"This is an opportunity to provide insight to the current curriculum, and guidance to future graduates related to the technology utilized in today’s commercial and industrial sectors.” — Richard Gilbert, 2003 IST graduate
NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. — Responding to fast-paced breakthroughs in technology that enhance the educational experience of students, Penn State New Kensington reconstituted an advisory board for the Information Sciences and Technology (IST) program. IST merges computer science concepts with technical applications to supply business solutions for industrial issues.
The board serves as a bridge between academia and business. Seven experts in the information technology field, including three graduates of the campus program, comprise the charter group — Brian Kalmar, principal software architect for Giant Eagle; Amy Cyprych, director of risk revenue for Highmark; Angela Foglia, IT manager for Arconic (formerly Alcoa); Brian Orlic, executive manager and controller for McCutcheon Enterprises; Keith Kautzman, vice president and senior application service manager/systems director for PNC Bank; Richard Gilbert, principal communications engineer for Bombardier; and Amy Peterson, vice president of projects and services for IQ Inc.
“To be effective and relevant, IST faculty believe it is critical that representatives from industry provide input for the program,” said Abdou Karim Jallow, instructor and IST program coordinator. “Members of the board have been identified as persons with respected knowledge and experience within the IST domain.”
The advisory board works with the administration — Kevin Snider, chancellor, and Andrea Adolph, director of academic affairs — and IST faculty — Hal Smith, associate professor of information sciences and technology; Michael Manojlovich, instructor in information sciences and technology; and Jallow — to ensure the program stays current with today’s information technology trends while anticipating tomorrow’s trends.
Board members, who represent an eclectic group of industries, were charged with a three-fold mandate: 1) guide the IST program; 2) help prepare students for their future after college; and 3) advocate for the information technology industry. In addition, the board assists in curriculum development and expansion of learning opportunities, internships and career choices.
“When I left Penn State New Kensington to begin my career, I continually found myself in situations where I could apply what I learned in IST,” Cyprych said. “I’m hoping that I can give back to the program by providing valuable input on what employers are looking for, and how to prepare students for their careers beyond Penn State.”
The IST program provides students with the tools to build a solid technical background in networking, databases, programming and system integration. The program stresses teamwork and project management and analytical skills.
The board got a sample of the quality of New Kensington students’ education at its inaugural meeting in December. IST seniors presented their capstone projects, which integrated and used all their information technology knowledge, skills and abilities. During the capstone experience, teams of four-to-six students researched and developed actual solutions to issues facing local small businesses and nonprofit organizations.
“Each team is given a significant real-world problem or issue in which information technology is part of the solution,” Jallow said. “Teams are expected to manage the project effectively and to communicate its results clearly to a variety of audiences within an organization.”
Problem-based and case-based learning is the crux of the capstone projects. By taking on an actual business task, students get experience with project management practices through assessing the organizational and technical issues posed by the scenario, and developing and testing work plans after analysis of the available options.
Dan Bowers, a senior IST major from Uniontown, was the project manager of his six-person team’s undertaking -- design and development of an interactive website for Victory Stables. The nonprofit organization promotes Christian values using equine-related offerings, such as boarding care, management and riding instruction, at its 55-acre farm in Apollo, Pennsylvania.
“We designed a content management system,” said Bowers, who will graduate in May. “This allows them to manage their website and update content dynamically. We also enabled Victory Stables to establish services on the website.”
The organization wanted to revamp its image and the way it communicates its services. After extensive research, the team settled on Pressable for web hosting services and Word Press Editor for the content management system.
“This project was a great example of a real-world scenario,” said Bowers, a product of Laurel Highlands High School. “It taught me a great deal about organizing a team, managing deadlines, and being a good leader. And we got to ride horses.”
Bowers already parlayed his degree into a full-time job. Although he won’t graduate until May, he secured a position as an information technology support specialist at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus. He will juggle classes and work for the next few months.
Connellsville, Pennsylvania, native Eric Trump headed a team of IST students who designed a website for Bagazco, a Philadelphia-based company that specializes in selling American soybean oil to countries in Africa.
“We created a website which allows for the sale of goods,” said Trump, who graduated in December. “The website included payment processing, item cart, product searching, and general aspects of online stores.”
The students learned about project specification and risk analysis, Gantt charts, product design documents and diagrams. The group effort will serve the students when they join the workforce.
“This project taught us a lot about how a project group operates, including what kind of documents help assist the design and development of a project,” Trump said. “Overall, it will help us in the future as we will have a head start on working with or managing a team to accomplish a real goal from start to finish.”
A third student project was presented by Penn State DuBois students via Polycom, a telecommunications system. IST is a four-year program at the New Kensington campus but not at the DuBois campus, which offers a two-year degree program. Polycom allows collaboration among geographically dispersed groups, and the DuBois students took upper-level classes that originated at New Kensington.
Under the direction of team leader Justin Smith, the DuBois students designed a computer network for Life Ministries to provide an after-school program for children in the New Kensington-Arnold School District.
The new board was impressed with the professionalism of the presenters. The students considered the needs of the project sponsors, and designed solutions that supported those needs.
