FHSU teams with Cisco to make interesting, lucrative careers possible in the new field of 'networking'
08/23/2000

HAYS, KS - A young mother of two who attended multiple colleges seeking the right one a young man who worked on the family farm on weekends and holidays during college ... a nationally known auto marketing consultant ...

What could these three people possibly have in common? They all found their way to an innovative academic program built around advanced Internet skills. They are joining an emerging group of high tech professionals who call themselves "networkers."

Elizabeth Bharaniah attended three colleges before finding FHSU's Information Networking and Telecommunications degree program and its Internetworking certification program. In December 1999, Bharaniah became the first woman from the new program to earn Cisco Certified Network Associate, or CCNA, certification. She graduated from FHSU in May. After a trip to her husband's home country of India, she began work at Sprint's elite Westwood Lab telecommunications and network research facility in suburban Kansas City.

"Networking opened doors and opportunities for me as a woman one wouldn't normally expect," Bharaniah said. "Now I am immersed in one of the world's top communications research labs and having a great time."

Matt Schamberger is from rural Trego County where his family farms. "I always have liked technology," Schamberger said. "I knew that Fort Hays is well regarded as a 'high-tech, high-touch' university and I decided that telecommunications and networking offer incredible opportunities for the future. From my first day in college, I wanted an Information Networking degree." Like Bharaniah, Schamberger earned the CCNA before graduating from the university. He and two other May INT graduates took a trip to Europe before he began his job at Qwest in Denver as a network design engineer.

Schamberger said, "We wanted to see a key chunk of the world before we started work. One thing we learned in the INT program is that information technology is tearing down political and economic barriers worldwide. There are some incredible opportunities that are opening for the technology leaders of our generation. We wanted a first-hand feel for Europe because our economy and that of the EU are becoming more closely intertwined every day." Schamberger interned after his sophomore year at Sprint, after his junior year at Qwest, and had job offers from these major firms and several smaller ones. During college he worked in the university's Computer and Telecommunication Center assisting with upgrading and expanding campus networks.

Paul MacDonald is a nationally recognized automotive marketing and management consultant. MacDonald is quoted by various publications, including Money magazine and Automotive News. He owned a successful Chevrolet and Mazda dealership until two years ago, when he decided to sell the dealership and concentrate on consulting work. MacDonald has been technology savvy for years, but he realized that most dealers are not. He decided to expand his dealership consulting to technology consulting. In order to hone his technology skills, the 48-year-old MacDonald plunged into the Information Networking program at FHSU.

"I thought it might be strange being in classes with 20-year-olds, but we hit it off right away," MacDonald said. He added, "I am proud of holding my own with the Internet generation." MacDonald said that a major asset of the program is that many of his studies have been through on-line instruction that has fit his busy schedule, and he has been able to work in FHSU's Advanced Technology Lab when he is in Hays. MacDonald is working on CCNA certification and is picking up other classes that he believes will be valuable to him. He has found that many skills learned in class are immediately applicable to his work.

Kevin Shaffer, assistant professor of Information Networking and Telecommunications at FHSU, said, "Our goal in the INT program is to provide valuable skills for students working in an information economy. To do this, we are offering much of the INT program, including Cisco certification, over the Internet. We are one of the first higher educational institutions in the country to create a 'Virtual Lab' for students to use to practice configuring routers. Distance students will have the option of using Internet access or dial-up modem access to work through lab scenarios." Shaffer added, "We also provide on-line Cisco students in the Internetworking classes with a cool networking kit, cable and exercises that they have to undertake wherever they are."

Not just students but employers have been thrilled with the FHSU program. Mark Bannister, chair of the INT Department, said, "We have employers calling with more jobs than we have graduates. Global powerhouses such as Southwestern Bell, Sprint, Qwest, Nortel, Cisco, and Wal-Mart's corporate offices are among the best known of employers, but small businesses, independent telephone companies, hospitals, and Internet service providers (ISPs) are in the fight for our graduates." Bannister said, "During a presentation to INT students last spring, representatives of Sprint said that their company would hire 200 people with bachelor's degrees and CCNAs immediately if they were available."

Bannister pointed to a study recently cited at the national Networkers Convention in Orlando, FL, which drew in excess of 6,000 people. The study projected that 1.6 million jobs would open this year in the United States for persons with networking skills. The lack of available skilled employees means that only 800,000 of the jobs will be filled. Bannister pointed out that these jobs are not staying open because of a lack of salary incentives. He said, "Our May 2000 graduates averaged about $45,000 per year for their first-year salaries. We had several students who will earn more than $50,000 their first year based upon salary and bonuses, and one who will start his first year out of college with a package worth more than $60,000."

What to do? In 1998, FHSU and Cisco developed the Kansas Cisco Academy System to expand the number of people with Internetworking skills in the Sunflower State. Today, the FHSU regional academy has 23 local academies scattered across Kansas from Seward County in the southwest to Johnson County in the northeast. Urban academies include Butler County Community College's academy near Wichita to Rexford High School's academy in rural northwest Kansas. Because of the success of the system, Cisco and Fort Hays will open a second regional academy system in order to involve more community colleges and high schools.

FHSU President Edward H. Hammond said, "The beauty of the system is that if a high school student takes the Cisco networking curriculum and passes the CCNA exam, he or she is definitely employable. If that student earns a community college or technical college degree with the CCNA, he or she has moved up a step in the job market. We have designed a university academic program that allows students to work the CCNA into their degree and to pursue even higher levels of certification. Indeed FHSU has upper division undergraduate and graduate students working on Cisco certification. Anywhere along the way that a student stops, he or she is employable. The further the student moves along in his or her learning, the greater the job opportunities and salary he or she is likely to have."

Department Chair Bannister said that people are noticing the FHSU program. "When we were in Orlando for the Networkers Convention," Bannister said, "Kevin Shaffer, Adjunct Professor Ron Rohlf and I had the chance to meet John Chambers, the president of Cisco, and to talk briefly with him." Chambers asked the FHSU trio how the Cisco curriculum was working at the university and said that FHSU was doing an excellent job with the networking program. Bannister said, "John Chambers is right there beside Bill Gates as one of the most influential people in information technology on the globe. We were thrilled to be among the handful of conference participants to meet him. We were even more pleased to know that our university is on his global map."

How does it feel to be educating students who are often earning more than their teaching faculty the first year they enter the workforce? Angela Eggers, a first-year instructor in the FHSU INT Department replied, "We are teaching because we believe in what we are doing and we know we are succeeding when our students are successful. We are getting a great deal of satisfaction from this success."

President Hammond added, "We are extremely proud of our graduates, but that does not mean we don't remind students to donate back to the department and university that helped to open opportunities!"

For more information about the program or to enroll, call (785) 628-5373 or visit the web site at .


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Kent Steward, Director   |  ksteward@fhsu.edu  |  Kurt Beyers, Assistant Director   |  kbeyers@fhsu.edu