Tag Archives: Ali Sekmen

IBM Executives say TSU Students developing right Skills for tech workforce

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Two IBM executives were on campus recently to talk to TSU students about job-readiness skills and employment opportunities with the tech giant and its affiliates.

Meredith Stowell, vice president for IBM Z Ecosystem; and Shirley Meierarend, IBM’s Z series skills leader for North America, spoke to a group of students, faculty and deans about “very lucrative” job opportunities available for those with skills and knowledge in Enterprise Computing, which supports IBM’s mainframe technology.

“IBM is here today because we are very interested in building a talent pipeline for enterprise computing for both our clients or IBM,” Stowell said in a presentation on Enterprise Computing and Digital Transformation.

John Thompson, right, TSU’s Enterprise Systems Consultant, talks to a cross-section of students, deans and chair during the IBM executives’ visit. (Photo by TSU Media Relations)

“We do have a number of very large clients here locally, but the other great thing about TSU is that many of their students are interested in relocating to other areas. So, that’s why I am here today, to share more with the students, and to connect students to talent and to the talent pipeline.”

Enterprise-related classes are currently being offered at TSU through an initiative that was launched in 2014 through the Department of Computer Science. The initiative was designed to prepare TSU students to be able to compete for high-paying enterprise internships and permanent job opportunities with enterprise clients. According to TSU’s Enterprise Systems Consultant, John Thompson, a former IBM senior manager, between 2015 and 2018, more than 20 students were placed with enterprise companies earning annual average starting salaries of more than $82,000, with some receiving signing bonuses of up to $10,000.

Citing a Wall Street Journal 2020 projection, Thompson said there will be more than 84,000 enterprise-related jobs available for students across all disciplines. TSU, being the only school in Tennessee offering courses in this area, can be a major source to fill the huge demand for enterprise computing skills that is being created by the retiring baby boomer generation.

During the IBM presentation, TSU President Glenda Glover, who was on travel, called in to thank Stowell and Meierarend for their visit, and Thompson, for arranging and coordinating the visit.  She stressed the importance of the TSU partnership with the company.

“This partnership is making a great difference in the lives of our students,” Glover said. “Student placement is a very key part of what we are and a major performance indicator for our state stakeholders and our accrediting body. Training our students to be adequately ready is so important. That is why we are so appreciative of this great collaboration.”

In her presentation, Stowell spoke about specific areas of enterprise computing that students should focus on in “sharpening your job-skill readiness.”  She and Thompson emphasized the importance of taking classes in fundamental COBOL business language programming, as well as a basic introduction to programming, such as C++ and Java. 

“Once again, it is really about this openness between industry and academics, and academic environment opening up to understand what specific skills that the industry needs and then partnering with those industry partners to incorporate and infuse those skills within their curriculum. So that, when the student graduates, there is a job lined up for him already,” Stowell said.

Thompson added:  “What makes TSU students so attractive is that they understand the distributing networking environment, but also, when you put them on an enterprise platform, they are right at home, and that’s where we come in. So, I work with the companies to find what they need from the enterprise platform, then I come back and work with Dr. (Ali) Sekmen and the deans, and say, ‘Look, how can we put this in the curriculum for the students to learn that skill?’ Once we do that, then we go and bring these companies in to recruit the students.”

Tamarcus Summers, a senior computer science major from Memphis, and Donovan Varnell, also a senior political science major from Nashville, were among the diverse group of majors at the presentation.

“As a computer science major, I am glad to see the focus on key areas emphasized here today that my professors talk about in preparing us for the job market,” Summers said.

For Varnell, he said he is impressed with IBM’s integration of technology into all disciplines.

“This really opens my eyes to how it is important to understand that all these technologies and coding are a need-to-know no matter your discipline,” said Varnell.

Dr. Sekmen, who is chair of the Department of Computer Science, and a facilitator of the Enterprise Systems Program, said TSU is seeking funding to establish a comprehensive enterprise computing program in the department with a mainframe computer lab.

“We will be the first institution in Tennessee to have such a computer,” said Sekmen. “We are going to develop an undergraduate concentration in enterprise computing, as well as training opportunities for TSU faculty, students and all HBCU faculty.”

Other university officials who spoke at the gathering were Dr. Jacqueline Mitchell, professor and Enterprise Systems Program manager, as well as Dr. S. Keith Hargrove, dean of the College of Engineering. Frank Stevenson, associate vice president for Student Affairs and dean of students; Dr. Coreen Jackson, dean of the Honors College; and Dr. Ray Richardson, Enterprise Program liaison, were present. Students from a cross section of disciplines and majors were also present representing computer science, engineering, criminal justice, business and social work.

For more information on TSU’s Department of Computer Science, please go to http://www.tnstate.edu/computer_science/

Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209

Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a  premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees.  TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee.  With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students  with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.

TSU Data Sciences Workshop April 16-17 to Draw More than 100 Experts from the United States and China

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Billed as “the next big thing,” data science, a discipline or study that combines mathematics, statistics and computer science, is becoming the leading driver in innovation, competition and productivity.

The demand for professionals in this relatively new and rising discipline is high, as universities scramble to develop comprehensive data science degree programs to graduate data scientists.

Tennessee State University is looking to play a major role in bringing about greater awareness to a discipline that reports estimate will create 4 million data science-related positions in the United States by 2018.

On April 16, the University will host the first annual workshop on data sciences that is expected to bring together more than 100 data science researchers from over 20 universities and institutions in the United States and China.

The two-day workshop on the theme, “High Dimensional Data Analysis,” is expected to bring experts from national institutions such as Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Memphis, Tuskegee University, the University of Tennessee Knoxville, Vanderbilt University, and China’s Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology.

Speakers and participants are also expected from Middle Tennessee State University, Jacksonville University, the University of Michigan, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

On July 11, 2013, TSU and MTSU signed a memorandum of understanding to “develop strategic areas of research in data sciences.” The MOU called for the creation of a joint institution for data sciences that would seek to participate in and enhance faculty and student research training programs.

With funding from NASA EPSCoR, Dr. Ali Sekmen, professor and chair of the Department of Computer Science, said the data sciences workshop is an offshoot of the MOU with MTSU.

“Tennessee State University wants to be a major player in data sciences,” Sekmen said. “We have all of the various disciplines being offered on our campus, and this is the reason why we are combining our efforts with all of the key areas including computer science, mathematics, engineering, and agriculture resources to promote this workshop.”

Sekmen said the workshop would include mini lectures on mathematical background for faculty and graduate students on the first day before going into the research and technical aspects of data sciences on the second day. Additionally, there will be concurrent sessions for undergraduate students at a less technical level.

“Because of the highly technical nature of data sciences, we want to make sure everyone, especially students are on the same page when we begin to discuss the specifics of the discipline,” Sekmen said.

The workshop, also sponsored by the National Science Foundation and TN-SCORE, is free but registration is required. For registration and questions, go to http://www.tnstate.edu/computer_science/datascience/committee.aspx .



Department of Media Relations

Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209

About Tennessee State University

With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 42 undergraduate, 24 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.