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Advice

New Advisees, Especially First-time Freshmen and Transfers from other Colleges and Universities:

I am only an adviser for Information Systems majors who have been admitted to our degree program. It's always a pleasure to email or talk about our IS degree and its 'tracks' with students who are considering a degree in Information Systems.

But, I don't have the knowledge or access to the systems needed to evaluate transcripts, translate articulation agreements, or otherwise advise Freshmen, Transfers, or students still in University College or the BFO-Business Foundation.

Our award-winning UnderGrad Advisers have the skills and knowledge to advise new and transfer students, can be authoritative, and they have access to the systems needed to get you into and through your degree with minimum hassles.

First-time Freshmen

If you're applying to VCU with no college credits, or with dual-enrolment or advanced placement credits, you can start the application and advising process by taking the Admissions link at www.vcu.edu and choosing First-time Freshmen.

Transfers From other Colleges or Schools within VCU

If you are transferring from another college or university, take the Transfer link from the Admissions menu. You will likely be transferring into VCU's 'University College' first, then applying to the school with your degree program as you approach Junior status.

If you are transferring to VCU as a Junior, or are transferring into the School of Business from another school within VCU, seek advice from one of the advisers in our Undergraduate Programs office on the 1st floor of Snead Hall, in the hallway just west of the Bistro. They will refer you to University College if you're not ready to apply to the School of Business.

If you're already enrolled in the School of Business you may get an appointment on-line at Undergraduate Studies -- Current Students, or call 828-3710 if you're not yet enrolled. Katherine Drumm & Vinnie Merida are our specialists for Information Systems and can be authoritative about what will & won't transfer for Humanities & Sciences courses, or what will substitute for this or that Business Foundation or Information Systems requirement. They have direct access to the system that evaluates transcripts and can issue 'over-rides' for courses, and they can effect the transfer of credits into the School of Business or correct any errors you can demonstrate to them. Faculty and students in the school depend on the expertise of these advisers.

Details about Courses

To see the courses and other requirements for the degree program you're considering, take the Academic Programs link from www.vcu.edu and choose Bulletins, then Prospective Students to see the current bulletins. Use the search window to narrow down your selections. If you're interested in Information Systems or other major in the School of Business, choose 'School of Business' from the Unit list before you click Search.

Advice for All Students

Make sure you review the 'Degree Works' feature with your adviser and see that it reflects the bulletin under which you entered the program. Requirements in the bulletins change every few years so it's important to know exactly what _your_ requirements are if they changed after you were accepted in our major.

Information Systems Majors

After you're sure how to meet the BFO and Humanities & Sciences requirements, set up a meeting with me and we'll set to your decisions about your 'track' through the INFO courses.

If you're registering prior to your meeting with your UnderGrad Adviser, make sure to get these courses: INFO160 is a self-paced, one hour, course that is pre-requisite for some BFO and INFO courses, take it or the Knowledge Equivalency Test (has a high failure rate, about 50%, where INFO160 has about a 100% pass rate); INFO202-Intro to eBusiness Tech is the pre- or co-requisite along with INFO300-IT Infrastructure & Security; INFO350-Programming may be taken the same semester as INFO300 but I don't advise taking all three together unless you already know the content and have the skills developed in these courses. Get these out of the way and all the 300-level requirements asap. Leave time your Senior year to get one or two of the 491-Topics courses that interest you.

'Schedule' questions are somewhat difficult to answer long-term since we're running fewer sections of some courses and don't offer both day & evening sections of all the upper-level courses, and some courses are not offered some semesters. Some students use INFO461-Independent Study to graduate on time or early, four this year where in the past it was one every other year, two of them foreign students who screwed up something in their Junior year leaving them with a gap, and were pounding on their projects from S. America and the Middle East to finish coursework for the degree. One fellow a year back looked good in his cap & gown at graduation, then showed up a few days later needing to take one of our required courses he hadn't thought he'd needed, which was more difficult when done from Philadelphia after hours from a new job. Avoid this kind of problem by knowing the requirements and planning ahead to meet them.

Some scheduling issues have been resolved by using upper-level courses from other departments in the school.

Minimum GPA Requirements

Cs are bad grades. You can't get into a major with more than one or two Cs, and you shouldn't stay in the major if you're getting Cs in its core courses. You can't graduate if you don't have a 2.0 or better average in your major and the UnderGrad Dean's staff doesn't 'round up' when they calculate it for a graduation application. One D among a lot of Cs in your major major courses can disqualify you from graduation! I post this after a student threatened to sue his advisor since she never 'warned' him of the low GPA in his major courses.

Nearly every semester in INFO465 I see students who have a low overall GPA and do not have a 2.0 in their major courses and cannot graduate. Please don't be one of them!

Advisees, after Transfer and BFO Courses are Sorted Out

As we talk or correspond I'm sure that will trigger plenty of advice for your consideration. Here's some general advice for Information Systems majors:

Plan to develop your Technical Skills. Students who leave our program without any IT skills don't get jobs in IT! Develop Business Skills. Without this combination you'll be competing with high school and tech school grads for low-level jobs and not with university grads in Information Systems. Prepare yourself for a behavioral interview, as described in this article about Identifying Superstar Developers from CIO Magazine.

