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WMU, IBM team to build 21st century skills

May 21, 2007

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University's Haworth College of Business and IBM announced today a joint effort that will provide WMU students with free information technology resources to help them build skills required in the 21st century workplace and allow them to mentor area high school students in the use of emerging online tools known as Web 2.0 technologies.

The initiative will provide students and teachers with a wide range of free IBM software and resources designed to build service-oriented information technology and open-standards skills. WMU's Department of Business Information Systems will use the software resources of the IBM Academic Initiative to strengthen IT education in the Haworth College of Business.

Currently, WMU faculty members are developing a new service-oriented IT education curriculum that supports the study of business intelligence, business report writing and process analysis, and modeling. When completed, these courses will be rolled out to students majoring in information technology, business, accountancy and marketing. Working together, IBM and WMU will help students build an integrated mix of skills that they can apply in real-world business environments.

In addition to enhancing the instruction for WMU students, IBM and WMU will team up to encourage local high school students to study information technology at the collegiate and post-graduate levels. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs requiring science, engineering and technical training will increase by 51 percent through 2008. This increase could lead to 6 million job openings for scientists, engineers, and technicians.

To help students take advantage of this growing opportunity, Tom Rienzo, an instructor at Haworth College of Business initiated an IT tutoring program to connect select WMU freshmen with local high school students at Kalamazoo Central High School. These informal, small-group tutoring sessions are designed to help high school students develop technology skills using Web 2.0 technologies. Through this program, high school students can also build advanced technology skills such as managing wikis, blogs and online networking programs.

"Since IBM has leadership around Web 2.0 technologies, we are looking to leverage the software resources from IBM's Academic Initiative to expand our high school tutoring program," says Rienzo. "The WMU, high school connection is a timely approach to IT education that will not only attract talented high school students before entering college, but also speed up their learning experience in information technology by using emerging online tools."

IBM's Academic Initiative is a program offering a wide range of technology education benefits to meet the goals of most colleges and universities. IBM is working with partner schools that support open computing standards and seek to use open source and IBM technologies for teaching purposes, both directly and via the Internet. As partners in this initiative, participating schools receive free access to IBM software, discounted hardware, course materials, training and curriculum development.

"I think that WMU joining the IBM Academic Initiative is a very positive development," says Gina Poole, IBM vice president, innovation and university relations. "By incorporating the latest, cutting-edge technologies into its curriculum, WMU can enhance its courseware and also help develop technology talent that can benefit both the local and national economy."

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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