Jim Simmons: Bridging the Divide between Theory and Application in IT

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Jim Simmons enjoys teaching students at Tulane’s School of Professional Advancement. He said that because they tend to be nontraditional students who have already been out in the workforce, they come into the classroom with a more serious attitude.

“They have a different viewpoint,” said Simmons “and they bring into the classroom their own experiences from the industry.”

That was of particular importance to Simmons as he helped to develop the new Master of Professional Studies in IT Management online program.

Jim Simmons

As Senior Director of Applied Computing Programs, Simmons has a wide breadth of knowledge in academics and computing, and the program is designed to give tomorrow’s leaders tools they need to excel in their profession, whichever industry they happen to serve. He emphasized that today’s IT experts need to fully understand how their department fits into the bigger picture.

“IT is a service industry to the rest of an organization,” said Simmons. “Many of our students are looking to the future with a desire to become a CIO or CTO. This new program was designed to help those individuals where they are now in their careers and where they hope to go.”

“IT is a service industry to the rest of an organization”

According to Simmons, he and a committee of industry and faculty experts built out the courses in the online Master of Professional Studies in IT Management program with upper level management in mind. They especially considered IT governance and the best practices that have evolved over time.

“It’s imperative for managers to understand how the IT department fits into and interacts with the rest of the organization,” said Simmons.

With that goal in mind, the courses in the program focus on technical components such as enterprise architecture and IT security, and also on governance and policy, IT management and legal issues in IT and cybersecurity. Simmons said that there will be an emphasis on case studies and real-world scenarios. Noting that on-campus SoPA students bring their experiences from the industry into the classroom, Simmons anticipates that will be the case with the online program, as well. He said one of the differentiators of the program is a synchronous component where faculty and students meet in monthly virtual classrooms. The real-time sessions will give students an opportunity to share the challenges they encounter and give them tools to solve them.

Simmons is both a talented academic and an IT practitioner. He had a 20 year IT career and understands the importance of uniting theory to its practical application. So do the other teachers in the MPS IT Management program.

“Something that really makes our program stand out is the instructor pool. They are all working experts from the field,” said Simmons. “We’re not using people who are just teachers; they are doers. They are able to bring to the class real-world experiences that are different than just text book instruction. They can speak to the class and say, ‘This is what the book says. This is what really happens,’ pulling from their own experiences,” Simmons said. “It’s the real-world application of it all that matters.”

“Something that really makes our program stand out is the instructor pool.”

By way of example Simmons recalled a recent classroom event: “We had a project in class to upgrade an email system from Outlook 2012 or something, to Outlook 2017. It was a class project. Not long after we’d completed, one of the students contacted me. He said, ‘guess what we’re doing at work?” It was the very project we’d done in the classroom. He told me, ‘I know how to do it!”

“The goal of education is to bridge that gap of knowledge from classroom to the real-world experience,” said Simmons, “and make it make a difference.”

If you want to make a difference in the real world and in your own career, consider the online MPS in IT Management program offered at the Tulane School of Professional Advancement.

Our courses were built with practical application in mind and they are taught by expert practitioners who are passionate about what they do.