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Thursday, January 12, 2012 - ATiB launches careers, creates connections


 Membership has its privileges, as Oakland University senior Lynn Couto recently discovered. 


She knew the SBA’s Applied Technology in Business (ATiB) minor was a good program when she applied in 2009, but she didn't fully appreciate the strength of its reputation until she received a job offer last February, well before her anticipated December 2011 graduation.


Within two weeks of posting her resume on OU's CareerLink in search of an internship, Logistics Insight Corp. of Warren, Mich., contacted her -- about a job.


”They brought me in for an interview just based on my ATiB minor,” Couto explains. “They are OU alumni, so they know the magnitude of ATiB and the reputation of the people who come out of it,” adds Couto, who is now working full time there as a human resources coordinator while completing her Human Resource Management degree.


Considering 14 million people across the country are unemployed, Couto feels extremely lucky. “I was so worried about finding a job after graduation, but now I have one,” she says.


The roots of ATiB’s success


Boasting a 100 percent employment rate of its graduates, the ATiB program, where business students have a concentration of information technology (IT) classes, was the first of its kind in Michigan. It was founded in 1997 and directed for five years by Mohan Tanniru, then-MIS professor who also served as the program's director for five years. Tanniru is now the SBA’s dean. Mohammad Dadashzadeh, DIS chair, led the program as its director for seven years. Today, Kieran Mathieson, associate professor, information systems, is the ATiB program director.


The program's success launched many initiatives within the SBA and OU, and it has served as a model for programs at other universities. Most significant for the SBA is how ATiB sparked the experiential learning philosophy the SBA follows today.


“Having hands-on experience and working in teams is part of an outstanding business education,” says Tanniru, explaining the genesis of ATiB. “At that time, however, universities traditionally focused on educating students on business theory. The ATiB model elevated the business education at OU by presenting high-caliber students with the opportunity to develop IT and workplace skills that complemented their education. Gaining real-world experience is now integrated throughout the SBA curriculum and its extra-curricular programs."


ATiB is open to junior and senior business students regardless of their business major. They put their newly learned IT skills to work on real projects sponsored by companies seeking technological solutions. Whether it's for a new database or website, companies quickly learn that by partnering with ATiB, they gain implementable solutions as well as access to an educated, skilled and highly trained potential employee base.



“Employers love ATiB students and graduates,” says Mathieson. “Even in a slow economy, the ATiB employment rate is high because the students understand their major area, the business function and how IT fits in. Sponsors often hire their project team members as interns or employees because of their proven skill set.” 



In good company


Since its formation, more than 80 companies have tapped ATiB's brainpower to develop business solutions with a focus on IT.


“ATiB has been such an asset to us,” says Annette Taylor Wetungu, manager of global common services, GM Technical Education Program (TEP). “They’ve made parts of our jobs a lot easier.”  


Wetungu speaks based on TEPs long history with ATiB. Over the years, TEP, which offers GM employees education in current and emerging technologies through partnerships with universities worldwide, has invited ATiB students to create several databases to improve its systems. The most recent project involved simplifying student registration and reporting processes, eliminating the need for TEP staff to manually enter data, thus reducing paperwork.


The caliber of students keeps TEP coming back, adds Wetungu. “They are self-motivated, self-directed and quite exceptional,” she notes. “They need very little hand-holding, which is great.” 


Experiencing value beyond the classroom


Students -- and alumni -- value being part of such a unique program. In fact, positive feedback from ATiB students combined with the overall success of the program laid the groundwork for many of the SBA's student-centered initiatives today.


For Thushitha Ramineni Deepak, MIS ’02, ATiB provided the skills and experience that helped her land a coveted international finance position at DaimlerChrysler followed by one at California's Google, where she recently transferred to commerce operations.


She values the network that gave her access to compete in the national job market, but notes that ATiB's benefits extend beyond education and career success. The togetherness of team projects and a dedicated lab that fosters collaboration also promotes camaraderie and life-long friendships.


”At a time when OU felt like a commuter school, ATiB was one of the only groups with a dedicated lab right on campus where we could work together, instead of at home on our own,” she says. “There always were other students there, so I could consult with them when I had questions about a project, or chat about classes and job opportunities.”


It was here Deepak met fellow ATiB student Amy Rutledge. The two remain so close that Deepak served as one of Rutledge's bridal attendants years later.


With a B.A. in French (2003), a B.S. in MIS (2003), an M.B.A. (2008) from OU, and business experience at Chrysler and Handleman Company, Rutledge, now a special instructor of MIS at the SBA, still talks of the value she gained through ATiB.


“University life can be a daunting experience, but with the ATiB program I was nested in with a group of students with similar academic goals and passions,” Rutledge explains. “Moreover, I was able to quickly build important skills given the external project work. My transition to the workforce was seamless.”

There are more benefits than what shows on a resume, Rutledge says. “ATiB was one of the best experiences of my life. My corporate track record along with the people skills and project work developed through the ATiB program are shared with my MIS students today. I attribute the launch of my career to ATiB.”




By Rene Wisely