the advisory board.
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The program was designed, according to Herdrich, with seven key goals in mind:

• Students becoming experienced with IT infrastructure and design for different business requirements.

• Students becoming experienced with building IT solutions and implementing basic setup and security features from the ground up.

• Students becoming experienced with monitoring and maintaining systems that are in place.

• Students becoming experienced with best practices for troubleshooting and tech support.

• Students becoming acquainted with project management and setup, knowing how to handle budgeting, workforce management and how to change as the needs change.

• Students learning how to set up network security

• Students obtaining the technical skill set necessary for an entry-level position right out of school.

"When you go back 10 or 15 years, we had a mainframe system with COBALT programs, and there wasn't a whole lot more to it than that," Herdrich said, contrasting that with the modern environment of PDAs, wireless technology and the ubiquity of the personal computer.

"It's really important for the universities to have a good understanding of where the businesses are at so they're teaching their students the appropriate technologies and having the appropriate programs to meet the needs that we have."

Planning for the needs of the future, according to Professor Jo Ann Oravec, is going to become more and more important within the world economy.

"We're dealing with a global infrastructure of IT talent," Oravec said. "Lots of jobs are getting farmed out to India, Dublin, places outside of the U.S., and what we are trying to do is to equip students to have both the managerial and the design background so they can harness this talent, maybe create some of these projects that can utilize talent from around the world."

The key, Oravec added, it not simply to train students for entry-level positions out in the business world, though that certainly is important. The goal is to produce graduates ready to work within that world and adjust to meet its needs.

"Instead of just thinking how we can get the students out maybe to a first job, we're thinking in terms of their careers, as well. We're trying to make sure that they are lifelong learners and know that technology education has to be continuing, and give them those skills so they're always looking out for the new trends as well as having the basics."

Firms on the advisory board are: nVisia, West Bend Mutual Insurance, Quad/Graphics, Great Lakes Higher Education, Viasys Healthcare, American Family Insurance, Compuware, The Titus Group, Harley-Davidson, SC Johnson, and Berbee.

Eric Kleefeld is a writer for WTN based in Madison. He can be reached at eric@wistechnology.com.




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