When you check into a fine hotel the concierge is waiting for you in the lobby with all the information you need to navigate successfully through an unfamiliar city. In many ways, the Center for the Advancement of Business through Information Technology (CABIT) -- based in the Department of Information Systems -- functions like a concierge for businesses who are interested in getting involved with information systems students, faculty and programs at the W. P. Carey School of Business.
“Industry loves to participate with academia but they don’t know how,” says center director and clinical assistant professor Daniel Mazzola. “CABIT acts as a liaison to bring the two sides together.”
CABIT, formed some 15 years ago, started as a research center but has reinvented itself through the years with the changing needs of the school and business. Its early successes included strategic partnerships with Cisco Systems Inc., Intel Corp. and other companies -- especially electronics distributer Avnet Inc., which has remained committed to the center throughout its history.
Now under Mazzola’s leadership, CABIT is taking on a new role as a portal connecting the department and industry. “We can help position companies to recruit top talent by providing access to students, professors, graduate programs and internships,” Mazzola said. In addition, CABIT will be matching interested companies with special research and applied projects.
Armed with three degrees from W. P. Carey -- Bachelor of Science, Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in Computer Information Systems – Mazzola built a 17-year private sector career working for companies such as Sun Microsystems Inc., Applied Computer Solutions and Datalink Corp. before returning to campus last August.
Department Chairman Michael Goul noted that Mazzola’s academic training and experience working in the information technology industry makes him ideally suited to act as a liaison between the department and private industry.
A budding relationship with State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. is a significant first step for CABIT. The center was the contact point as State Farm representatives reached out to test the waters for collaborative opportunities with the department in recent months. Since then, company representatives have been guest speakers at meetings of DISC (the information systems student organization) and have met with faculty teaching in the areas of database management systems and project management.
Goul said he hopes the relationship with the Bloomington, Illinois-based insurer will be a growing one. Possibilities include providing input on curriculum and helping to develop programs and projects.
“The Information Systems Department is especially excited about nurturing this connection,” said Goul. “It offers enormous possibilities for both sides.”
State Farm, currently ranked 44th on the Fortune 500 list of the largest U.S. companies, has hired students from the department in the past. In May of this year, the company announced that it would develop a $600 million regional headquarters facility on Arizona State University property adjacent Tempe Town Lake.
Mazola noted that State Farm’s use of technology makes it an ideal partner for the Department of Information Systems. The company operates some of the most advanced and complex information technology systems in the world, tracking 81 million policies and accounts, more than 69,000 employees and 18,000 agents, and assessing risk for an unimaginable number of circumstances.
“They’re essentially an information technology company that happens to sell insurance,” Mazzola said. “Our professors and students can learn a lot from them.”
The department also has a lot to offer companies like State Farm. The Department of Information Systems can provide custom training programs for executives and employees as well as offer a platform for research and development and applied programs. The department can also serve as a conduit to a pool of highly-trained employees and interns that companies need in order to grow and remain competitive in the marketplace.
“It’s all about talent,” Mazzola said.
Resurgence in IT jobs
CABIT’s new mission comes at a time when many companies are looking to extend their IT workforce. Businesses that cut back their IT departments after the recession are now looking to expand them. Advances in data analysis and business analytics also are also helping to supercharge the job market for information technology workers.
“Data gleaned from cash register receipts, debit card use, internet searches and a myriad of other sources can produce an enormous amount of valuable information for businesses,” Mazzola said. “IT (information technology) is really hot right now. Companies are hiring again and looking for candidates.”
The growing demand for highly qualified IT employees is driving interest among IT companies in the concierge services CABIT can offer. “We’re talking to more people all the time,” Mazola added.
The growth in industry demand has spurred increased student interest in the field. Student enrollment Department of Information Systems classes has been growing with more than 150 Bachelor of Science degrees are expected to be awarded in the spring of 2014. The department also offers a Master of Science in Information Management which can be combined with an MBA, and next fall the department will offer a Master of Science in Business Analytics degree, a joint initiative with the W. P. Carey School’s Supply Chain Management Department. The IS department has added new faculty positions to keep up with enrollment and new programs, and ranks 12th nationally for its undergraduate programs and 16th for its graduate-level studies. The ranking is by U.S. News & World Report.
Connection with companies the caliber of State Farm will further the momentum.
“I feel like we are in the right place at the right time,” Mazzola said.
Companies interested in learning more about the Department of Information Systems may contact Dan Mazzola at firstname.lastname@example.org.