Overall Excellence in Innovation

Salesforce Higher Education Summit 2018

The University of Montana BMIS 372 - Information Infrastructure class introduced Salesforce and Trailhead as the foundational technology to teach students about the evolving nature of information systems, specifically around Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service, and Software as a Service.

The University recently concluded the third session of this class, which taught 75 students (mostly Seniors) across two sections. The class was co-taught by my company, Advanced Technology Group (www.atginfo.com) which is a consultancy that works extensively with Salesforce (we are a Salesforce Ventures portfolio company). ATG provides in-class instruction and guidance, and students leverage Trailhead to learn the basics of Salesforce. In addition, students were given 'office hours' where they would come and collaborate with ATG consultants, often being supported by people who had been in the class the previous year.

The public/private collaboration is truly innovative, and the students absolutely rave about the experience.

Peter Coffee - VP of Strategic Research for Salesforce, has been a guest lecturer in the class, and this year was one of the judges for the final competition. His engagement is a true delight for the students. Peter has mentioned many times that this is the most innovative public private collaboration that he has witnessed.

The instructor, Professor Cameron Lawrence, is retiring this year and has stated that this class was the pinnacle of his educational career, and the model for education moving forward.

We believe this class is an exceptional model for how Salesforce will tackle creation of 2.2 million jobs by 2022. We are working to establish similar models with a university in St. Louis, as well as with ATG partners in Poland, Argentina, and Australia.

Students from this class typically have multiple job offers, with students selecting Accenture, Microsoft, ATG, PWC, KPMG, Google, and others. Students have stated many times that this class gave them a ‘leg up’ on the competition and gave them the confidence that they could work in the technology field.

Supporting Material

Below is the content of an email sent to Professor Cameron Lawrence and ATG's Tom Stergios.

Cameron and Tom,

 I’d like to thank you both for the chance I’ve had during the past few months to observe, and participate in, the remarkable collaboration that is BMIS 372. For more than a year, I have been describing the joint efforts of the University of Montana and ATG to industry and educator groups in the EU, Australia and India, as well as throughout the US and Canada, as an existence proof of a transformed model of student preparation for decades of professional contribution. The final project judging process for BMIS 372, earlier this month, gave me my best opportunity yet to appreciate what has been accomplished here – and to offer my continued personal support for building on this foundation.

(I've reduced words here for 500 word limit, but basically Peter said he works with many educational institutions and their current model is ineffective)

 With these criteria in mind, BMIS 372 represents an extraordinary accomplishment. The students are not merely presented with material to be absorbed, but are expected to go below the surface of the assigned readings to understand the origins of the ideas and to generate additional insights – and to lead discussions with their peers. The presence of technology in the class is centered on the problems to be solved, and considers second-order aspects of creating innovative ventures and introducing change into organizations – not merely settling for investigating the mechanisms and the capabilities of new tools.

 The use of the Salesforce platform as the basis for the major project should not be dismissed as merely a familiarization with an employable skill set: it also serves to elevate the level at which the students can be expected to begin their work, and consequently enables students to deliver results of genuinely professional caliber while experiencing impressive personal growth. Watching the teams do their final presentations, I saw many examples that I would gladly use to train our own people in showing our customers an answer to their own (perhaps unrecognized) needs – not just a product or service that we hope they will buy. The role of ATG’s dedicated participants, and their generous and energetic contributions of time and knowledge to the students’ learning, was impressive and wonderful to see.

 The model of BMIS 372 could be abstracted from its specific subject matter to offer valuable guidance to instructors in many disciplines. The next generation of higher education will invite, both in the classroom and out in “office hours” engagements (like those offered to the students by ATG), the reality check of current practitioners’ perspective as a means to energize – not to replace – the rigor and depth of a university-level academic environment. Thank you for the chance to see it done so well. 

 Regards and best wishes,

 Peter Coffee VP for Strategic Research Salesforce