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Information Systems & Technology Students Gain Experience with Advanced Industry Software

by South University
August 16, 2018
a photo of an two information technology professions working at a computer.

At South University, input from industry professionals and subject matter experts plays a critical role in our course and program development. Their insights help us to ensure that our students graduate with experience and understanding of career- and industry-specific tools and technology. This is especially crucial for our Information Systems and Technology students, as they prepare to enter a field full of constantly evolving tech.

Over the last several years at South University, Tampa, our Master of Science in Information Systems (MSIS) students have received valuable hands-on experience with software applications and tools used in the professional field of business intelligence and analytics. These opportunities for our student to gain applied knowledge have included:

  • In the Decision Support Systems class, students build their own data warehouse on IBM’s DB2 Warehouse Edition software and populate it with real data provided by IBM. They also learn how to design business intelligence models utilizing the Cognos Analytics platform and build the type of dashboards that allow business analysts to identify and better understand business trends. Such platforms and models can serve as key tools for informing organizational decision-making among upper management and executives.
  • Information Systems students are provided with the opportunity to learn about cognitive computing by using IBM Watson Analytics—an intelligent data analysis and visualization service that makes it easier to discover patterns and meaning in data. By using IBM Watson Analytics' guided data discovery, automated predictive analytics, and cognitive capabilities such as natural language dialogue, our students are learning how to use artificial intelligence tools to augment their own skills and better meet the demands of today's fast-paced, data-intensive corporate environment.

South University is pleased to be working with the IBM Academic Initiative to provide Information Systems and Technology students with such important hands-on experiences and expose them to these new technologies in cognitive computing, artificial intelligence, data science and analytics, and the cloud. We look forward to seeing how our graduates will put these new skills to work for their employers and uncover meaningful insights and information that will undoubtedly help the evolution of their organizations.

Want to know more? Learn why businesses need information systems and technology professionals and how our MSIS program was built around that demand. If you’re interested in gaining skills and knowledge related to Information Systems, our MSIS program is available online and at multiple campus locations. Start planning for tomorrow today!

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South University Volunteers Help to Develop IT Skills in Autism Community

by South University
June 22, 2018
A photo of an information technology professional using a computer.

Angelo E. Thalassinidis, PhD, Chair of the Department of Information Systems and Technology at South University, Tampa, first started volunteering with the MacDonald Training Center (MTC) at their Help Desk around 7 years ago, and it’s a partnership that, over the years, has kept growing.

Founded in 1953, MTC was one of the first US preschools for children with disabilities and has been a leader in serving individuals with disabilities ever since. They currently offer educational, vocational, and residential support programs to individuals with intellectual, developmental, and other disabilities in Tampa and Plant City, Florida.

IT Career Opportunities for People with Autism

By 2020, the US will have nearly 3 million adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and, of the current adults with ASD, 70-90% are categorized as underemployed or unemployed.

"There is a huge question as to how we can help this community escape the barriers to employment that they face," says Dr. Thalassinidis. "So, we are asking what more can the Macdonald Training Center do, as well as what can we as a department do to be more involved in addressing this issue."

According to the National Institute for Cybersecurity Education (NICE), part of the problem is that traditional efforts to employ these adults focus largely on social deficiencies rather than cognitive strengths. Interestingly, Dr. Thalassinidis and other academics note that many people with ASD have strengths uniquely suited for careers within the information technology field, including high-demand areas like cyber security. Not only do most people with ASD have average or above average IQs, NICE reports that many of these individuals are skilled in:

  • Critical thinking
  • Rapid pattern recognition
  • Efficient quantitative analysis of data
  • Precision focus

"There are tracks within information technology where people with differences perform much better than the average person," explains Dr. Thalassinidis. "In those areas, we need people with special skills, and some of those special skills are commonly found within the disability realm."

Building a Partnership & a Solution: South University & MTC

With curriculum development support from South University and Dr. Thalassinidis, MTC has recently launched an innovative training program, Excellence in Computer Education and Learning (EXCEL), designed to help prepare youth on the autism spectrum for careers in technical industries and positions.

