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ISDS Offers Innovative Programs to Help Pay Tuition and Costs of Certification Exams

By Keith Morelli

Shivendu ShivenduClinton DanielMatt Mullarkey

Shivendu Shivendu, Clinton Daniel, and Matt Mullarkey

TAMPA (May 24, 2017) -- An outreach program offered through the Muma College of Business' Information Systems and Decision Sciences department to teach technical skills to disadvantaged youths is taking place this summer with the hopes those students will be hired by the businesses that help support the federally funded program.

The initiative is one of two implemented by the ISDS department to pay educational costs. One program pays the fees for USF students taking expensive certification exams and the other pays the way for Tampa Bay region young people – not USF students – to take technology courses that will prepare them for better-paying jobs.

The Innovative Programming Boot Camp, the first of two this summer, is a month-long course that begins May 30 and targets young people - between 18 and 24 - in the region surrounding the University of South Florida. They must have an interest in technology and be ready to learn skills that are in demand by Tampa Bay businesses.

The program is fully funded by a federal TechHire Partnership Grant and CareerSource Tampa Bay and is free for students. It is taught by ISDS professors and instructors.

Last year, the federal government awarded Tampa one of 39 TechHire Partnership Grants. The $3.8 million gift was a major boost to the innovation district in the university area, making available training for underprivileged youths who want to land technology jobs.

The goal of the grant is to provide tech training for more than 1,000 young adults and low-wage workers in Tampa, to prepare them for employment in the IT and health-care industries. More than 150 local businesses were instrumental in supporting the grant application, along with USF, which agreed to provide much of the instruction.

"This initiative is intended to help young people unable to go to college join the technology workforce," said Associate Professor Manish Agrawal, chair of the ISDS department. The project is led by faculty members Shivendu Shivendu and Daniel Clinton, who are working closely with CareerSource Tampa Bay to run the two boot camps.

"The boot camps specifically are designed for this program," Agrawal said. "Upon completion of the boot camp, the USF team is committed to placing these students in entry-level roles at area organizations."

Companies looking to hire boot-camp graduates may contact Shivendu at or log onto the program website at

The boot-camp course will be taught by full-time USF faculty who, through guided one-on-one, hands-on exercises, will teach students how to solve business tech problems.

Once students have completed the core technology competency training portion of the program, they will be presented with a real-world business problem. Teams of students then will come up with solutions and have the opportunity to present their created products to business stakeholders.

The program teaches technical skills that are in high demand in the emerging Tampa Bay tech job market and upon completion, students will have:

  • a portfolio of work to demonstrate their skills to potential employers;
  • a certificate of boot-camp completion;
  • an opportunity to interview for employment with one of the primary corporate sponsors.

The boot camp isn't the only opportunity the ISDS department offers to those who can't afford to pay the education bill.

Limited scholarships for enrolled students taking certification exams, some of which can be fairly expensive, also are available.

The scholarships help students in their efforts to gain professionally marketable certifications, which can translate into better paying jobs. It is open only to Muma College of Business students, specifically those whose main field of study is in the ISDS department.

"The certification exam scholarship encourages students to plan to use their spare time productively," Agrawal said, "to prepare for these exams."

The scholarship, which is supported by local industry partners and is available on a first-come, first-served basis while funds last, reimburses students for the cost of recognized certification exams.

"Many students who are interested in these certifications do not work towards them because the exam costs are prohibitive," Agrawal said. "This targeted scholarship is designed to remove these financial barriers to professional success. These certificates will enable students to be more in demand in the job market."

SiteWit, a website analytics firm started by alumnus Ricardo Lasa, helped launch the scholarship.