“The projects provide the students with an excellent opportunity to not only apply what they have learned in IST, but to work on their soft skills, like communication and conflict resolution,” Cyprych said. “It was also very interesting to hear how the students worked through situations that we experience frequently in the business world, such as assigning work and scheduling meetings on busy calendars.”
For more information on the Information Sciences and Technology program, visit IST at PSNK.
IST Board Bios
A Penn State New Kensington IST graduate, Cyprych leads a team of program and project managers and business and data analysts, who support risk adjustment for Medicare Advantage and the Affordable Care Act. Her responsibilities include facilitating the department’s strategic and tactical planning; leading business-process modeling and redesign activities; developing business requirements and test plans; and managing the operational data submission processes. Cyprych, who earned a bachelor’s degree in information sciences and technology from the campus in 2003, remains connected to her alma mater. She delivered the commencement address to fall 2015 graduates and frequently returns to campus as a guest speaker in IST classes where she enjoys interacting with the students and sharing her experiences in the corporate world. In addition, Cyprych participates as an employer partner of the campus’ GREAT (Growing Regional Excellence through Experience, Academics, and Training) program, which gives local companies the opportunity to develop promising and talented technology and engineering students. She also is a member of the campus advisory board.
A campus alumnus, Kalmar has worked at Giant Eagle for the past 22 years. He is responsible for distributed software designs; defining enterprise integration patterns; vendor evaluations, mentoring developers; training developers; and assisting with support issues. He specializes in Microsoft technologies, although has exposure to many other technologies at Giant Eagle. Already active on the campus, Kalmar collaborates with Jim Shields, associate director of career services and professional development programs, on the GREAT program. His son, Javan, is a member of the GREAT program. Kalmar previously worked with Hal Smith, associate professor of information science and technology, on other capstone projects. He earned an associate degree in computer science from the campus in 1987 and a bachelor’s degree in management information systems from Penn State Erie, The Behrend College in 1990.
At Bombardier, Gilbert’s responsibilities include designing, overseeing, and implementing wired and wireless communications systems deployed in Automatic Train Control Driverless Systems. Bombardier is a manufacturer of both planes and trains, from business jets and commercial aircraft to high-speed trains and public transit. During his time at the campus, Gilbert was involved with many clubs and organizations, and served as president of the Lion Ambassadors. The Oakmont, Pennsylvania, resident remains involved with the campus. He was a panelist recently at "Dinner and Dialogue: Alumni Connections," a social event that brought together students and alumni in their respective fields. The panel offered recommendations about making the most of a Penn State education. Gilbert earned a bachelor’s degree in information sciences and technology from the campus in 2003 and a master’s degree in information science from the University of Pittsburgh in 2005.
An active leader in the Pittsburgh software development community for the last 28 years. Peterson is a member of the senior management team at IQ Inc., a custom software engineering and consulting company located in Murrysville, Pennsylvania. She is responsible for defining strategic direction and instituting systems and processes that provide effective management to obtain the company’s strategic direction and goals. Her focus is on driving service excellence, customer and employee satisfaction, organizational effectiveness, and overall continuous improvement. During her career, Peterson has worked for large and small businesses in the fields of software development, project management, engineering management, business development and process improvement, and has held various senior management positions. Her software experience encompasses all aspects and types of software engineering, including embedded systems, PC systems, web applications and mobile applications. Active in her profession, Peterson is a member of the Pittsburgh Agile Executive Forum, Pittsburgh chapter of Women in Bio, AdvaMed Women’s Executive Network, and Pittsburgh Technology Council. She also co-founded and coordinates the Pittsburgh Technology Leaders Group, whose mission is to provide opportunities for local technical leaders to increase their knowledge and improve their skills though collaboration, education, and encouragement. Peterson received her bachelor’s degree in computer science and mathematics from Clarion University in 1988.
Holding bachelor’s and master’s degrees in information sciences from the University of Pittsburgh, Foglia has been in the IT industry for more than 25 years. At Arconic, she was a part of the infrastructure environment managing technical teams responsible for operating system administration, storage area network and backups, and architecture. Her teams implemented new storage area network solutions that enabled servers to connect to the SAN, regardless of operating system. Foglia also headed project management teams and developed new business-to-business technologies in the Integration Services department. She was named IT Manager in 2014. Foglia serves her profession as leader of the Arconic Women’s Network and a member of the Chatham Women’s Entrepreneurship program.
A Penn State graduate with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, Orlic manages all facets of corporate finance, accounting, and information technology for McCutheon Enterprises, a provider of environmental services that includes hauling, transportation and remediation. Orlic’s IT expertise complements his interest in digitation, business processes, integration and data/information exchange across heterogeneous software applications. Prior to his current position, Orlic served various roles at Paradigm Aerospace Corporation, including controller, vice president of finance, and member of the board of directors. He founded American Water Tech in 2000.
With expertise in application development, as well as leadership of people and projects, Kautzman is vice president and senior application service manager/systems director at PNC Inc. He provides strategic leadership for the operational system support of over 70 applications, including deposit, debit card, fraud, customer information systems, information management, marketing, and communications. Prior to joining PNC in 1998, Kautzman received a bachelor’s degree in information systems from the University of Pittsburgh. He served as a teaching assistant at Pittsburgh’s Computer Learning Center. He is a certified Project Management Professional.