Harrisburg University adds to faculty lineup in analytics field

As a new addition to Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, Stephen P. Penn brings with him a background in the growing field of analytics combined with the drive to guide students in this ever-adapting sector of the IT industry.

While Penn prepares for his start as an associate professor at HU in January 2016, he’s looking forward to meshing his real-world experience with the ambition of students excited to learn all that analytics has to offer.

Dr. W. Rand Ford, professor of analytics at Harrisburg University, was the first to reach out to Penn when HU started pursuing a more in-depth, aggressive approach to breaching the study of analytics, Penn said.

Businesses today use data mining and analytics to drive pricing, marketing, R&D, finance, operations, logistics, risk management and online activities. At HU, students learn to identify patterns and trends; interpret and gain insight from vast quantities of structured and unstructured data; and communicate their findings in practical, useful terms.

“There is a high excitement level about how HU is bringing together great instructors, skilled graduates and successful hiring managers within Pennsylvania,” Penn said.

Teaching analytics has been a challenge because of how widely the subject reaches into other areas of study, Penn said.

Students who are coming out of college have a range of backgrounds related to analytics, and it can be challenging to accommodate the diversity and different skillsets that new graduates can bring to their career, he said.

One of the attractive but challenging sides of analytics is that it’s always changing and requires faculty and students to keep up with each advancement.

With a background in IT and management science, including project management at Lockheed Martin, proposal development at startup firms and programming and database administration, Penn believes his experience allows him to guide students through the technical aspects of computer science and the concepts of running a business.

“I hope to help students understand the importance of diversity,” Penn said. “Diversity is having a broad skill set. Diversity is having a balanced view of the whole organization in which they work. And, most importantly, diversity is working with other people that have different ideas, backgrounds and ways of getting things done. Appreciation for differences among people is a great starting place for innovation.”

As he prepares to start teaching at HU, Penn hopes to develop connections with businesses in Harrisburg and the surrounding region to help connect industry leaders, students and the analytics curriculum. He also looks forward to hearing what students hope to get out of their experience at HU and how he can help prepare them for a future in analytics.

“My contributions to Harrisburg University will be to jump in and join in on the work in building a great school,” Penn said. “I look forward to being part of a great team of educators who focus on helping students achieve the most from through their education.”