IT School to Watch: Georgia State University

Students choose management or technical tracks.

When Puneet Bhargava began evaluating part-time IT-oriented MBA programs in the Atlanta area in 2004, he considered factors such as the economic impact the program could have on his career and the types and structure of the classes that were being offered.

"From an overall value standpoint, I thought Georgia State offered the best value," says Bhargava, a senior consultant in Accenture Ltd.'s e-commerce practice. It wasn't just that Georgia State's program was affordable (annual tuition is just under $8,000 for in-state students and about $25,000 for out-of-state students). The curriculum at Georgia State was also well balanced between technical and business-focused materials.

The business management coursework at Georgia State "worked very well [to complement] my technical background," says Bhargava, who worked for five years as a programmer and product manager at Worldspan LP after graduating from the Kamla Nehru Institute of Technology in India in 1999 with a bachelor of technology degree in electrical engineering. "The case studies that were being discussed in the classroom broadened my vision in the business world," says Bhargava.

For example, he points to a recent project for one of Accenture's manufacturing clients in which the customer's executives were providing scant input on the project requirements and desired outcomes. Bhargava says he was able to apply advice he'd learned about achieving stakeholder buy-in from his project management courses at Georgia State to help organize regular meetings with executive sponsors at the manufacturer and "bring them into the loop."

Mike Obideny, a 2007 Georgia State graduate with an MBA in information systems, was also pleased with the flexibility of the curriculum. "They give you a lot of choices -- you can either take more technical classes or more management classes," says Obideny, who has been working as a consultant in the U.S. on an H-1B visa since obtaining a bachelor's degree in IT from Russia's Moscow Power Engineering Institute in 2000. "You can't expect that [kind of choice] from a two-year, full-time [graduate] school where they tell you what courses to take."

Georgia State offers its students a great deal of choice -- ranging from a newly minted one-year, 12-course IT graduate program being offered on Saturdays beginning this fall to curricula tailored to better meet the needs of employers.

For example, in 2007 the university launched a master of science degree in information systems audit and control. The 10-course program, developed with the school's accounting department, was spurred by demand from Big Four accounting firms for business professionals who are trained to audit information systems, says Ephraim McLean, chairman of the computer information systems department at Georgia State's J.Mack Robinson College of Business.

"One of the things we find from our board of advisers is a shift away from things like marketing and financial systems and more of a move into a process view of a firm," says McLean.

The program has been a boon for Obideny, who figures the $20,000 cost of his Georgia State degree should pay for itself through raises and bonuses he expects to earn at Deloitte Consulting over the next year.

Says Obideny, "If I wasn't in this school, I wouldn't have landed this job."

This version of the story originally appeared in Computerworld's print edition.

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