Olympic medalist praises IST curriculum for preparing industry leaders

Jessica Hallman
January 15, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – As far as 2005 alumnus Adam Wiercioch knows — and as far as Penn State’s records show — he currently stands as the only alumnus of the College of Information Sciences and Technology that lives in Poland.

But that isn’t his only claim to fame.

Wiercioch, who was a student-athlete at Penn State, also holds an Olympic silver medal in fencing.

“Winning a silver medal [at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games] was a result of a nearly 20-year athletic career,” he said. “I barely missed the qualification to the games of 2004 in Athens, and it took four long years to collect standing points to qualify [for Beijing]. But it all ended great, with a medal on my neck, which I won also thanks to the athletic program at Penn State.”

Fencing is what led Wiercioch from his home country of Poland to Penn State, where he earned an athletic scholarship to support his education.

“Penn State was an opportunity that provided the best mix of high-quality higher education with a top-class athletic program,” he said.

With a lifelong interest in technology, Wiercioch found the College of IST to be a natural fit. He programmed toy robots as a kid and coded simple loop statements on his 8-bit Atari as a teenager, and he wanted a college experience where he could explore these interests further in his academic and professional career.

“Getting into a program [like IST] that combined technology with its business application was obvious for me,” he said.

As a student-athlete, Wiercioch needed to strengthen his time-management skills in order to balance academics with his athletic commitments and travels. Being an international student, he also had the unique challenge of adjusting to a different culture. He credits the faculty, staff and students in the College of IST with helping him to make these transitions successful, and those skills, and many others, have impacted him far beyond the classroom.

“The most applicable [classes that have helped me] in my career are case-based courses during which we were learning how to work in a group and during which we had to implement project management techniques,” he said. “This is what I find daily in the real world.”

One instructor in particular helped to change the course of Wiercioch’s professional endeavors. Wiercioch said that he especially values classes taught by Steven Sawyer, which were both academically intense and rooted in real cases.

“After going through one such course at the undergraduate level, I signed up to a graduate colloquium with Professor Sawyer,” he said. “This gave me an exposure to the world of academic research and was a motivator for me to pursue a master’s degree, which I have obtained in the field of IT management in a Grande École in Paris.”

Today, Wiercioch is a father of three and serves as manager of the support services center in finance and IT operations for KMD Poland, where he oversees teams and builds new business functions. He advises current and future IST students to gain all they can from the college’s introductory courses, and says that it’s never too early to start thinking about the future.

“I think that IST has a great curriculum, and new majors and options reflect what the job market needs and where the digital revolution is going,” he concluded. “The curriculum does not only contain techniques but also provides a bigger context, like social issues with regards to new technologies. The College of IST is preparing leaders of the digital revolution.”

Last Updated January 15, 2019