First cohort of Xerox Program scholars graduates from RIT

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Dan Howell

Michael Johnson, Xerox Corporation

Students from Xerox Corp. sites across the country met at Rochester Institute of Technology the week of June 1 to deliver final capstone projects and complete their degree programs as the first graduating class of the RIT-Xerox Degree Program. The program combines coursework from RIT’s Center for Multidisciplinary Studies and the School of Hospitality and Service Management in the College of Applied Science and Technology, and the School of Print Media in the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences. It is delivered primarily online.

“The students take 18 courses over a two-and-a-half year period. This first group of graduates will receive their bachelor of science degrees in applied arts and sciences,” says James Myers, director, Center for Multidisciplinary Studies.

RIT faculty worked directly with Xerox executives to shape a program that would allow employees to earn their degree with concentrations in management and printing services. Coursework and projects focus on initiatives taking place within the corporation, with an emphasis on improving service innovation through lean six sigma initiatives.

One of the graduates from the first cohort, Michael Johnson, participated in this recent on-campus summer session to deliver his capstone project.

“For the adult learner, the way RIT and Xerox custom fit this degree program has allowed us to be successful,” says Johnson, who has held different roles within Xerox on both the local and national level. “We have guaranteed access to faculty, materials and advisors just about anytime, so you can structure your personal life around learning. This way you have even higher chance of success.”

Johnson, a 13-year employee at Xerox from Austin, Texas, also participated May 22 in the 2009 graduation at RIT where newly appointed chief executive officer of Xerox, Ursula Burns, gave the commencement address.

“It was a great speech, timely and on the cusp of change at Xerox,” he says. “We are excited about the changes, proud of the work that outgoing CEO Anne Mulcahey did and just as proud of Ursula Burns.”

Another participant at the on campus program was Larry Montgomery, a Xerox employee of 33 years. He presented his research on growing revenue steams by improving customer knowledge of the features of Xerox products. While his research directly impacts customer relationships and Xerox service delivery, it was the learning and networking with others in the company through the online format that he said was just as important as his research.

“It is an opportunity to open up innovations for our customers and their customers,” says Montgomery, a field manager of the Technical Service Group. “This is a win-win-win for everybody.”

Students are recommended by their senior managers for the RIT-Xerox Program. The overall program is designed to provide the structure for continuous quality improvement and to ensure that the service-learning component can be applied immediately to current practices.

“I’m an advocate,” Johnson says. “People ask me about the program and I tell them it’s a commitment. Go into it knowing it will be a challenge. But, just jump in, take a course—and don’t look back!”