IST Dean Discusses Degree Distinctions and Career Opportunities for Graduates

Dean Henry Foley, Dean of the College of Information Systems and Technology (IST), visited Penn State Greater Allegheny on February 21.    Accompanied by the College's Associate Dean, John Yen, and Associate Professor of  IST, Gerald Santoro, Dean Foley met with campus administration, IST students and faculty during his 3 1/2 hr. visit to the campus. 

The purpose of the Dean's visit was to address any questions, concerns or issues that students, faculty or campus administration had about the IST  program, established in 1999,  and to generate discussion among all parties as the College begins its five- year strategic planning process.  

Meeting with Greater Allegheny students in the Student Community Center,  Dean Foley talked about the strength of the IST degree, career opportunities for students and various innovations the College will be instituting to improve the degree in the future.   Discussion also centered on the IST Security and Risk Analysis major currently available, noting that the degree has three difference tracks, one in intelligence analysis, a second in information security and a third in  security and how that security affects society (policies, procedures and rules).

Currently Penn State has 1400 students enrolled in the program statewide, with 49 currently enrolled in the major at Greater Allegheny.   The IST major, according to the Dean, is growing by "leaps and bounds" with the college's biggest challenges being to unify the program at the 19 Penn State locations that offer the degree and to stay on the cutting edge of technology.  The IST curriculum is continuously being changed and upgraded to meet the needs of the corporations and the governmental organizations which employ Penn State graduates, according to Associate Professor Santoro.   In this regard Penn State is instituting a program of Professors of Practice, a network of individuals who stay in touch with the corporate world and bring real time issues in Information Technology to upper level PSU IST majors.   These issues generate classroom discussion so that students can propose and develop solutions for further study.  

Associate Dean Yen described the IST major as different from other information science  majors.  Dean Yen stated that the PSU degree addresses the needs of organizational cultures, providing innovative and simple solutions to problems faced by the people who use the systems daily.     Penn State's aim, according to Dean Foley, is to emphasize the "people" angle rather than the "system" as a whole.

It was noted during the student meeting that the placement rate within IST is 95% during the five month period immediately following graduation.  Students can expect a starting salary in the $45,000 - $55,000 per annum range.  Dean Foley pointed out to the students that a University degree does not "train" but rather "teaches" the individual to think, develop solutions and ultimately manage those solutions.  This, he noted, was  the difference between certifications and a University degree.    Foley, Yen, and Santoro all emphasized the need for Penn State students to continue to stay abreast of what is current in the field and to provide the IST program with a network of graduates in the corporate and government sectors who consistently communicate with the University  in an effort to keep the  degree current and valuable.  When asked by a student "What makes a degree valuable?" Foley stated that a degree is only as valuable as the accomplishments of its graduates.  

The IST contingent ended its visit to the McKeesport area with  a visit to Blue Roof Technologies, a community partner of Penn State Greater Allegheny.  Blue Roof partners with Penn State faculty and students in the development of a "smart house" for seniors.   The house is equipped with devices that allows aging individuals to stay in their own home while monitoring their safety and health.