June 25, 2008

Microsoft gift will give students competitive edge

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Computer software technology advances incredibly fast in the corporate world. Keeping pace is crucial for those seeking a career in the field and students at Southern Illinois University Carbondale are about to get a nice head start, thanks to Microsoft.

Microsoft is providing software and technical support with a combined fair market value of $725,773 to SIUC’s School of Information Systems and Applied Technologies within the College of Applied Sciences and Arts.

“Microsoft clearly values the importance of providing our graduates with a competitive edge as they prepare to enter the job market,” said Rickey N. McCurry, vice chancellor for institutional advancement and CEO of the SIU Foundation. “The University strives to offer students an opportunity to garner hands-on experience with cutting-edge technology. Therefore generous gifts such as this one from Microsoft are pertinent to the institution.”

Stephen C. Shih, associate professor and associate director of the School of Information Systems and Applied Technologies, wrote the proposal that earned SIUC membership in the Microsoft Dynamics Academic Alliance (MDAA) program and the significant gift. Shih said SIUC is one of a small number of universities across the nation selected as members, giving them license to some of the industry’s leading enterprise resource planning software applications.

As an MDAA member, SIUC gets an extensive collection of software for its classrooms, technical support and access to online training. The gift to SIUC includes three software packages: Microsoft Dynamics NAV, GP and AX.

“We are, of course, quite pleased that Microsoft has provided us with this gift,” said Paul D. Sarvela, dean of the College of Applied Sciences and Arts. “The college is not in a position to purchase this type of software, so this gift now allows our faculty to provide instruction to our students using state-of-the-art software. We are most grateful for Microsoft’s support of our program.”

Microsoft Dynamics features an integrated system of financial, supply chain and customer relationship management software programs. Shih said the software will enable SIUC students to develop, design and manage enterprise systems pertaining to finance, human resources, manufacturing applications and much more. They can gear their programs to different industries from health care to corporations large and small.

Initially, integrating the new software into the existing curriculum for 300- and 400- level Information Systems Technologies classes will be top priority, according to Shih. The second phase of the plan is developing new classes utilizing the integrated enterprise system software. He said these future classes could focus on supply chain management, enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management. The long-range goal, hopefully in three-five years, Shih said, is creating a new integrated enterprise systems major with a program closely related to the current information systems technologies program.

“This donation will mark a very positive change in the Information System Technologies program,” said Will Devenport, director of the School of Information Systems and Applied Technologies. “We will be integrating this software into a number of our courses. It will help guide the future of this program.”

What this generous gift means to SIUC students is they’ll get real-life experience in preparing for a career as a system designer, system analyst, and/or system architect in the fields of enterprise resource planning, supply chain management and customer relationship management. They’ll do hands-on projects utilizing software used by Fortune 500 companies, Shih said.

“It’s a great tool for them,” Shih said. “It’s something real and tangible to work with, not a simple toy but the real thing enabling them to analyze, design and develop enterprise systems. What we’ll be able to do with this software is huge.”

Shih anticipates that since the program is so expansive, the school, in phases, carefully will implement and integrate the software throughout the curriculum.

“This will really increase the marketability of our students,” Shih added.