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Villanova Faculty Members Honored for Development of Interdisciplinary Mobile Phone Applications Course


Students discuss their work in Villanova's interdisciplinary "Mobile Device Programming" course.

VILLANOVA, Pa. – Villanova University professors Sarvesh Kulkarni, PhD, Frank Klassner, PhD, and Bill Wagner, PhD, have been honored with the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers’ Award for “Excellence in Entrepreneurship Teaching and Pedagogical Innovation,” for their development and implementation of a unique, interdisciplinary Mobile Phone Applications course at the University.

Last spring, Villanova’s Center for Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship (ICE) launched “Mobile Device Programming,” a new interdisciplinary course – taught by three professors – that brought together computer science, business and engineering students to partner on innovative work that would give them a leg up on coveted careers in the mobile app industry.

It was ICE Director Patrick Maggitti, PhD, who brought together Dr. Klassner from Computing Sciences; Dr. Kulkarni from Electrical and Computer Engineering; and Dr. Wagner from Accounting and Information Systems — and presented his idea for the course.

Dr. Maggitti had been aware that Dr. Klassner, director of Villanova’s Center of Excellence in Enterprise Technology (CEET), was conducting iPhone programming projects and that Dr. Kulkarni was studying the use of smartphone hardware for medical purposes in developing countries. He had also talked with Dr. Wagner about the size and growth of the app market. Inspired, Dr. Maggitti decided it was time to combine the disciplines in a single course.

With the help of ICE Advisory Board member James Drobile Jr. ’83 VSB, ’92 MBA, the course was brought to the attention of Anthony Melone ’82 COE, a College of Engineering advisory board member and global chief technology officer for Verizon Wireless. Melone convinced his firm to provide the class with five Droid X phones with data plans and tech support in addition to guest speakers. CEET provided iOS devices for students to program in the course and obtained free developer status for them through Apple’s University Developer Program.

The course was one of just two such programs sponsored by Verizon Wireless—the other is at the University of California in Berkeley. Teams of students— one each from computer science, engineering and business—were charged with combining their talents to develop and market a viable mobile application for either an Android or an iPhone.

“Working with business students helped me understand the market principles behind our application,” said engineering student Sai Gouravajhala ’12. “I learned important concepts such as market analysis, which I otherwise would not have fully understood. And the computer science students helped me figure out which features of our application were feasible, so we could better streamline it.”

Adds Greco, “It’s great to design an app, but you have to make sure it will sell. Coming from three colleges, we all had really different perspectives on the development process as a whole. There’s so much competition out there for jobs. This course made us all more well-rounded and marketable.”

This past summer, students who completed the inaugural “Mobile Device Programming” course worked for Apple Inc., Google Inc. and SAP—including Michael Greco ’12 VSB, who is spent the summer interning at Apple’s legendary headquarters in Cupertino, Calif.  Upon presenting work to Apple’s CIO, Greco was immediately offered a job at Apple post graduation.

Looking ahead, all three faculty involved in the development of the course – Drs. Klassner, Kulkarni and Wagner – will again be teaching the Mobil Apps class in Spring 2012. The course was filled immediately upon registration.

Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others.  There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's five colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing and the Villanova University School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them.