Information Science student sharpens new skill set at Radford

At Radford University, Information Science and Systems (IS) major Erik Miller has found, perhaps, a new career calling.

Miller, of Christiansburg, earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Radford in 2009. His initial goal was to secure a job as a graphic designer.

Upon graduation, he got an internship at Modea, a Blacksburg-based digital consulting firm. There, he was introduced to writing code and found he had a knack for it.

"I was working with a specific framework at the time that included lots of XML coding, which is similar to HTML," Miller explained. "That naturally led into HTML, which led into Cascading Style Sheets, to JavaScript and so on. I thought to myself, 'I'm enjoying this development thing, working on the front end of websites.' That eventually led me back here [Radford University]."

This time, Miller took a different degree route.

He reenrolled at Radford University in 2015 and is currently pursuing a second bachelor's degree in IS with a Web Development concentration.

He is on track to graduate this spring.

Information Science and Systems  

The Information Science and Systems major at Radford University provides a strong foundation in computer programming and business information technology.

Students seeking the IS degree must complete the core college requirements and can choose from either an Information Systems or Web Development concentration. This fall, the university will offer two new IS concentrations: cybersecurity and health care. These concentrations have been added to meet specific industry demand.

The Web Development concentration, chosen by Miller, is designed to produce professionals with expertise in all aspects of website development and operation, from site aesthetics to systems programming to e-commerce transaction processing. The concentration is heavily cross-disciplinary, with required courses in business, art, media studies, communications, as well as information technology.

Erik Miller (left) is awarded the 2017 Dean's Scholar honor of Department of Information Technology Chair Jeff Pittges.

Erik Miller (left) is awarded the 2017 Dean's Scholar honor by Department of Information Technology Chair Jeff Pittges.

Connecting and learning real-world skills

Back in academe, a more mature and determined Miller said he immediately filled his class schedule with programming courses and "loved every minute of it," he said. He especially enjoyed the faculty mentorship.

"I have always been very impressed with the extent by which you get to know professors at Radford University," Miller said. "From what I hear, it's not necessarily that way at other schools. At Radford, you get so much more contact with your professors than you might in other places. That goes a long way because they end up encouraging you. They end up providing opportunities you might not know about."

In Miller's case, that opportunity came in the form of an internship.

Last summer, Miller began working as an intern for Radford University alumnus David Bradshaw '90, founder and CEO of a company called InteractiveGIS, Inc.

Miller jumped right into the job, working on a K-12 student projector system. Bradshaw was immediately impressed.

"He showed promise very early," Bradshaw said. "Erik is very thoughtful in his approach to solving problems. He is confident, thorough and detailed. I haven't seen this in others [interns]."

Miller said he gained new skills from the internship, in addition to utilizing the skills learned through Radford's dynamic IS program.

"It actually ended up being a direct application of some of the principles I learned in class," Miller explained.  "I spent a semester learning about web application framework, and then in the summer, I immediately had the opportunity to use that knowledge for my project with David."

Setting students up for success is one of Radford University's many strengths, Bradshaw said.

"Radford has done a great job staying on the leading edge," he continued. "They have equipped students well with these real-world skills, and Erik is a prime example of that."

A new career in web development

Miller said the past two years at Radford University have flown by.

He admitted that changing career paths and earning a second degree was a risk – both financially and professionally. But the risk was worth it in the end, Miller said, shifting from risk to reward.

Miller and eight other College of Science and Technology (CSAT) students were named the Class of 2017 Dean's Scholars. They were formally recognized on April 22 at a ceremony in the Center for the Sciences.

There, Department of Information Technology Chair Jeff Pittges lauded Miller for his academic excellence in the IS program. He first met Miller in "Principles of Computer Science I," a programming course.

"By the end of the second week I knew Erik was special based on the questions he asked and the answers he gave," Pittges said. "He continued to distinguish himself the rest of the semester, and we hired him as a peer instructor; an elite group who help other students in our introductory programming classes. In typical fashion, Erik told me the experience helped him as much as it helped others."

Miller also made key contributions to the Department of Information Technology and CSAT websites.

"Erik has had a profound impact on our department," Pittges said. "He has made our program better, and he has helped countless students."

Another reward: Miller has already accepted a job at Virginia Tech in the Office of University Relations as a web developer.

He'll be maintaining the front end of the university's content management system, and of course, "writing A LOT of code," he joked.

Students interested in Information Systems are invited to attend a special presentation on the program on April 29 in the ARTIS Lab (Davis Hall) from 11 a.m. to noon.


Apr 25, 2017
Mary Hardbarger
(540) 831-5150