Penn State launches first online EA master's program in the world

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) has launched the first enterprise architecture (EA) program in North America and the first online EA master’s program in the world. 

The EA program is in response to the rapidly increasing demand for professionals with a unique combination of skills and perspectives to align enterprise information systems and technology with business strategy and goals.

"Enterprise architecture is often described as the bridge between strategy and implementation," said Brian Cameron, executive director of the Center for Enterprise Architecture at the College of IST and faculty program director of the master’s program.

Cameron says that enterprise architecture is the process of translating business' vision and strategy into effective operational planning. By integrating the various dimensions of an organization, he said, an enterprise architect takes a company's business strategy and defines an information technology system to support that strategy.

The College of IST has offered classes in EA for the past semesters, and the master of professional studies program in enterprise architecture (MPS/EA) was recently approved by the Penn State’s Board of Trustees. 

“Globally, we’re seen as one of the thought leaders in this field,” said Cameron.

The Center for EA, which was launched in January 2011, seeks to gather intellectual resources across Penn State to address research concerns and questions that span the design, functioning and governance of contemporary, information-driven enterprises. The center is guided, in part, by an external advisory board consisting of representatives from leading corporations, government and professional organizations.

Pete Forster, director of online programs for the College of IST, said that the MPS/EA program “epitomizes the values and goals of the college."

“It is extending cutting- edge subject matter taught by faculty who are strong academics, but have corporate experience, to new student populations,” Forster said. “This is a corporately informed program that addresses the realities and challenges of enterprise architecture in the public and private sector.”

The MPS/EA program has had a unique development process, according to Cameron. Since the inception of the Center for EA in 2008, he said, “one of the visions was to create an online master’s program.” Cameron raised about $500,000 in start-up funds from approximately 70 organizations on the external advisory board, all of which played a role in developing the curriculum for the program. Within two-and-a-half years, Cameron said, he had received both the internal and external support required to propel the master’s degree program forward.

The MPS/EA program is an innovative program, unlike any other program that is currently offered at universities, Cameron said. It is designed for working professionals who need to integrate strategic, business and technology planning methods with an ability to understand, analyze, justify and communicate the solution of EA problems. With an eye towards the international market, the curriculum accommodates individuals from all types of academic backgrounds with a minimum of two years of relevant work experience.

According to Cameron, the program is the closest available option to a chief information officer degree and pairs the most important aspects of an MBA program with courses in EA and systems. “This program prepares you for a wide variety of technology leadership roles in organizations,” he said.

The program, which requires 34 credits for graduation, includes courses in EA principles and practices, EA leadership and governance, cost and value management, business and project strategy and project and portfolio management. Initial elective areas that offer opportunities for further study in areas of interest include supply chain management, enterprise integration, security, software engineering, and project and program management. On average, Cameron said, the program will take two to three years to complete.

In addition to the master’s program, the Center for EA is planning to offer a degree focus area in EA that will be available to undergraduate students in the fall 2012 semester.

While large organizations have been the first to explore EA, mid-size and smaller companies are increasingly taking an interest in the field. As with all offerings at the College of IST, the MPS/EA program is designed to reflect the dynamic nature of industry and government.

For more information about the MPS/EA program, visit http://ist.psu.edu/online-education/. To learn more about the Center for EA, visit http://ea.ist.psu.edu/.

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Last Updated April 18, 2012