University of St. Thomas STELAR.
Mark Brown/University of St. Thomas

Preparing Students to Be Future Business Leaders in a Digital World

As the lines between business and technology have blurred, employers increasingly expect digital fluency from their employees. Students need digital readiness to stand out amongst their peers, signaling to employers that they are ready for the business challenges of the future.

“The tools used in business are evolving; it is important for students to have a solid foundation in digital technology [like AI, blockchain, virtual reality] so that they can quickly adapt to this continuously changing landscape,” said Sergey Berg, associate professor of computer and information science at the University of St. Thomas.

To answer that need, Opus College of Business launched a new undergraduate certificate this fall that prepares students for ongoing digital transformation in business and society.

“We are dedicated to developing leaders who thrive at the intersection of business, technology and purpose.”

Kristina Schatz, BDW executive director

The certificate places ethical uses of technology at the forefront, according to Kristina Schatz, executive director for Business in a Digital World. “It reinforces our overarching goal of ensuring that students support the use of technology for the common good.”

Business in a Digital World (BDW) certificate

As more companies and organizations change the ways they work and the tools that they use, students need job-ready skills that combine business and digital acumen. The courses and real-world learning experiences in the new certificate emphasize the leadership skills and competencies needed to deliver business in a digital world – responsibly.

“We developed this certificate in response to stated community needs,” said Lisa Abendroth, academic director for the BDW initiative. “Students want practical, hands-on learning, and certification that they are job ready. Employers want new hires who can bridge the skills gap between business and technology.”

AnnMarie Thomas, PhD, (left, with OK Go band member Damian Kulash) was among several St. Thomas faculty who co-created the new undergraduate BDW certificate for Opus College.

The Business in a Digital World (BDW) certificate was co-developed with a cross-disciplinary team of St. Thomas faculty who are experts in the fields of engineering, digital marketing, computer science and entrepreneurship. “Technology is changing the way we work and play,” said AnnMarie Thomas, Playful Learning Lab founder, and professor with a joint appointment in the School of Engineering and Opus College. “Having an awareness of, and ability to use, emerging technologies allows our students and graduates to innovate across disciplines and fields.”

Students stand out

Marketing clinical faculty Gino Giovannelli sees the certificate as essential in the current business landscape. As an engineer who has spent most of his career in marketing, he emphasizes the importance of collaboration to drive digital transformation.

“I’ve seen firsthand what’s possible when technology and business come together to unlock unique opportunities and create competitive advantages,” he said. “But that takes people who understand and have an appreciation for both sides.”

Entrepreneurship Professor Jay Ebben, part of the certificate development team, said the certificate helps students develop innovative skill sets that prepare them for dynamic careers.

Fast facts about the BDW undergraduate certificate

  • Developing job-ready skills. Students gain a foundational knowledge in emerging technologies, complete a real-word digital transformation project, and develop skills to mitigate potential unintended consequences of emerging technology. Learn about the two required courses that put real-world lessons into hands-on opportunities.
  • Interdisciplinary approach to innovation. Students can tailor the certificate to their own interest with electives, such as Digital Imagery and Sound (Digital Media Arts), Technology & Ethics (Philosophy), or Digital Design (Engineering), which expand their reach beyond business.

The new certificate was developed in partnership with the BDW leadership team (Schatz, Abendroth and Innovation Coordinator Calli McCartan) and the Business in a Digital World Faculty Fellows, including Berg, Thomas, Giovannelli, and Ebben.