Currently, the South University, Tampa department has one IT instructor teaching at MTC, an experience they hope to learn from and build on. “We are starting with a course on Microsoft Office Software right now, but the dream is to expand to cybersecurity,” says Dr. Thalassinidis, explaining that their first priority is understanding the educational needs and learning styles of this population.

In the near future, Dr. Thalassinidis hopes to start having South University students volunteer at MTC under the guidance of the IT instructor. He believes doing so will not only help the instructor reach more students but will also contribute to the University’s mission of helping to shape the character of our students.

"We strive to develop our students as citizens. We try constantly to instill volunteerism into their everyday life by engaging them in community events on and off campus," says Dr. Thalassinidis.

From working with and better integrating disability communities into society to offering local organizations a helping hand, this practice of supporting each other and focusing on our strengths is what Dr. Thalassinidis believes will help us to keep up with the technology that is continually reshaping our lives.

"By looking at and working on our strengths rather than our weaknesses, by looking at and embracing diversity and change, this is how we will be able to survive all of this disruptive innovation and evolution in technology that we are experiencing."

Learn more about the MacDonald Training Center here or about South University Information Systems and Technology programs here.

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Going Back to School as an Adult - Overcoming Your Fears

by South University
April 9, 2018

Earning a degree is no doubt different for adult learners than for those fresh out of high school, but being an adult learner has it positives. At a younger age, maybe you were less confident about what you wanted or had to delay degree completion for personal reasons. Now, you’re at a different time in your life with more defined career goals, life skills and experience—all things that will come in handy in as you pursue an undergraduate or graduate degree.

If you are looking start or finish your degree but have fears about going back to school, know that it is possible to achieve your academic goals. Below, we compare four common concerns of potential students to the realities of going back to school as an adult learner.

Myth #1: You Don’t Have Room in Your Schedule

Balancing a job, family, friends, and school won't be easy, but many before you have a found a way. With the right amount of planning, you can too. When talking with school representatives, ask how many hours you can expect to spend in class and doing class work. Then, create a plan for how to divide your time each day. Simply knowing you have a plan can go a long way.

Beyond this plan, you'll need support from those around you. Before you start classes, let your family know that they'll have to pitch in a little more while you’re in school. Then, talk with your friends about why you’re continuing your education and how much this means to you, so that they can offer emotional support and will understand if you miss the occasional get-together.

If earning your undergraduate or graduate degree could enhance your current career, share your plans with your boss. Hopefully, they’ll offer encouragement and maybe flexibility in your work schedule. (Plus, there's always the possibility of tuition assistance.) During classes, one way to save time is by relating your schoolwork to your job where possible. For example, for a class assignment, you might choose to create a business proposal that could be reused for your job.

Myth #2: You've Been Out of School Too Long

In reality, your life and work experience will likely benefit you as a student. Instructors appreciate adult learners who ask informed questions and bring real-world examples to class discussions. Besides that, if you've participated in continuing education courses, learned new software, or had to prepare for presentations at work, then you’ve already been using many of the same skills you’ll need in school.

Today, nontraditional students are becoming the norm and schools often design undergraduate and graduate degree programs with adult learners in mind. As you research schools, ask how many adult learners are currently enrolled. See if they offer an orientation class to ease you into the swing of things or provide support staff who will be readily available to answer your questions. Once you’re in school, get to know other adult learners; you can swap study and scheduling tips, and make valuable contacts for after you graduate.

Myth #3: You’re Not Skilled Enough with Computers or New Technology

Orientation classes can help you get up to speed on the software you’ll need, and schools commonly offer software tutorials, tutoring, and webinars for those who want extra training. Even in online programs, these days, online classrooms are designed with ease of use as a key goal for everyone, regardless of technological expertise. So many careers require computer skills today anyway, so, while it might sound stressful, brushing up on your tech knowledge will be good for you.

