Dr. Barbara D. Boyan, Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU)

INDUSTRY: Academia

How is your institution aligning with the rapid changes underway in the Digital Economy? 

At VCU, we are evolving our curricula to expand specialized course offerings associated with the “Digital Economy”.  In parallel, VCU is building more awareness and entry points onto the educational pathway with University-wide offerings associated with “Digital Fluency” and applications across many non-technical disciplines. We understand how important it is to offer degrees such as cloud computing to support a broad base of digital tech users. Then there are more programs that blend computer engineering, computer science, software development and data analytics. 

It is very important for students to understand the inter-connectedness of various technologies and emphasize the need for continual learning. And this is not enough; we are also expanding our experiential learning programs such as internships, co-ops and design projects so our students are able to hit the ground running upon graduation. The Commonwealth of Virginia, together with community colleges and 4-year universities, is highly active in creating initiatives to build new pathways for non-tech students and others who want to explore new career opportunities via continuing education programs. Many of these programs will provide specific credentials and badges with the goal of rapidly bringing more talent into the digital ecosystem.   

Tell us about some of the data-centric initiatives that your organization has undertaken. 

We are keenly aware of the need to expand the tech talent pipeline. VCU is carefully assessing each stage of awareness and learning processes during K-12 and working with educators to more than double the “upstream pipeline”.  It is important to make young people aware of employment opportunities and build confidence to embark on a journey that often requires hard work. We are also carefully assessing all the support activities needed to create student success and minimize attrition that arise due to controllable factors.  Thankfully, the State of Virginia is providing active support and funding to aggressively expand tech-oriented graduation rates across all demographics and regions.

What was VCU’s incentive to become a Founding Member of the IEIC? Are you one among the firsts in the industry to make such an effort?

It is truly an honor to be a Founding Member of the IEIC. Since our founding 22 years ago, we have created effective partnerships with the private sector. The IEIC opens a completely new, complementary vector that enhances our entire academic program.  The blend of technology developers and users across various domains permits a broad level of engagement; a feature that is interesting as ever to a research university.   We must also highlight that we fully subscribe to the charter of the IEIC, particularly the need to expand technical education, skills and associated experiences in order for all parts of society to participate in the Digital Economy, irrespective of backgrounds, physical limitations or cultural differences.

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