Microsoft Corp. has designated UMass Amherst as the first Microsoft IT Showcase School in the nation, recognizing the campus’s innovative leadership in applying information technology to teaching and learning. Microsoft chief executive officer Steve Ballmer made the announcement at the Oct. 21 opening of the Learning Commons in the W.E.B. Du Bois Library.
“Over the past seven years, we have worked closely with UMass Amherst’s faculty and students, and we have been consistently impressed by their accomplishments,” said Ballmer. “By recognizing UMass Amherst as a Microsoft IT Showcase School, we see the university as a true pacesetter in higher education, committed to providing an array of additional learning resources tailored to students’ specific needs. It is a privilege to help the university share its knowledge more broadly.”
Ballmer also noted that Microsoft and the campus share a vision of employing information technology to improve the delivery of educational materials, engage students in active learning, and encourage collaborative inquiry. Five specific projects have been identified for initial investment.
“We are delighted that Steve Ballmer chose to join us today, and we take pride in Microsoft’s recognition of our leadership in this field,” said Charlena Seymour, provost and senior vice chancellor for Academic Affairs. “Together, we will address important national challenges: preparing more students to be competitive in a digital age and encouraging students from all backgrounds to pursue careers in science and technology. Much remains to be done, and we look forward to collaborating with Microsoft in new and significant ways.”
Microsoft has previously worked with the campus on a variety of undertakings, and today’s designation will strengthen that relationship. Since 1998, Microsoft has provided approximately $11 million of support for campus initiatives. That includes software donations and training, research products, research grants and funding to create the Microsoft Center for Women in Engineering and Science.
Ballmer said Microsoft will provide support to IT Showcase Schools so they can:
• share best practices
• highlight innovative curriculum and pedagogy
• collaborate with other schools looking to adopt innovative IT curriculums and programs, and encourage women and minority enrollments in IT
• create the technical infrastructure needed to support future innovation
Microsoft and campus officials have agreed to initially collaborate on five ongoing initiatives:
Information Technology Program
Through this program, students can major in what they’re passionate about and add a minor in information technology. This IT-across-the-curriculum project creates multiple points of access for all students, broadening the pool of future workers with IT fluency and increasing the pool of diverse students with IT skills. The IT minor supplements the studies of a student’s major. No one course is prescribed; students choose from wide-ranging offerings. The program is part of UMass’ leadership in the statewide Commonwealth Information Technology Initiative, a public-private partnership to increase the number of IT-fluent workers needed for Massachusetts’ knowledge-based economy. For details, go to www.umass.edu/itprogram.
IT Curriculum Case Studies
Two courses in the Isenberg School of Management employ Microsoft ConferenceXP, which delivers videoconferencing and interactive Tablet PC applications. “Introduction to Business Information Systems” helps students understand how businesses use information systems—the way in which systems provide leaders with invaluable business intelligence and the consequences when information systems aren’t well deployed. “Trustworthy Computing” focuses on security auditing based on Microsoft’s security development life cycle. Through this program, students learn from the software’s “threat modeling” component. Microsoft will create case studies of these classes and promote them widely.
The 23,000-square-foot space in the Du Bois Library brings together technology, library and student support services in an environment that fosters informal, collaborative work and social interaction. Students can meet for coffee at the Procrastination Station caf?, gather in a group project room, get help with researching or writing a paper, meet with teaching assistants, borrow a laptop, read e-mail or use a software package, get help with online registration, receive academic or career advising and discover tips for adjusting to campus life. The technology-rich environment features 164 workstations, 400 ports for laptop access to the campus network and Internet, 16 tablet PCs, e-mail kiosks and access to an array of software. For details, go to www.umass.edu/learningcommons.
Women in Technology Initiatives
Microsoft believes UMass Amherst has an exceptional record of encouraging women to pursue studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and it wants to support that work. Campus initiatives include Trends for Women in Science and Engineering, the Society of Women Engineers, Women in Science and Engineering, and the Graduate Women’s Network. Microsoft will also work with the campus to share best practices with other universities and colleges.
Center for Teaching
Identified by the Hesberg Foundation as one of the top three centers of its type in the country, CFT has supported classroom instruction for two decades. The center is sponsoring Microsoft’s Tablet PC Community of Practice, where faculty and staff share their knowledge about this technology. In addition, the center offers a TEACHnology Fellowship, and this spring will sponsor a campus-wide seminar on the Tablet PC and Classroom Presenter technologies. For details, go to www.umass.edu/cft.