ASU, IBM Hosts Ground-breaking Blockchain Technology Conference

Staff Report From Albany CEO

Friday, February 23rd, 2018

The Albany State University Office of Career Services and IBM partnered to host a blockchain conference at ASU, bringing together students and faculty from several Historically Black Colleges & Universities, as well as students and teachers from the Dougherty County School system, other colleges and universities.  The goal of the conference was to create opportunities for students and faculty to learn about blockchain from industry leaders and create potential paths to new careers.

“We are proud to be the first HBCU to host a blockchain conference with IBM.  Preparing students for high-demand careers is one of our top priorities,” said Tracy Williams, director of the ASU Office of Career Services. “Partnerships with companies like IBM exposes our students to ground-breaking technology and opens the doors for future employment. Several ASU students have earned internships and have been hired by IBM because of this great partnership.”
State and national workforce data indicates that information technology is a key area of opportunity for future employment. The growth in the field is creating an increasing demand for people with technical skills to use and create new and innovative products and services.

The blockchain event at ASU builds on years of collaboration between the university and IBM, such as creating inroads to careers in mainframe computing for students. IBM’s blockchain technology runs on reinvented mainframe technology, making blockchain learning and experience a natural opportunity for students.

“IBM believes that educational institutions play a critical role in partnering with employers and communities to prepare students with the skills of the future,” said Misty Decker, of IBM’s academic initiative. “We have a long history of supporting those efforts starting with the first ever computer science curriculum in the 1940s. Efforts like today’s blockchain conference with ASU prepare students for the innovative jobs of today – and tomorrow.”

Blockchain is a peer-to-peer network that uses a shared ledger, smart contracts, cryptography, and consensus to create secure transactions between different organizations. Blockchain allows businesses to share data and exchange assets quickly and efficiently, and has the potential to transform finance, supply chains, healthcare and personal data.

The conference, entitled “Technology Link: Blockchain Conference 2018,” featured industry leaders who are engaged with the transformational technology. In addition to leaders from IBM, area industry partners in attendance included: Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, the Marine Corps Logistics Base, City of Albany and UPS. In addition to ASU and the Dougherty County School System, students attended from Albany Technical College, Fort Valley State University, Tuskegee Institute and Florida State University.

Conference highlights included:

ASU faculty member received IBM award

Dr. Robert Owor, interim chair and professor in the ASU Mathematics and Computer Science Department, was announced as one of the first class of IBM Z Champions. Owor is one of only 10 faculty members from colleges and universities across the U.S. to receive the award. IBM Champions are recognized for demonstrating both expertise in and extraordinary support and advocacy for IBM technology, communities, and solutions.

First participant in the ASU-IBM partnership program presented during the conference

Julious King is a senior Computer Science major at ASU and is set to graduate in May 2018.  He was the first participant in the ASU-IBM Partnership and was the first student to be hired by IBM from ASU since the partnership began in Fall 2016.  He currently works as a software engineer at IBM, providing IBM z/OS support in addition to working with a host of other related database, operating systems and network services and programs.

King was Captain of the ASU Cybersecurity Team, which participated in the 2017 South Eastern U.S. Collegiate Cyber Security Competitions.  He was the recipient of the IBM 2016 Master the Mainframe Award Part II.  He was also Captain of the ASU Team that won 2nd Place in the IBM BlueHack Hackathon in October of 2017. Prior to enrolling at ASU, Julious served in the United States Army as a Logistics Specialist.

ASU alum instrumental in forging partnership

Norm Walton is a manager for blockchain development for IBM in Durham, North Caroline. He served as a senior software engineer manager for many years until 2017, and continues to drive academic initiatives on college campuses as a recruiter liaison supporting the development business. Walton started with IBM in 1979 in Boca Raton, Fla., after graduating from Albany State College in 1979, with a degree in Business.  He was retrained as a computer programmer at IBM Chicago in 1987, after serving in different positions within IBM. Walton held several positions as a software engineer before being promoted into management in 2004.