For more than 20 years, Murray State University has been providing nationally recognized workforce development for technology businesses in our region and around the nation.

As Murray State tries to keep up with the demand from businesses, that demand has just outpaced the education resources available. Murray State is transforming its computer education focus, and it can help your business.

In 1998, the Kentucky General Assembly passed House Bill 1, providing direction for each regional university in Kentucky to identify a "Program of Distinction." Using the resources made available through the Regional University Excellence Trust fund, Murray State created a program of distinction in telecommunications systems management (TSM). TSM has continually modified its curriculum and focus on keeping up with the changing skill-sets required by our workforce.

As technology has evolved, and the boundaries between specific areas of technology industries have started to blur, now is the right time to transform computer education at MSU by improving alignment among existing computer and information technology (CIT) related degrees, combining recruitment and retention efforts, increasing overall CIT efforts, considering new CIT academic pathways and increasing academic-business partnerships.

The transformation will better align the university's bachelor degrees of computer science, computer information systems, and telecommunications systems management as well as the new master in cybersecurity management and information systems. The degrees will maintain the ownership within their different departments but will allow Murray State to better focus education and training in the areas of programming, networking cybersecurity, game development, data analytics and wireless communications.

While the new Center for CIT will have several other components. The primary reason that Murray State is doing this is to better serve the businesses needing computer and information technology workers.

A few of the primary changes include:

First year alignment - Over the next few months, faculty from computer science, computer information systems, and telecommunications systems management will sit down and work toward a common first-year curriculum. Once identified, all incoming freshman will come to Murray State as CIT meta-majors. During their first year, the Center for CIT will work with the students to determine which CIT career path they are most interested in, whether that be programming, networking, wireless, cybersecurity, data science or game development.

Once they determine their path, they will move into that specific academic major. This should improve retention and slow down the switching of computer majors because students will be exposed to the different areas first.

Recruitment - The Center for CIT will provide recruitment support for all computer-related academic areas. The center has hosted campus events, field trips, conferences and guest speaking over the years speaking on TSM. Going forward, the center will expand that focus and assist all CIT areas with recruitment, giving Murray State a common message to present to students and parents.

Industry partnerships - In a similar way to recruitment, the Center for CIT will develop and promote activities directed to increase the involvement of industries and professionals in all CIT areas. These relationships could take the form of internships, job placements, research projects, and much more.

In the past, many businesses were confused when trying to determine which CIT area made the most sense for a request and didn't know whom to call. Now, the answer will be the Center for CIT. We will be able to help you or connect you to the person/department that can.

Job placement/internships - Finally, our goal is to prepare our students for careers in the CIT areas and jobs. While Murray State has a career services area to assist with internships and job placement, the center has always assisted since we had relationships with many of the companies that hire our students. Not only will that continue, but the new center will continue that for all areas of CIT. This should make it easier for companies looking for interns or workers. No more will someone have to reach out to multiple departments looking for workers.

You may be asking yourself, why am I using this space to highlight all of these changes, and why does it matter? It matters to you for a few key reasons. As I previously mentioned, Murray State University is making this change to better support the businesses in our region needing better-trained employees and more prepared workers. It will allow us to better work with employers to ensure that students are trained in the specific skills that are being requested.

Similar to the way that the Center for TSM has been a liaison between education and workforce for the last 20 years, the new Center for CIT will continue to be a liaison between education and businesses for years into the future. If you are interested in learning more about the transformation of computer education and what it means for your organization, don't hesitate to let me know.

Michael Ramage is the director of the Center for Computer and Information Technology at Murray State University. The Center for CIT conducts research in various areas of computer and information technology as well as serving as a liaison between the academic and private sectors. He can be reached at mramage@murraystate.edu, or 270-809-3987 for questions or more information.

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