Information technology associate professor Jeff Pittges was awarded a 2012 IBM Faculty Award to further his research on teaching Business Intelligence (BI). The award includes a $10,000 donation for research. The IBM Faculty Awards is a worldwide competitive program, and nominations for these awards must be initiated by someone within IBM. Pittges is the only professor from Virginia who received this award in 2012. Award winners hail from universities across the globe including Carnegie Mellon University, University of Cambridge, Columbia University, University of Michigan, Technion Israel Institute of Technology, Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications and MSU Moscow State University. Pittges was one of 91 information technology faculty members to receive this international award.
Pittges says that this award will provide funding for his students to more effectively learn the area of business intelligence. “Students in my Data Warehousing, Mining, and Reporting (ITEC 442) class develop a data warehouse, a data integration process, reports and dashboards, and a data mining application using machine learning algorithms. Through IBM's Academic Initiative, my students have access to IBM technology including the DB2 database, InfoSphere Warehouse, Cognos (reporting and dashboards), and SPSS analytics,” says Pittges. He is developing role-based learning activities that provide the students with hands-on experience in developing a complete BI infrastructure.
IBM employee and 1975 RU alumna Penelope Gardner sponsored Pittges throughout the award application process. She was excited to be able to open doors for RU faculty with IBM. “I was so thrilled to be able to spend time on campus again. I’m so proud of Jeff Pittges because it takes effort to apply for this award. He is going above and beyond to create a tool that will be available for other faculty to use. It is a ‘feather in the cap’ for RU to have leading faculty in this field,” says Gardner.
IBM has been an extremely valuable resource in helping the information technology department develop a Master's program in Data and Information Management, says Pittges. He attended the IBM Information on Demand (IOD) conference in October of 2012 and participated in the Academic track with other schools that are developing similar programs. He says all of the schools are facing similar challenges to develop the expertise necessary to train students to manage and analyze big data. “Partnering with companies like IBM is the only way for a university to remain current with best practices. IBM has been extremely generous sharing their technology and their expertise. IBM has provided real data sets from their clients so my students are working in a real environment using industry leading products to solve real problems with real data,” adds Pittges. He says his students learn the concepts and principles in class. Then they apply the concepts and principles in the project to better prepare for a career in the IT field.
“Business Intelligence is driven by industry. My research is not an obvious fit for traditional academic funding programs given the heavy focus on industry needs. Data science is becoming a huge need for industry, but before data may be analyzed, the data must be collected and managed effectively. More research is needed to improve how we teach students to collect and manage big data,” says Pittges. This is the first step, he says, to providing our students with better knowledge and practice in business intelligence.
“I’m thrilled to receive the award, but the funding pales in comparison to the support I have received from IBM. Penelope has introduced me to several experts who continue to help me develop realistic projects for students,” says Pittges. Gardner says that now the networking has begun, Pittges has the opportunity to approach IBM again for future funding. Pittges asked for $10,000 in 2012, and will submit a proposal this spring for $20,000. “Based on what he’s done and will do with this award, I feel confident that he’ll be supported in the future,” adds Gardner.