Jeffrey Alfano, a university lecturer in the College of Business, began his journey with Governors State University in 2004 as a graduate student.
After ten years in the workforce, including three as vice president of operations for Skipper Marine Electronics, he decided it was time to return to school to complete a Master of Science in Management Information Systems.
“GSU had the location and degree I wanted and the security of knowing that I would have my degree paid for through the graduate assistantship program,” said Alfano.
Not long after finishing his master’s degree, Alfano joined the faculty as adjunct instructor and served as the IT manager for the College of Business.
As a faculty member, he now teaches courses in information technology, information systems and networking.“I really like teaching, and I joke with my students that once GSU got me as a student, they couldn’t get rid of me. “I’ve been working here in various forms ever since I started my master’s degree.”
GSU Newsroom: What do you tell students about technology and its role in business?
Alfano: One of the things I try to tell my students is adopting technology for the sake of adopting technology isn’t appropriate. When you adopt technology, it has to match your strategy, whether you are starting your own business or working for a larger company.
GSU Newsroom: What do you hope your students get out of your class?
Alfano: For my undergraduate students, mine is a required course. For those wondering why they are in it, I try to teach them that they are a part of a larger system, and when operating in that system, there’s going to be some kind of technology. They’re part of a system and at some point they will be touching information processes for the business.
GSU Newsroom: What is the key tool you give your students?
Alfano: Excel and pivot tables.
Many job positions require you to analyze data, and in my Microsoft Office course I teach them in Excel how to do a pivot table. In my Management Information Systems course with juniors and seniors, I do a business simulation with SAP. In that project, they are placed in teams competing against each other selling six products. They have to identify the hot sellers, and I show them how a simple pivot table can analyze sales and give them the exact answer.
It’s one of those tools that, depending on what you are going into, can be very valuable.
GSU Newsroom: Although students are more tech savvy now, what are some of the challenges they face?
Alfano: Many of my students are digital natives. They always had a smart phone. With this generation of students, they know how to entertain themselves with electronics. I ask my students what their typical tech consumption is. Many say they do Facebook, take pictures, or use it to communicate or stream videos. But they don’t necessarily know how it can be used as a tool for other things.
Just because it’s technology doesn’t mean it’s good. I think we’ve lost many of our interpersonal skills because of technology. Businesses need to look at these things, how they can use technology, and if it fits with their mission or helps achieve their goals.
Is it going to improve efficiency? Does it help reach more customers? If any of those answers are no, then maybe they shouldn’t adopt the new technology. Sometimes tried and true is best. Use the KISS principle -- keep it simple.
GSU Newsroom: How do you connect with your students?
Alfano: In many ways, I am a first generation college student, so my real-world experiences are useful to share. The textbook is important, but I also share some things I experienced that I found valuable.
GSU Newsroom: What was your first computer?
Alfano: The Commodore Vic 20. I wanted to know how to program video games.
I watched the TV ads with William Shatner promoting the Commodore Vic 20 and I took my birthday money, rode my bike to Toys ‘R Us, and bought my first computer. It was a couple hundred dollars.
Later, I loaded up with nickels, dimes, and quarters and rode my bike to the Frankfort Library to photocopy the games printed in Compute! Magazine and typed those into my computer at home.
GSU Newsroom: What is a motto or mission statement you live by?
Alfano: I have a few. Trust no one—from a security standpoint. Save early. Save often. Always have a backup.,Plan ahead, get ahead, stay ahead. You know what’s coming up. You have to plan for it and deal with it accordingly.