IT students bring home GGC’s first national championship

AITP champions

Georgia Gwinnett College’s 2013 national AITP Conference delegation included (seated) Kimberly Heagy, Derek Donaldson, Nicholas Pyron, Joe Armendariz, Raymond Levesque, Christina Davis, (standing) Evelyn Brannock, Renee Sangosina, Danny Mansour, Stephen Antoine, Kevin Jones, Marcus Michalske and Lissa Pollacia. Not shown is Jonathan Gillman.

The Grizzlies have won their first national championship – not in athletics, but in academics.

Members of the Georgia Gwinnett College student chapter of the Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP) recently brought home the institution’s first national championship from the 2013 AITP National Collegiate Conference in Database Design, held in St. Louis, Mo.

The annual conference features a range of competitions. About 700 attendees represented 70 colleges and universities, including Purdue University, Brigham Young University, Texas State University and many more of the finest schools in the country. Student teams vie for 42 trophies in 14 categories, meaning that many of the competing institution’s teams go home empty-handed.

To prepare for the stiff competition, faculty advisors Dr. Lissa Pollacia, professor of information technology, and Dr. Evelyn Brannock, assistant professor of information technology, along with other dedicated faculty in the School of Science and Technology (SST), mentored GGC’s AITP members in the evenings and on weekends. Timed, four-hour practice sessions enabled the students to perfect their strategies under the same parameters as the conference challenges.  

The extra work paid off. The Grizzlies surprised the competition by winning trophies in three of the five contests they entered. Students Derek Donaldson and Nick Pyron took third place in mobile applications development. Marcus Michalske and Raymond Levesque won second place in Java development, and Kevin Jones and Joe Armendariz took the heavily coveted first place in database design … Georgia Gwinnett’s first national championship.

Levesque also won one of two prestigious $2,500 scholarships awarded by the Robert Half company. Also, a number of GGC students passed exams at the conference, either earning certifications in specific programs or moving them closer to certification, which increases their employability. In addition, the IT students bring home GGC’s first national championship conference allows students time to network with information technology professionals. Some even received interviews for jobs or internships during the conference.

Participation in AITP is attractive to potential employers, Pollacia said. Winning recognition at the annual AITP conference further increases a student’s chances for quality career opportunities. Pollacia recalled that a GGC alumnus who placed fourth at a previous AITP conference received a significant number of inquiries after he posted his achievement on his LinkedIn profile.

“Being a modern IT professional is not just about being technically competent,” Pollacia said. “The AITP motto is, ‘No matter how sophisticated the technology, it is still all about people.’ So, we are about helping students achieve and network professionally, which helps them get a jump start on a successful career.”

Students participating in GGC’s AITP work hard to build their leadership and professional skills. They participate in special projects, conduct fundraisers, participate in community service and interface with the Atlanta professional chapter of the AITP. Students attended this year’s conference with proceeds from their own fundraising efforts and registration fees provided by the School of Science and Technology.

“We are proud of these students and the faculty who supported them in preparing for this competition,” said Tom Mundie, SST dean. “We have observed a significant growth of students majoring in IT at GGC. Performing well at the national AITP conference indicates that not only are we increasing the number of IT majors but we are also producing quality graduates in IT.  We are delighted that our school has earned the college its first national championship, and I must point out that suitably, the trophies are green.”

Next year, the Grizzlies hope to defend their titles on home turf when the conference is held in Atlanta. 

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