Donna M. Grant

UNC Board of Governors 2018 Teaching Award Winner Donna Grant

North Carolina Central University

Teaching Philosophy

My teaching philosophy is to develop an environment where students can build their portfolio of tools, techniques, and approaches to equip themselves to become successful information technology professionals. As a professor, I teach theoretical concepts integrated with practical experience. In addition to my PhD in Computer Science, I have a Master of Science degree in Information Systems with a concentration in Project Management, an MBA in Finance, and twenty-two years of experience in the Information Technology (IT) industry, including ten years at the director level for Ameritech/AT&T. The topics that are covered in all of my classes include analysis, problem-solving, critical thinking, developing solution strategies with an increased focus on project management, and communication. Through exploration and collaboration with my students, we share experiences and discuss a variety of techniques to implement and manage systems. I truly believe that there is no right answer in the world of information systems, but there is a spectrum of different approaches for systems analysis, design, development, implementation, and management. While working on individual assignments and group projects, I encourage my students to analyze and resolve real world business problems.

In all of my classes, I expose my students to outside IT professionals and external networking opportunities. For example in CIS 4600, CSB 4900, CSB 4910, the senior capstone courses, one of the primary student learning outcomes is the development of a project book for an external client. For example, in Fall 2010 in CIS4600, there were 27 CIS students with four external projects running simultaneously. The projects were identified and established over the 2010 summer break. The external projects were: three projects from the Information Technology Department at Durham County and one project from the Raleigh Durham Airport Authority. Another example was in Spring 2017, a CSB student completed a Service Learning Project with the Fab Lab at NCCU to allow farmers to remotely monitor water volume, water quality and soil moisture and control water devices such as irrigation units and water valves from their smartphone. This is just a sample of the variety of external projects that my students have implemented in their senior capstone class over the last eight years.

The student project teams meet with their clients every two weeks and produce a project book. These meetings are held at the client's location or NCCU's School of Business. The book from each team is different but contains some of the following deliverables: the business problem, the project scope and constraints, the four feasibility studies for the project (i.e., financial, technical, operational, and schedule), the project development time and cost, the new business process model, the system requirements, the user interface design, the data design and the data dictionary. At the end of the semester, the students create and conduct an oral presentation to present the results of their systems analysis and design recommendations to their external client organizations, other students, faculty and staff.

The benefits of the external projects are to utilize partnerships to prepare our students for employment; establish networking opportunities with organizations and IT professionals; and for our students to gain the ability to demonstrate their skills and talents. In additional to the external projects, I invite external guest speakers to all of my classes to allow my students to meet and interact with IT professionals who are currently working in the field. I believe these exposures to real world IT experiences will enable my students to enhance their knowledge of IT strategies and operations in the business environment. I want to make a difference in the lives of my students by assisting them to be business-focused IT leaders.

In conclusion, I feel it is my responsibility as a faculty member and a former IT professional to not only teach, but to mentor, encourage, and empower our future IT leaders. While some of my colleagues have inferred that the activities described above are an extraordinary amount of work, I am willing to go above and beyond to help our students prepare for their internships, job searches, graduate school and/or future careers. Working with my students is not just my job and responsibility, it is my passion and destiny. It is not enough for me (us) to just teach our students. I (we) must work together to prepare this next generation of professionals to run (manage) our world. This is an awesome responsibility for our students and for us.

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