Myth #4: You Won’t be Able to Manage the Cost of Your Education

An important aspect of returning to school is knowing what return on investment to expect from your program. Tools like the government’s Occupational Outlook Handbook can offer helpful details about the value of education in specific fields. Beyond this, try finding programmatic alumni stories and talking to your manager and others in the field to understand how a degree might help you.

If you’re worried about the cost of degree completion, make sure you explore all options—including federal financial aid, employer tuition assistance, military benefits, and scholarships from private and public organizations. By transferring credit from past college experience, you may be able to save time and money. As you narrow in on your top schools, take the time to talk to their finance counselors about transferring credit and other options for making a degree program more affordable.

Moving Forward with Confidence

Remember, age can play in your favor when going back to school. Life and work experience often teach lessons and skills that young students rarely possess, things like time management and not being afraid to seek help when it’s needed. As an adult, you’re likely more organized, responsible, and motivated to get your degree.

Along with offering a full array of academic resources and dedicated support staff for every student, South University's campus and online programs are designed to accommodate the schedules of busy, working adults. To learn more about how we support adult learners across all undergraduate and graduate degree programs, contact us today.

Note: This blog was originally published October 6, 2016 and updated April 9, 2018.

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Meet Jesus Borrego: South University, Austin IT Program Director

by South University
January 25, 2018
A photo of Jesus Borrego.

Jesus Borrego became interested in electronics as a child of five or six, helping his grandfather build radios with off-the-shelf components. By the time he got to college, he decided to earn an electrical engineering degree and, in doing so, discovered computers. Before long, he also held a bachelor’s and master’s degree in computer science. Later, he would return for a PhD in Information Systems Management with a focus on Information Assurance.

"What I love about IT is that you can never know it all," he says. "There are so many branches that you can take 20 years studying one area and never finish it."

A Rich Career that Crossed Disciplines & Country Lines

Borrego began his technology career in a company with Top Secret clearance contracting for the US Air Force and Pentagon. There, as a Senior Engineer, he worked on flight and satellite replenishment simulations, including simulations of missile defense systems for nuclear attacks.

Across multiple companies, Borrego spent over two decades in satellite communications, telecommunications, and flight software. Yet, these are far from his only specialties. Throughout Borrego’s 35+ year career, he’s led teams and projects in custom software development, database administration, communications and networking, cyber security, and information assurance, including roles at global organizations such as Western Union and HP/Agilent Technologies. He's also presented in English and Spanish at over a dozen national and international conferences.

"What I like is the linkage between one topic and the other,” he explains. “I enjoy going across the field, rather than being an expert in just one area."

At one point, Borrego worked for a company tasked with consolidating Metlife International's worldwide database. In this job, he traveled to Mexico, Chile, and India, spending three months in each country working with peers from around the world.

What I liked about the project was interacting with so many different groups of people, so many different languages, and so many customs,” he says. “It was a very complex technological project, but the biggest takeaway to me was how similar we are worldwide. We have the same dreams, the same pursuits, the same need to provide for our family.

A Dedicated Technology Educator & Personal Mentor

Outside his industry work, Borrego has been teaching since 1989, something he’s loved since the very first class he taught. "It's addictive to see somebody's expression when they get it and the lightbulb goes off," he says.

Today, Borrego is proud to be the Program Director of Information Technology at South University, Austin.

"I've been teaching in technology for 28 years and I believe we have the right curriculum. That’s what attracted me to South," he says. "In particular, the purpose of our bachelor's is to learn the language so you can understand the different branches of technology. Our courses give you the foundation that allows you to move into specialties like cybersecurity or artificial intelligence as well as any new careers emerging inside those fields."

As an instructor, Borrego is tough but compassionate. He pushes his students to actively participate in class, believing that the worst thing a student can do is to not ask questions. "You can tell when somebody's not getting it," he notes. "I tell them, 'Okay, I see that look. You are not getting this one part. We're going to stay here until you get it.'"

He also takes the time to get to know his students and offer advice on their careers as well as balancing their schoolwork with their family lives. Often, he stays in touch with past students. "I've seen them go from entry-level positions up into senior-level and management positions over the years," he says.

