Eight years ago the first graduates of the master’s program in information technology (IT) at Rensselaer entered the work force. Today, they work at some of the top Fortune 500 companies and straddle the important divide between the business and technical side of international companies. Now, the success of the master’s program in IT and its graduates has drawn the attention of one of the top IT publications, Computerworld magazine. The publication named the Rensselaer master’s program in IT as one of its “IT Schools to Watch” in its August 18, 2008, edition.
The first publication to nationally recognize academic IT programs, Computerworld recognized Rensselaer for having “professors with industry experience, guest speakers from companies such as Morgan Stanley and the Reserve Bank of India, classes that emphasize skills like developing business cases, and a highly regarded capstone program, in which small teams of students complete an actual IT project for a client company.”
The universities were chosen based on statistical information and interviews with faculty, program administrators, and program alumni.
Created in 2000, the interdisciplinary master’s program in IT was among the first graduate-level IT programs in the world. A small and select group of students travel through the program together developing a well-rounded background in science, engineering, management, and social science.
And the graduates’ success speaks for itself. Last year, 100 percent of the students seeking internships secured them with top companies and 100 percent of the program graduates were placed in jobs immediately following Commencement. The average starting salary of that successful class was $74,800, making it one of the most lucrative master’s degrees that Rensselaer offers.
More and more students are looking to join the degree program, according to Gail Gere, director of program development. “There was a 30 percent increase in applications last year for a few select spots,” Gere said. With only 25 new openings in the program of the upcoming class, Gere stresses that they are always working to strike a perfect balance between size, diversity, and quality. Total program enrollment for fall 2008 will likely exceed 40. The program is centered on problem solving. It combines a strong foundation in computer science and technology with expertise in management and social issues. Because the program is completely interdisciplinary, students take classes in four of Rensselaer’s schools and are given many opportunities to customize their degree program. Five core study areas are offered in strategic management of IT, networking, database design, software design, and human-computer interaction. In addition, each student then chooses one of eight different concentrations that run from financial engineering to information security.
The founders of the program, which includes the now-Vice President for Information Services and Technology, John Kolb ’79, and one of the program’s most important professors, Greg Hughes, set out to create graduates that can do both the hands-on programming and strategic business management.
“The Rensselaer IT program requires more computer science knowledge than many other IT programs at other universities,” Gere said. “Because the program was designed with this technology and science component, our graduates are able to do as well as talk about IT.”
Still in what could be considered IT’s academic infancy at Rensselaer, the IT program already has proven that it will stay on the cutting edge. “We are constantly making sure that the program evolves with the marketplace,” Gere said. “When a new field like financial engineering emerges, we will create new concentrations.” Gere noted that the opposite is also true, with concentrations being retired as the rapidly expanding field of IT changes over time.
“It is truly an amazing time to be graduating with this degree,” she said. Computerworld appears to agree.