IBM Academic Initiative

Building skills for a Smarter Planet

Spotlight on Dr. Matthew Nelson

Making business courses come alive

Nelson Dr. Matthew Nelson
Associate Professor, College of Business
Illinois State University, Normal, IL, USA

Professor Nelson is an Associate Professor in the Accounting and Business Information Systems Department. His courses include Information Systems in Organizations, Electronic Business, and Information Technology Auditing.

How do you ensure that students are prepared to succeed in business?

The fundamentals of business management, business information systems, or business intelligence can be taught in a standard way, with textbooks, PowerPoint presentations, and classroom lectures. Certainly, Matthew Nelson follows the norm. But, he also wants his students to gain practical, hands-on experience with the current tools used in the business world so they can maximize their skills for entrance into the global job market. And, he knows that business people do not work alone; they are always part of a team interacting with others, often in a worldwide community, to find and improve their solutions.

With these ideas in mind, he looked to the IBM Academic Initiative program and local industry partners to help him truly prepare his students for careers in the modern business world.

Introduce leading-edge technology and make it fun

As an Academic Initiative member, Dr. Nelson was able to get Cognos Business Intelligence software and make it available to students in his under-graduate and graduate courses. He also capitalized on the Cognos web-based courseware offerings to supplement his lectures. This enabled his students to learn the Cognos analysis and reporting tools and use them in their assignments and projects to test and apply the concepts they learned in class.

Dr. Nelson also introduced his students to two of IBM's serious games that enable people to visualize the consequences of their actions and explore different events in a visceral way. INNOV8 focuses on business process management using a fictional call center agency. CityOne presents common complex problems facing cities with more than 100 real-world scenarios. Working in groups, the students were required to complete several rounds of either game, document their winning and losing strategies, lessons learned, effective practices, techniques employed, and overall reflections.

Bring in the professionals

In his Business Intelligence Workshop course, students again worked in groups to review case studies, video testimonials, success stories, and then discuss their findings. These workshops are sponsored by the Katie School of Insurance and Financial Services, which maintains a close connection with the insurance industry. Dr. Nelson also brought in professionals from State Farm Insurance, Afni, and IBM to participate in a panel discussion. Both business panelists shared their experiences using the Cognos tools in their day-to-day analytics work. Dr. Nelson also serves as the faculty sponsor to the Illinois State AIS student chapter, which was recognized for its strong ties to industry partners and its work to share best practices and experiences.


The students are getting a well-rounded experience and a realistic view of the working world. Dr. Nelson old us "Our entire MIS/BIS program faculty and students are very GRATEFUL to you and IBM for providing these incredible resources!!! Simply put, we would not have been able to offer these modern, real-life, innovative resources to our students had it not been for IBM's Academic Initiative."

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