Doing IT with class Featured

9:50am EDT July 22, 2002

Overseeing a department with 2,600 employees and a budget of $250 million, Geno Natalucci-Persichetti keeps track of a lot of paperwork.

In December 1997, however, the director of the Ohio Department of Youth Services found a better way — and saved thousands of dollars in the process.

Natalucci-Persichetti called DeVry Institute of Technology and learned that student interns and seniors working on projects could help him with database needs in human resources, finance and planning.

“The quality of the students we’ve gotten out of there has been so outstanding that it has been hard to believe, and the projects they’ve done for us have been so good that they’re helping us move into a more efficient situation,” the director says.

Already the students have developed:

  • An automated telephone database for the department’s 220 central office employees.

  • A computerized organizational chart of all the department’s employees. The students are working to integrate the chart with payroll information to track personnel costs.

  • A labor relations database. “We have three major unions. About 70 percent of our line staff are unionized,” Natalucci-Persichetti says. “We have to track their union status, disciplinary actions and personnel movement tied to different union contracts.”

The students continue to work on other projects, including databases for workers’ compensation, occupational injury leave and disability.

“All these things are related to trying to reduce the paper,” Natalucci-Persichetti says.

The partnership has reduced costs, as well.

ODYS over the past year and a half has paid interns an hourly rate; senior project teams provide their work for free.

“We spent $47,000,” he says, “but using a business rate, we’ve probably saved at least $138,000 of what we would have spent. If you use the more conservative government rate, with state employees doing the same amount of work, we still saved $70,000.”

DeVry has formed partnerships like this for almost 15 years with businesses, government entities and nonprofit organizations such as American Whistle Co., German Village Society, Bron-Shoe Co. and St. Stephen’s Community House, says Michael J. Stamos, a professor and chair of accounting and business administration at DeVry.

Businesses or organizations interested in using DeVry students present their idea to the school, and professors or advisers review it to be sure it qualifies.

“Our students are meant to learn from the experience and the people there,” says Dr. Galen Graham, president of DeVry Columbus. “It’s intensive for the clients, too; they mentor the students and provide them with resources.”

ODYS did that with the help of David Billman, a retired finance director from the department who has returned to do special projects in Natalucci-Persichetti’s office. He spends 25 to 35 percent of his time mentoring the students and coordinating the projects.

“That’s part of the magic to make it work,” Natalucci-Persichetti says. “You’ve got to have somebody committed to working with the students.”

The director also likes the fact that his department was able to interview the project teams and choose the interns.

“The benefit is bright, young people who are eager and who want to motivate themselves to do their best, whether to impress the employer or get their resume ready,” he says. “They also bring in the latest ideas in IT that corporations might not have access to that quick.”

How to reach: DeVry Institute of Technology, Michael J. Stamos, chair, accounting and business administration, 253-7291, ext. 1386; mstamos@devrycols.edu

Joan Slattery Wall (jwall@sbnnet.com) is a reporter for SBN.