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RMU Goes Back to the Future With Enterprise Systems Degree Programs

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Pittsburgh -- Robert Morris University is leading the way in enterprise systems. And we're not talking about Captain Kirk and Spock either.

On Sept. 14, RMU hosted a meeting of the IBM Regional Planning Group to discuss how to boost RMU's industry-leading enterprise systems programs. The meeting, which was held at the Holiday Inn Pittsburgh Airport in Moon Township, included faculty from RMU's School of Communications and Information Systems along with representatives from IBM, PNC, BNY-Mellon, Highmark, UPMC, Bayer, SDLC Partners, K&L Gates, and Blue Cross Blue Shield - South Carolina.

The term “enterprise systems” refers to the hardware and software that a business uses to run its operations. More than 70 percent of the world’s financial transactions are processed on enterprise mainframe computers. As enterprise systems workers retire, doors are opened to qualified professionals with the skills needed to manage these critical systems.

In response to the increased demand – and with the help of IBM -- this fall RMU began offering its M.S. in Information Security Assurance, including a concentration in enterprise systems, at its new RMU Downtown location in the Heinz 57 Center on Sixth Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh. Other options include the M.S. in Internet Information Systems, with a concentration in enterprise systems; the undergraduate Professional Certificate in Enterprise Systems; the graduate Professional Certificate in Enterprise Systems; and the B.S. in Computer Information Systems, with a concentration in enterprise systems. 

IBM and a number of its enterprise clients approached RMU last year and asked the university to revive its enterprise systems programs, which it had phased out in the mid-1990s. Like many universities at the time, RMU faculty had decided to focus on other emerging technologies, believing that the rise of distributed systems would overtake the mainframe.

Instead, IBM continued to evolve the mainframe to tackle today’s enterprise challenges, including analytics and cloud computing. Specifically, IBM's new zEnterprise EC12 mainframe -- the result of $1 billion in IBM research and development  – is one of the most secure and advanced enterprise systems ever, with 25% more performance per core and 50% greater total system capacity than its predecessor. The new zEnterprise is designed to enable companies to secure and gain insights from large amounts of critical information such as financial, customer and enterprise resource data that will enable them to provide their clients with new services.

When the demand for enterprise systems professionals began to grow again, companies like PNC and Highmark also approached RMU to bring back courses teaching COBOL, one of the main computer languages of mainframe systems. Nineteen students completed COBOL and Advanced COBOL this past year, and this fall the COBOL and Enterprise Operating Systems courses have full enrollment. The Advanced COBOL course and the DB2 Database Management System course will both be offered this spring; CICS/COBOL will be delivered in the summer of 2013.

“RMU students and faculty have access to the most current and advanced enterprise systems in the world.  This includes IBM's zEnterprise System, which supports businesses' and organizations' mission-critical operations, including those of the world's top 50 banks,” said Greg Lotko, vice president IBM System z. “RMU students will be logging into and learning how to administer and program these enterprise systems. Students will learn hands-on about the most extreme and trusted IT environments in the world.  RMU's program -- with its well-trained and -equipped professors -- responds to the current and future demand for enterprise computing skills in the Pittsburgh area and beyond.” 

Nine years ago, IBM started a program called the Academic Initiative for System z, in which the computing giant is working hand-in-hand with colleges and universities across the globe to help them develop curriculum, certificates, and courses and give access to working mainframes via hubs all around the world.

The Academic Initiative for System z directly connects universities and students with businesses that need employees that are skilled in enterprise IT, increasing students' ability to get jobs.

The Enterprise IT skills that students gain as part of the System z Academic Initiative will be appealing to a broad set of employers. "These skills are very much in demand by financial services companies, retailers, and public sector organizations," said Lotko.

John Turchek, professor of computer and information systems at RMU, said the university’s enterprise systems program is in such high demand that students are being offered full-time positions before they even complete their degrees. IBM has even provided RMU access to one of its newest zEnterprise mainframes to use to teach students, something that would have cost Robert Morris hundreds of thousands of dollars on its own.

"I am extremely happy that IBM and the regional planning group recognize the abilities of RMU's computer information systems faculty as well as their hard work and dedication to educating the new wave of enterprise systems professionals," said Turchek.

ABOUT ROBERT MORRIS UNIVERSITY
Robert Morris University, founded in 1921, is a private, four-year institution with an enrollment of approximately 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The university offers 60 undergraduate and 20 graduate programs. An estimated 22,000 alumni live and work in western Pennsylvania.