MS-ISM students working on a project.

MS-ISM program fosters ASU employee professional development skills

W. P. Carey partnered with Enterprise Technology to support employees taking the next step in their careers.

Molly Loonam

Two years ago, Brooke Lipsitz (MS-ISM ’23) was investigating continuing education opportunities when she heard ASU Enterprise Technology was partnering with W. P. Carey to support Enterprise Technology employees enrolled in the Master of Science in Information Systems Management (MS-ISM) program.

"As a lifelong learner who highly values education, I always knew I wanted to pursue a master's degree but I also struggled to justify the risk of taking out hefty loans for something I feared I may not be capable of finishing. I just didn’t have the means to do that, and my limiting self-beliefs held me back from pursuing what was most important to me," says Lipsitz, an Enterprise Technology product manager.

Degrees like the MS-ISM program help students build business critical and highly relevant technical and professional skills while preparing them for leadership roles. Still, tuition costs are a barrier to entry for many potential students. To make the degree as accessible as possible for its employees, Enterprise Technology supports employees enrolled in the MS-ISM program by covering most fees not included in ASU employee-qualified tuition reduction. The opportunity came at just the right time for Lipsitz, one of 10 employees to graduate from the partnership's first cohort last year. Another 15 employees will graduate this spring.

As a W. P. Carey MBA graduate, John Rome, deputy CIO of strategic partnerships at Enterprise Technology, understands how continuing education positively impacts students in and outside the workplace. Rome approached W. P. Carey's leadership about the partnership when employee retention declined during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"There are a lot of really desirable programs at W. P. Carey, but there are also large program fees," says Rome.

Christine Whitney Sanchez, Enterprise Technology's chief culture officer, says the organization's partnership with W. P. Carey allows Enterprise Technology to cover those program fees.

"Through our support of lifelong learning and our dedication to employee wellbeing, this program has helped us to retain valuable employees," says Sanchez. "At Enterprise Technology, we are dedicated to co-creating a collaborative culture. The MS-ISM program aligns with us by teaching collaborative skills."

The MS-ISM program offers four specializations beyond its core curriculum — data analytics, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing — so students can customize their education to align with the evolving demands of their industry, but the degree’s value goes beyond formal technology and infrastructure training by encouraging camaraderie in the workplace. Lipsitz says her greatest takeaway from the MS-ISM program was something she didn't anticipate: The value of networking.

"This program fostered a special and uniquely supportive environment that helped build and broaden working relationships between employees who hadn't worked together previously," she says.

Sanchez says the partnership is perfect for employees prepared to take on a hefty master's degree program to reach the next stage of their careers.

"The MS-ISM program is such a great fit for many at Enterprise Technology that many employees who aren't in super technical roles have opted to take it," says Sanchez. "The values embedded in the MS-ISM program align well with our BRAVE Positive Core values — Belonging, Relational, Authentic, Visionary and Empowered. That makes a difference."

With over 25 years of IT industry experience, Associate Director of Engineering Douglas Nguyen (BS Computer Information Systems ’22, MS-ISM ’23) was one such employee interested in pursuing a master's degree to grow his leadership skills. He says the program was instrumental in helping him foster personal and professional development skills while building lasting relationships with his peers and played a key role in preparing him for his current position.

"The MS-ISM program was pivotal in sharpening my soft skills, which are essential for fostering relationships and driving organizational change," says Nguyen. "It equipped me to empower and advocate for others and laid a foundation for a culture of support and growth within my team and organization. The focus on interpersonal skills has been crucial in my role, enabling me to lead more effectively and contribute significantly to our workplace culture."

Impact beyond ASU

W. P. Carey began partnering with Enterprise Technology long before supporting employees through the MS-ISM program, and between September 2022 and February 2023, W. P. Carey faculty collaborated with Enterprise Technology staff to deliver a first-of-its-kind cloud-focused pilot program to an ASU partner to upskill and reskill its employees. The program aimed to enhance cloud student knowledge and productivity by focusing on the five cloud building blocks — cloud platforms, containers, data platforms, data integration, and data visualization and analytics.

In 2021, faculty and staff developed the course curriculum and delivered it to three cohorts over seven days. Each cohort comprised between 20 and 25 students, and all courses were delivered online.

The program's objectives were to identify the partner's desired learning and performance outcomes for its employees, prioritize learning to fit the partner’s business context, and evaluate the program for effectiveness. Students participated in pre- and post-program assessments and daily surveys, and each student’s supervisor evaluated their employee's job-relevant skills after the program concluded. The program's effectiveness achieved many positive results that went beyond positive feedback about the program. For example, in surveys to the learners’ supervisors post-program, supervisors reported strong retention in their employees' knowledge. Most importantly, employee productivity relative to cloud skills significantly increased compared to colleagues who did not participate in the program. In a detailed review of program outcomes, W. P. Carey and its partner confirmed a positive return on investment for the program.

"The program showed an average annual salary savings of $2.1 million, and because the employees became more efficient, the company's headcount increased by 26 employees," says Ryan Chase, senior director of Executive Education, Corporate Partnerships, and Lifelong Learning. An analysis of ServiceNow work activities for program participants showed a 58% increase in the learners' job performance and simultaneously increased their performance measured against world-class service level agreement (SLA) performance post-training.

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