IBM-UMES partnership pays dividends

  • Thursday, May 12, 2011

    PRINCESS ANNE, MD. - (May 13, 2011) - Modifications to UMES' business and technology curriculum over the past two years have given 17 students job opportunities with such Fortune 500 companies as IBM, Fidelity Investments and The Depository and Trust Clearing Corporation.

    Eight have accepted offers from those employers with entry-level jobs paying an average salary of $71,000, according to John Thompson, a consultant specializing in information technology instruction. Another nine students have worked as interns with those companies earning $18-to-$24 an hour, he said.

    More importantly, those nine undergraduates now have hands-on experience, giving them an edge in a restructured job market when they eventually graduate.

    This new employment frontier for UMES graduates is the result of an exclusive initiative between IBM and the university promoted by President Thelma B. Thompson.

    "I'm very appreciative of what UMES has done to help prepare me for my new job" with IBM, senior Dorian Thomas said.

    Under the direction of Don Resnik, program manager for IBM's Academic Initiative "System z," the computer company partnered with UMES faculty to retool and expand business and computer science courses. IBM also provides guest lecturers, such as technical professionals Paul Wojciak, Richard Prewitt and executive Michael Browne, at no cost to the university. 

    "This allows IBM engineers the opportunity to engage directly with students as the informational events are held … and individual relationships are created and fostered," said Browne, a distinguished engineer and master inventor. "This builds a different learning experience on campus."

    While IBM looks to hundreds of colleges for computer-savvy graduates, the company's relationship with UMES is unique.

    "We want our students to possess the skills needed to not only compete for technical jobs, but to become technical thought leaders as well," Dr. Thelma B. Thompson said.

    It was the president, a workforce development advocate, who saw synergy in her institution collaborating with an industry leader and directed UMES administrators to establish a formal relationship with IBM.

    She tapped federal funds to hire John Thompson, a former IBM executive who maintains ties to the computer industry, as a consultant. He said IBM and its business partners need employees with skills in "enterprise testing" and who can work in teams to solve problems and develop new cutting-edge products.

    UMES, John Thompson said, already had a solid foundation in its curriculum, which appealed to IBM and convinced the company to become an instructional partner.

    Adjustments were made to a half-dozen mathematics and computer science courses, and three new ones were added specifically with IBM needs in mind, according to department Chairman Gurdeep Hura.

    "Students who have been able to build these process skills during their undergraduate or graduate-level work will be much more attractive to potential employers," said Prewitt, an IBM senior technical st