Faculty Spotlight - Grandon Gill

Grandon Gill

When Professor Grandon Gill thought about courses available in the management information systems major most dealt with complex technical issues. But with the new format of the capstone course, Gill wants to get undergraduates thinking about how that technology will translate to the real world.

"The idea is to help our students understand what technology looks like when it's applied in the field, and how it changes when the environment is applied to your research," Gill said.

After being awarded a $171,000 grant last June from the National Science Foundation, Gill and his colleagues developed the course. The new class format gives seniors a chance to examine case studies from local businesses. While Harvard Business School spends about $30,000 on a typical case study, Gill said he was able to keep costs down by partnering with Tampa Bay- area companies and institutions. The inaugural class completed its first term in the spring, and Gill hopes to gauge whether a case-study based curriculum delivers an improved learning experience.

In the class, students examined challenges facing the companies and were asked to provide possible solutions. Among about a dozen case studies presented, students looked at whether a local construction consultant would benefit from having her own website and how the College of Business' technology department could replace its current website with a content management system. In the case of the USF website, the issues are different than what students might have learned about, Gill said, because tenured professors might want different things from a website than a corporate CEO.

"They don't really talk about that in the textbooks," Gill said. "They don't talk about the challenges that people present."

Gill said he has enjoyed seeing students interact with the decision makers in the case studies, many of whom sit in on the class discussions. He said he hopes the class can help students see how they can apply their classroom learning to a business environment.

"I think that they were surprised by the degree to which outside forces, beyond the pure technology forces, affect decisions," he said.

Gill, who joined USF in 2001, said case-study research is rewarding for him as well as the students because it has direct impact on the businesses he studies.

"My research is guaranteed to end up in the classroom," he said. "It's guaranteed to impact practice. It's impossible to write a case without having some influence on the decision making."