You need a mail and web server on the internet that you can manage from the command line, with 'full root access! If your ISP will provide a fixed-IP at your home you can put a real server up. Otherwise go to RackSpaceCloud.com, DigitalOcean.com, and put up a virtual server. Linux is cheap, $10 to $25 per month, Windoze is more. Get a domain from GoDaddy.com ($5+ for a year depending on the tld) and a real SSL certificate ($69 a year) and set out to get your secure server set up. It is invaluable for you to demo the skills needed to secure a server, talk about how you watch and respond to what you see in the logs, and host a standards-compliant, mobile-friendly, responsive website with a portfolio of your skills.

We don't have 'tracks' any more, but do have the courses to support them: Application Development; Business Analysis; and Network Management. Tracks never appeared anywhere but transcripts, by the way, not on diplomae. You can use a term like 'Concentration' on your resume to clue its user about your extra courses and interests.

What you're doing now will put you in the position to make a strategy to concentrate on one or more of our tracks and get it done 'by the book' so there are zero surprises when you go to fill in your graduation application! A few well-chosen, extra courses, 'free' for full-timers, can differentiate you from others who are competing with our majors for jobs in IS that involve accounting, auditing, network security, h/r, insurance, marketing, economics or other business technologies represented in courses in our school.

Be thinking about where you want to be heading on your way out with your new degree. I look forward to learning more about you and you can lay on the skills to get you there.

Setup and use a LinkedIn account! I enjoy seeing where our students are and what they're doing, and several have related that it helped them get a job. Put the best-looking stuff from your portfolio there. Here's an article forwarded by ISRI's Maureen Carley about How to use LinkedIn to be Found by Headhunters and Hirers.

Observation:

Some of the students who just do the coursework in our IS core and leave with a C and some talent do OK on the way out, better than minimum wage... The more you do on your own to reek of deep technical skills the steeper your earning curve will be -- The average I heard in 2011 was upper 40s, and thru 2014 it is maybe middle-to-upper 50s. Talent & Deep Tech Skills can get that up into and past the 60s+. There are other dynamite combinations too, like Marketing & IT, or Finance & IT, so check those out as you get along into our courses.

Sharpen your Technical Skills

If you've got technical interests, plan to do more than the ordinary student and lay on deep technical skills that will dazzle your future technical interviewers for app development or network situations, carry a portfolio of your software and networking projects. If your interests are less technical,make sure you do more of the business analysis stuff, learn all the tools, have a good portfolio of analysis docs.

Over the decades, I've observed App Developers with a dual-degree or minor in Accounting have been our top earners on the way out.

More recently, since about 2010, Network Management/Security students who take every opportunity to get their hands on their own servers on the internet (we won't let you root ours!), especially virtualized servers, and have had their eyes on the logs and learn to interpret them, aka 'internet security', also top the scale on the way out. MSDNAA makes all the Windoze server stuff available free for our students, and Linux is free anyway, buy VMWare Workstation for the $139 educational discount and you're on your way to a career in networking, so you might be thinking quad-core, 8 Gigs, and 3 ethernet ports, maybe a Dell Inspiron tower if you've got a tight budget or one of the usually-rack-mounted servers if you've got it to spend. In 2010 a young gentleman went into a $87K job with this on his portfolio, and was at $100K a year and a half later! (Disclaimer: This is not the typical experience, but happens to those who are smart and lay on deep technical skills!)

Cisco stuff isn't free, but for network admin majors it is another option to consider on your own. One of our grads a few years back set out to Cisco certification with a run thru Ebay buying a semi-current, big, router with enough media converters to handle every ISP in his neighborhood, plus an ISDN line. He got a few of their managed switches, and a PIX firewall or two. He and his buddies made it all work and while documenting it for an 'independent study' and made an excellent opportunity in the health industry, converting traditional 'real private networks' at doctor's offices up and down the East Coast to VPN.

From what I observe, you must do more technical stuff than provided in your coursework. Plan to be able to do it when the tech interviewer asks you to sit down at the console and do it. One student who put 'mail server administration' on his resume got past the initial interview, but wasn't able to 'demonstrate use of the backtic operator' or 'flush the pending mail queue' when by the mail server administrator who interviewed him next, and wasn't asked a third question, related this short technical interview to me nearly in tears...

Recent wisdom from my InBox from a student who left us gold-plated after I said something in email like "ain't no moss gonna grow on you":

Prof Saunders, Most students in info systems don't realize that you need to be proactive about education and that experimenting with different technologies is the only way to set yourself apart. There is no way a college class could keep up with the way technology is evolving. A college degree can help you get an interview but HANDS ON EXPERIENCE is what lands the job IMO.

What should you have your hands on?

IBM's Master the Mainframe Contest:

If you've got interest and skills in programming and application development, check out this contest!

IBM supplies on-line tutorials about and time on their venerable and constantly evolving eServer System z (Mainframes!). They issue challenges for the contest that involve integrating the zSeries with Windoze, Mac, or The Web. Those who win, place, and show in the contest can add Mainframe to their portfolio of deep technical skills and are likely be snapped up into a rewarding career by an IBM customer wanting to exploit their youth and talent!


G Saunders,
Professor
Information Systems
VCU School of Business

G Saunders Wings

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