IT School to Watch: University of Virginia

A focus on strategic IT issues draws senior executives.

Like a lot of other IT professionals, Scott Day has moved up the career ladder since he graduated with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Notre Dame in 1987. After spending the first 12 years of his career in a progression of IT consulting roles, Day joined a start-up technology firm in the Washington area as head of software development. He then ran IT for a small mutual-funds firm before joining In-Q-Tel, a federally funded venture capital group, where he helped identify emerging technologies.

In 2004, after having mulled the idea for a few years, Day decided to pursue a master's degree in IT management. "I'd already reached some IT leadership positions, and I felt this could help propel me to the next level," says Day.

After scoping out a variety of MBA and IT graduate programs around the Beltway, Day enrolled at the University of Virginia's McIntire School of Commerce, where he obtained a master's of science degree in the management of IT in August 2006.

The coursework at the school "was very relevant to my day job," says Day, who became chief technology officer at The Motley Fool in April. "Oftentimes, the stuff that I studied on Saturday [in class] I could put into effect in the office on Monday," he says. For instance, Day's coursework, which delved into strategic IT management issues ranging from risk management to disaster recovery, has enabled him to fill knowledge gaps he had in areas such as business intelligence.

"The curriculum helped ground me and make me a more effective communicator," he says. And a better compensated one at that. Day estimates that since he graduated, his base salary has risen 15% to 20%, while his bonus package has swelled by similar proportions.

The program's concentration on strategic IT management issues is one of the reasons why it's such a big draw among senior-level IT executives like Day. The curriculum is divided into four core areas -- IT architecture, IT project management, enterprise IT management and strategic IT management -- and the typical student enrolled in the program has more than 12 years of industry experience.

Meanwhile, one-third of the curriculum has been focused on finance and accounting since 1999, says professsor Barb Wixom, faculty director for the Northern Virginia section of the program.

McIntire's real-world curriculum has drawn raves from alumni such as Charles Henry, a 27-year IT veteran at Verizon Communications Inc. who graduated from the program in 2003. The value "is a no-brainer," says Henry, who is currently a vice president responsible for revenue assurance, quality billing assurance and systems automation.

"It definitely gives you the leverage to move forward in your organization," he says, adding that his compensation at Verizon has risen 15% to 20% since graduation.

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

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Next: University of Washington: Graduates often land jobs at Microsoft, Google, or Intel.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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