Institute focuses on graduates

As commencement approaches, one career step that eager soon-to-be college graduates may not take into consideration is in what part of the country they will work. In some cases, college graduates have to move across the country to find careers in their field of study.

Tim Ferguson, Northern Kentucky University alumnus, wants to change that. Sept. 15, NKU’s Infrastructure Management Institute (IMI) officially launched. This new institute focuses on economic development and job growth in this region by encouraging partnerships between the university and businesses in the community. These alliances are based on technology issues.

“I want to keep our kids here and give them tech jobs,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson is familiar with the job hunt that results in graduates moving to different parts of the country. After graduating from NKU in 1985, he moved to New York to apply everything he learned at NKU. He eventually ran the senior management team for research and development at one of the nation’s largest software companies.

The IMI works to create contacts with area companies and plays “matchmaker” by connecting students with businesses seeking their talent. IMI also works to arrange co-ops and internships for students.

“Universities have traditionally provided assistance to the business community, but it was not always clear to the outside world what these offerings were unless someone was well connected with the university,” Ferguson said. “The IMI has expanded and formalized these offerings to make it clear the value we add for current and perspective businesses in the region.”

“The computer job market is expanding rapidly,” said Dr. James Walden, professor in the department of computer science. “In fact, there are more CS and IT jobs today than there were at the height of the tech boom in 2000.”

Dr. Charles Frank, professor in the department of computer science, also sees the increased need for these majors. “Several years ago, corporations were outsourcing computer science jobs to India,” Frank said. “There was a large drop in computer science enrollment nationally. Today, we are seeing a strong demand for computer science graduates but, because of the enrollment decline, the supply is not meeting the demand.”

The creation of IMI is enabling students to gain experience that cannot be taught in the classroom. This experience increases a graduate’s opportunity to earn a job within top companies.

The principle of IMI coincides with President James Votruba’s Vision 2015 Master Plan, which calls for 50,000 new high-paying jobs in the area to be created within the next 10 years, with the most focus on technology innovation.

“President Votruba wants NKU to be actively involved in the community,” Frank said. “This program is beneficial to local businesses that can get help with their information management needs and to students who can gain practical expertise working on real world problems.”

Students have already begun working with IMI this semester, and according to Dr. Walden, they seem “quite enthusiastic” about their jobs.

The Business Courier reported NKU’s IMI is the first of its kind in the country, and Ferguson agrees, saying he is unaware of any other institute having the same purpose as the IMI.

Currently, IMI is doing research work with the college of informatics faculty. Ferguson hopes this work will leverage the building of a research center with a state-of-the-art innovation laboratory where faculty and students can attack such issues as healthcare interoperability, information security and cyber security.