IBM Names Michigan Tech as an Executive Partner

By Jennifer Donovan | Published

The global marketplace is changing dramatically, employing new technologies and demanding new skills. To meet those challenges, IBM has named Michigan Tech to its IBM Partnership Executive Program for Universities, formalizing and expanding a partnership that has been growing between the University and the IT and services company for nearly a decade.

IBM works with thousands of the world’s leading educational institutions, but very few are chosen for the Partnership Executive Program (PEP). As a PEP university, Michigan Tech will have a senior IBM executive assigned as a partnership executive to develop what Michigan Tech alumnus John Soyring, IBM’s vice president of solutions and software, calls “win-win opportunities for the University and IBM.” Soyring will be Michigan Tech’s partnership executive at IBM.

“IBM will work with Michigan Tech to develop new curricula and sponsor a hands-on learning program to encourage development of new and vital technological skills,” he said.

Soyring, who earned a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Michigan Tech in 1976, was instrumental in developing the partnership. He recommended that Michigan Tech be considered for the partnership with IBM, joining prestigious universities worldwide, including MIT, the University of Washington, the University of Virginia, Florida International University and the Norwegian University of Science and Tech.

“We’re thrilled that our alumni are helping us to be recognized and rewarded for the things we do best,” said Michigan Tech President Glenn D. Mroz.

As the very nature of innovation changes, demanding broader collaboration across geographic and disciplinary boundaries, the need for skilled professionals is growing more rapidly than the supply, Soyring explained. According to US Bureau of Labor and Information Technology Association of America statistics, the world will face a shortfall of 32 million technically specialized workers between 2010 and 2020.

The skills that coming generations of professionals will need are changing too. There’s a increasing demand for specialists in fields that didn’t even exist a few years ago—services science, for example—and by the time students starting college today complete their degrees, they will need the skills to do jobs not even imagined today.

IBM is working with Michigan Tech and other universities around the world to develop a services science, management and engineering program. The new curriculum addresses the mushrooming of the services sector of the economy, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics says now represents more than 75 percent of US jobs.

Beyond the classroom, IBM and Michigan Tech are partnering to give students experience using new business strategies and open source technologies in an actual business environment. For example, IT Oxygen, part of Michigan Tech’s Enterprise program, brings together students from a variety of disciplines in a start-up business that manages its own finances and works to solve real problems facing its corporate sponsors, including IBM. They have access to advice from Soyring and other IBM leaders.

IT Oxygen is using IBM’s WebSphere software to model and simulate the process of scheduling courses. The team is using a business process management methodology, enabled by IBM’s service oriented architecture, to streamline the process of submitting a grant application.

In keeping with IBM’s commitment to sharing knowledge, IT Oxygen creates open source solutions, making them freely available for use by other universities.

“Giving students access to IBM technologies and thought leaders provides our students with a real advantage when they reach the workforce,” said IT Oxygen advisor James Frendewey, associate professor of business and economics at Michigan Tech.

Support for IT Oxygen and other Tech educational projects comes from IBM’s Academic Initiative, which provides universities free access to IBM software, discounted hardware, course materials, training and curriculum development assistance.

Michigan Tech is also an active participant in the World Community Grid, which puts the university’s computers to work on world problems such as AIDS research, during times when the computers would otherwise be shut down.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 60 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.