IBM, Fluor partner with UofSC

It’s now official: IBM--one of the largest and most respected technology companies in the world--is partnering with the University of South Carolina and will take up residence on the Columbia campus.

The partnership will create the Center for Applied Innovation, a place where experts from the university and IBM will work together to better serve higher education institutions nationwide and provide enhanced learning experiences for tomorrow’s college students.

Global engineering giant Fluor Corporation will be advisers to the Center and will join IBM in the Center. The Center will initially be located in existing facilities on USC’s campus and is expected to move to a new office building in the Innovista Research District anticipated to open in 2016.

“The Center for Applied Innovation is the realization of the University of South Carolina’s vision to advance higher education through strong, public-private partnerships,” said President Harris Pastides. “Through this collaboration with IBM and Fluor, USC students will have unique opportunities to learn both in and outside the classroom and further hone their IT skills.”

A new kind of learning

IBM has a long history of academic partnerships, including Michigan State University and Louisiana State University.  What makes this partnership unique is its singular focus on improving higher education.

“We’re an R1 research university with a significant statewide reach through our campus system,” said Bill Hogue, USC’s vice president for Information Technology and CIO. “That’s not frequently seen in a lot of other states and it gives us a great opportunity to create whole new models for higher education.”

One of the most ambitious projects the new Center will explore is the frontier of personalized learning.

USC also will be the first higher education institution to apply technology from IBM Research -- piloted by Gwinnett County Schools in Georgia -- to create a truly personalized learning experience for students and educators. Researchers at USC and IBM will work to apply Big Data and analytics to tailor individualized curriculum for college students, teasing out how each student learns to create custom lessons. “Of all the projects, this has the most potential to change the college experience and within 15 years dramatically transform the curriculum,” Hogue said.

A new way of doing business

The 10-year, $70 million deal approved by the Board of Trustees on Nov. 21 has a number of goals, starting with support and maintenance of many of the university’s existing enterprise applications, such as Blackboard, Banner and PeopleSoft systems. Other goals include working with the College of Engineering and Computing, the Darla Moore School of Business and other academic units to foster new learning environments involving students and private industry while improving local job opportunities for USC graduates.

“This is a partnership in the truest sense,” Hogue said. “This will raise the bar of service quality substantially while at the same time allowing IBM to open new market segments.”

Under the agreement, 59 current USC employees have the opportunity to join IBM while retaining many of the same privileges available to USC staff. The partnership allows the university to benefit from IBM training, processes and access to the latest advancements in information technology. University Technology Services will retain management responsibility for IBM’s performance of application service delivery while continuing to manage commonly used services like email, Service Desk, telephone, data communications and video operations.

The arrival of IBM and Fluor also may have big benefits for current students and new graduates looking for jobs. The center will provide students the opportunity to learn inside and outside the classroom and further hone their IT skills.

Attracting high-tech companies to campus has been a priority of USC’s Office of Economic Engagement, whose mission is to pair the intellectual capital of researchers with private sector companies. Bill Kirkland, executive director of the office, said having these two Fortune 500 companies located in the Innovista district is a win for the university and the Midlands.

“Companies like IBM and Fluor will help us retain top graduates while also attracting new talented people to Columbia,” Kirkland said. “We’re excited about this partnership because the creation of well-paying, high-tech jobs can foster substantial economic growth and dramatically boost the business profile of the Midlands.” 

Share this Story! Let friends in your social network know what you are reading about