While Borrego acknowledges that the IT field can be intimidating, he believes many opportunities await those who have the passion and drive to pursue it, stating "everything is hard before you know it, and then it gets easier."

Giving Back to the Community: Dr. Borrego to Host Cybersecurity Minischool

In everything from consumer shopping to banking to healthcare and more, an electronic security breach can have high consequences for individuals and organizations.

To teach you about protecting personal and enterprise assets, information assurance and cybersecurity industry veteran Dr. Jesus Borrego is hosting a no fee Cybersecurity Minischool on February 16, 2018, from 6pm to 8:30pm at South University, Austin. All members of the community and local businesses are welcome!

Participants will receive a certificate of attendance, helping those who plan to request Continuing Education Units from professional organizations. Get more information and register for this upcoming event today.

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What to Know if You're Considering Studying Criminal Justice

by Jared Newnam
November 16, 2016

Keeping our communities and our country safe is a key focus of everyone in criminal justice. Of course, what that looks like in practice depends on the career you pursue and whether it’s in law enforcement, correction, politics, or law. Across the board, however, a few things hold true for those exploring a bachelor’s or master’s degree in criminal justice.

Education and Experience Can Help You Stand Out

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), numerous careers in criminal justice may see 4% job growth in the coming years. This includes, Detectives and Criminal Investigators and Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists. Others, like Private Detectives and Investigators, Bailiffs, and Police Patrol Officers, will experience an average growth rate around 5% to 8%.

As with any job and depending on location, applicants may face competition for desirable positions. (Median annual salary for criminal justice roles mentioned above ranges from $41,000 to over $77,000.) The BLS especially anticipates strong competition for Private Detective and Investigator roles.

In competitive job situations, a candidate with a criminal justice degree and work experience may be most likely to catch the eye of a potential employer. For example, for Police and Detective positions, the BLS says that “applicants with a bachelor's degree and law enforcement or military experience, especially investigative experience, as well as those who speak more than one language, should have the best job opportunities.” For Probation Officer and Corrections positions, as well as employment within federal agencies, a bachelor’s degree is often required.

Technology is Increasingly Important across Professions

If you’ve been researching or studying criminal justice online, you likely know that technology has a drastic impact on the field.

On one side, there’s an array of valuable technologies. These take many forms, including connected database systems, automated license plate readers, and handheld biometric scanners used to identify suspects. In some locations, criminal justice workers currently carry tablets and smartphones that make it easier to access and distribute information. Such tools will only improve in the years to come.

Criminal justice professions under increasing scrutiny are also turning to technology like social media to build trust and demonstrate transparency in their communities. Although privacy concerns are still being debated, GPS systems and body cameras are also being introduced to support both safety and accountability in criminal justice professions.

Meanwhile, others apply technology for harm, with the The Department of Justice describing cyber crime as "one of the greatest threats facing our country" and Business Insider reporting that “the frequency and sophistication of cyber attacks are at an all-time high.” When it comes to jobs, cyber crime is driving employment trends, with the BLS noting that “Internet scams, as well as other types of financial and insurance fraud, create demand for investigative services.” Such crimes are expected to continue at local, national and even global levels.

What to Look for in Criminal Justice Programs

While we’ve already noted that a criminal justice degree can help when applying for jobs, it’s also essential that students select the right program.

Your criminal justice degree program level (bachelor’s, master’s, etc.) will determine program length and curriculum, but all criminal justice degrees should share some foundational elements. First, anyone considering criminal justice courses or comparing criminal justice curriculums should look for programs that explore the importance of technology in this field. Equally valuable are criminal justice courses that address ethics and topics related to race, class, and gender. Finally, soft skills like leadership, problem-solving, communication, and conflict resolution should also be taught throughout a criminal justice curriculum.

Whether you prefer studying criminal justice online or on-campus, South University offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal justice that can prepare you for working in today’s changing field. Explore our criminal justice programs online or contact us today to learn more.

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