James Karagiannes, Ph.D.
DeVry University Chicago
Teaching Field: Biomedical Engineering, IT
Teaching Field: Biomedical Engineering, IT
“If employers tell us that students need to have a certain skill (how to use AutoCAD, for instance), then so be it, we have a workshop and we start teaching them that skill. These skills workshops are voluntary supplements to what’s in the catalog and curriculum. There is no requirement to take them—and no charge for them either. Students can put them on their resume; making them more employable.”
My career has been varied and diverse, but always it has involved teaching and technology. My graduate work at the Illinois Institute of Technology focused on using a laser and chemicals for cancer therapy. I designed a first-of-kind apparatus for measuring absorption and transmission of light through tissue. A lot of what’s used in hospitals today for laser surgery and therapy came out of work done in our lab and a couple of others.
I was offered a job running the Academic Resource Center at IIT when I graduated. I taught there, became a dean and later the manager of IT support services for faculty, staff, academic departments and research groups. After about 10 years, I moved on to industry and built up a good-sized IT consulting business. For about 15 years, I worked with banks, insurance companies, medical practices and small businesses on computer management, security issues, and regulatory compliance.
Obviously I have followed my interests in life. I tell students, don’t think about what job is going to make the most money. The first thing to determine is what you really like to do. If you enjoy what you’re doing, that contributes to doing an extra-super job. If you don’t, you’ll never be any good at it and you won’t grow into your best self in that profession.
My years in consulting benefited me in a couple of ways when I returned to teaching and academic management positions at DeVry. I have a much better sense of how to bring technology to bear on business problem-solving; I bring a lot of experience and examples into the classroom. Consulting also gave me a vantage point that I share with students about what they are going to face when they step out in the workplace.
We are always testing out new concepts to improve and expand our educational offerings. For help with development, I often reach out to former colleagues and fellow practitioners in the Illinois Technology Foundation, which consists of 300-400 leading IT professionals. As I tell my students, part of your success is going to depend on personal relations within your professional networks. They can help you be effective in the workplace when you need to get projects done.
We take job preparation and job placement very seriously and work with every academic and support unit on the campus to ensure that our students get the best shot they possibly can. I have a faculty committee that meets regularly with the Career Services organization and our student success coaches. In addition, my faculty members personally placed 140 students in internship positions last year alone.
If employers tell us that students need to have a certain skill (how to use AutoCAD, for instance), then so be it, we have a workshop and we start teaching them that skill. These skills workshops are voluntary supplements to what’s in the catalog and curriculum. There is no requirement to take them—and no charge for them either. Students can put them on their resume; making them more employable. The faculty members teaching the workshops do it as part of their university service. This goes way beyond what most colleges do for their students.
At DeVry we go year-round; that’s an important concept. My son just started here last September and he was trying to get something going for summer break. I told him, “There’s no summer break, my friend, you’re on the express train now.” We really encourage students to get out of school as soon as possible. Every year that you are here instead of in the workplace, there’s a salary that you didn’t make; in addition, you’re paying tuition. The sooner you finish, the better off you are financially. A second related point is that we do not have a lot of social activities, clubs and fraternities that you would get at a traditional campus because we prioritize education over everything else.
DeVry turns out professionals with the potential to climb a career ladder. Because we prioritize education and profession, we instill the mindset that you get out of life what you put into it. A DeVry education is more than what goes on in the classroom. It is a unique and exciting learning experience in a remarkably diverse community. Our faculty love it here, and the students are very engaged with the faculty and each other.