A new online graduate program, a Master of Science in information systems, will be available at Harding University starting January 2019.
Last semester, the department of information systems (IS) sent a survey to recent graduates and alumni about the idea to create a master’s program. They received overwhelming, positive responses, according to Reet Cronk, Chair of Information Systems. This month, the program was approved and greenlighted for the spring.
Cronk said the IS department is aware of the huge demand in the industry for analytics and wants Harding current students and others to have the opportunity to fulfill that need.
“We thought, well, not just undergraduates need this, but a graduate program could fulfill the analytic and cyber security need. There [are] over 1.5 million unfilled cyber security jobs in the U.S.,” Cronk said.
The department has put together six core classes for the master’s program, and Cronk said that anyone with any undergraduate degree is welcomed.
“There has been a huge demand in the industry for analytics because every decision is a data-driven decision,” Cronk said. “We want to get it out to businesses, advertising in Arkansas Business and social media — we want to make sure we serve our own, but also our community with this.”
Senior Coleman Branum said he is interested in the online graduate program, and since a lot of concepts build on each other, he likes the idea of picking up database design where he left off as an undergraduate.
“A lot of employers will pay for grad school, so it gives me the opportunity to start working right away while doing this program,” Branum said.
All IS professors are creating one or more courses in topics like cyber security, project management, analysis systems and design.
“I’m currently creating a data visualization course. This course is important in today’s data-driven world because visualizing data will so often reveal hidden information that isn’t easily recognized otherwise, especially when it comes to big data,” Emmie Mercer, professor of IS, said.
Mercer said she is looking forward to offering the program in a very popular and exciting field that is in high demand. The program will meld business and technology so that students can take these skills back to the workplace and make immediate and impactful changes.
Cronk and other professors like John Stone, associate professor of IS, shared the need for people in the fields of ethical security and data.
“The program will provide a highly sought-after master’s program taught from a Christian perspective, which would be a great asset to people working in these areas,” Stone said.
It is more than just giving students a skill set and education about cyber security and analytics; the hope is to have ethical individuals in a field that seems to be far from ethical, according to Stone.
“Today, we really need ethical security and data people, and we feel a sense of responsibility to educate students to behave the way Jesus would want them to behave,” Cronk said.