Eagle Creek Software Services’ decision to partner with the University of South Dakota has direct ties to the university’s large enrollment quantities along with the Beacom School of Business, said USD President Jim Abbott.
The partnership, which was announced last week by Gov. Dennis Daugaard on the USD campus, will involve the integration of a new Information Technology Consultant Academy, which incorporates four undergraduate courses, an internship, the possibility of employment and the opportunity to pursue a Masters in Business Administration – all designed to meet the workforce needs of Eagle Creek.
Beacom School of Business dean Mike Keller said the city of Vermillion utilized USD as a marketing strategy to draw Eagle Creek to the area when working with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.
Laurie Becvar, senior associate provost and dean of the Graduate School, as well as head of the Division of Continuing and Distance Education, was involved in contracting the partnership. She said it seemed to be a good fit for USD.
“With the undergraduate certificate, we certainly felt we had the credentialed faculty members and the ability to manage this piece on our own,” Becvar said. “This certificate includes two courses in business, which we certainly have the expertise for, and the two computer science classes are specialized, and so we felt we had the talent to facilitate this.”
Concerning the graduate program, Becvar said USD is partnering with Dakota State University to develop and facilitate the curriculum and program.
“When we get to the graduate level, we are going to partner with DSU, because it’s true, they do have more resources simply because it’s their distinctive niche,” said Becvar.
DSU has branded itself as one of the best computer science schools in South Dakota, stating in its mission statement that the institution strives “to provide instruction in computer management, computer information systems, electronic data processing and other related undergraduate and graduate programs.”
Keller, who also worked in developing the partnership, said the IT Academy is not designed to develop technology, but instead to install and implement software services to Eagle Creek’s clients. Keller further said there are many levels in the technology industry, and that DSU and USD are operating on two different levels.
“We’re going after a different student than the ones at DSU,” Keller said. “We would not try to match the degrees that DSU is offering.”
Keller said the new IT Academy at USD and the IT programs at DSU are not directly competitive.
Addressing the notion that the technology industry is primarily male dominated, Becvar said those statistics are just one more reason the partnership is going to provide so many more opportunities, both at the university and industry level.
“The program might actually work to recruit more males to USD,” Becvar said. “It’s just another way to promote USD and maybe generate more interest in this field.”
Currently, USD’s enrollment is about 40 percent male, whereas DSU’s is about 47 percent.
The process of forming this relationship between Eagle Creek and USD has been informally in the works for quite some time, about two years, said Keller.
Keller further explained his knowledge of past encounters with the software company by discussing his contact with Jeff Brusseau, vice president of Eagle Creek. Brusseau used to teach at the Beacom School of Business until he took his current position at Eagle Creek two years ago. Before leaving USD, Brusseau mentioned Eagle Creek was looking to expand its operations, and that a Vermillion and USD partnership might be a viable option, Keller said.
The new IT Consultant Academy is scheduled to be fully operational by fall 2013, according to an Eagle Creek press release.
In an effort to build up the program before next fall, a summer program will be available for student enrollment. The summer course will be an eight-week, compressed program, in which students are encouraged to register.
Abbott said the possibilities this new professional endeavor will provide to students is tremendous. He said anytime a business reaches out with an interest in working with the university, it usually has positive results.
“A corporation means more and better job opportunities for our students,” Abbott said. “I’m all for it.”