GMU Launches Tech Management Master's

By Tania Anderson

Staff Writer

The class of 1998 at George Mason University will include a new breed of graduate. Through a new master's degree program conceived by officials at the Fairfax, Va.-based university and 10 local high-tech companies, 20 graduates will earn the title of master of technology management.

The GMU program focuses on the business and management of information technology professional services companies and telecommunications companies.

Unlike an engineering degree or a technical degree, the program focuses on the business and management of software, information systems development and tele-communications, said Evan Anderson, the program director.

"Many of the other technology management degrees around the country focus on process and manufacturing technology," said Anderson.

The 18-month, 36-credit-hour program launched in January currently has 20 students enrolled. All work for local, high-tech companies - a program requirement.

Classes meet every Saturday in Enterprise Hall, one of the newer buildings at GMU's main campus. Classrooms are equipped with 25 laptop computers and teleconferencing equipment.

Classes meet every Saturday in Enterprise Hall, one of the newer buildings at GMU's main campus. The classrooms are equipped with 25 laptop computers purchased from Texas Instruments and teleconferencing equipment purchased from Bell Atlantic.

The faculty is made up of 12 professors, some coming from local, high-tech companies. For example, Paul Oliver was formerly a senior vice president and partner at Booz-Allen & Hamilton Inc. He now teaches courses in systems and software engineering and management of large-scale, integrated IT systems. John Pendray, a program executive in residence, was a president at Cincinnati Bell Information Systems International in Reston, Va. He is teaching a course on the management of client relationships.

Local IT companies helped design the program's curriculum through the formation of a consortium. Members of the consortium, who can send their own employees to the session, also line up company officials to speak to the students. Members of the consortium include systems integrator American Management Systems in Fairfax, Va.; Bell Atlantic Corp. of Philadelphia; Boeing Information Services of Vienna, Va.; and Booz-Allen & Hamilton Inc. of McLean, Va. Others are BTG Inc. of Vienna, Va.; Cable & Wireless in Vienna, Va.; DynCorp of Reston, Va.; Electronic Data Systems Corp. in Plano, Texas; Newbridge Networks Inc. of Herndon, Va.; and Litton-PRC Inc. of McLean, Va.

"It's the idea of taking two different groups that need one another and creating a learning community that is mutually attractive," said Anderson.

The program also includes a partnership with The University of Oxford in Oxford, England. Students spend one week at the university and attend 15 seminars on emerging international technology markets, political economics and trade. The partnership was formed after Anderson helped Oxford develop its executive master of business administration program in 1987. In the fall of 1994, Anderson approached Oxford with the idea of partnering with the university to include its global IT courses in GMU's new program.

"Part of this is to fulfill GMU's role in fostering economic development," said Anderson. "To say the university has nothing to do with business is wrong."

The program requires students to be employed by an IT company. The company, in turn, pays the employee's tuition. Students must have three to 10 years of IT experience and current responsibility for project leadership, budgets and control, client relationships, new business formation, technology assessment and investments, and business planning and organization, said Anderson.

The cost of the program per student is $22,000, which includes books, parking, refreshments and all costs of foreign travel, residency and instruction. Anderson said the student's tuition is directly billed to the employer to avoid reimbursement hassles.

Although most students come from consortium members, many other local IT companies are enrolling their employees. Two examples are Science Applications International Corp. in McLean, Va., and National Rural Utilities CFC in Herndon, Va.

"This consortium and program is not the only place where I've seen GMU act in a very professional manner with the business community," said Peter Conlon, vice president of finance at Newbridge Networks, a consortium representative. "It speaks well of the university and the people running it." Newbridge Networks has one senior-level employee in the program and plans to send at least one or two employees through each session. Conlon said the program improves employee performance and serves as an incentive and retention tool for the company.

"The program is designed for a managerial-level person who wants to acquire usable information," said Conlon. "That's the beauty of having the consortium. We're able to put applicability into the program."

Anderson is now trying to create a case-writing lab based on local technology companies. He said students use cases to analyze and discuss the real IT business problems. He is hoping that by developing cases of local companies, executives will come into classes as guest speakers.

Anderson is also developing a nondegree program, which could begin in January, to provide professional and career development for seasoned IT executives. Courses will range in duration from one to several days and focus on business strategy, management of distributed organizations, and mergers and acquisitions. The courses will also focus on growth and development of businesses that are making a transition from government to commercial and global business opportunities in IT.

Anderson's inspiration for the program came in the late 1980s when he traveled to the University of Aachen in Aachen, Germany, and observed relationships between the institution and the business community.

In the fall of 1995, he organized a meeting at GMU with several local IT executives from Boeing, AMS, Bell Atlantic and others to discuss the formation of an IT management consortium to help develop the degree program.

"It's the closest reflection in academia of fulfilling a business need," said Patrick Valentine, director of Colleges & Corporations LLC, a private company in Alex-andria, Va., providing consulting services to businesses and universities on building relationships. "The only challenge arises when it's time to change or update the curriculum. The program has to be very flexible because of its content."

Other local executives also heaped praise on the program. "It's the only program in the area that involves the high-tech community to such an extent," said Jude Franklin, vice president and chief technology officer at PRC. "We can't find another program like this in the country." PRC has two junior-level employees in the program and plans to add more in the next session. "I can see this being a very prestigious program where people will be fighting to get into it," said Franklin.

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