Information systems professor uses passion for the classroom to share real-world experiences
A Millikin student turned graduate, a Millikin graduate turned faculty member - RJ Podeschi's tenure at Millikin University has spanned over two decades, with his current role as associate professor of information systems and chair of the Tabor School of Business Undergraduate Programs.
During those 20-plus years, Podeschi has served the institution in a number of capacities and his teachings are making an impact at the Tabor School of Business and beyond.
To learn more about his teaching mantra, we met up with Podeschi and decided to let some of his students (past and present) ask the big questions. Tom Emola, a 2018 information systems graduate and an MBA student from Frankfort, Ill., and Greg Schwoeppe, a senior information systems major from Fishers, Ind., conducted the interview.
"I like to treat students in the classroom like adults, and I try to make it as much of a workplace environment as you possibly can within a classroom," said Podeschi. "My philosophy has always been that learning is a lot like riding a bicycle – you might read books about a bicycle to begin with and we do the same things in class, we read about it and talk about it. Eventually you have to get on the bike and you get a chance to practice. I do that in my classes with labs and it gives hands-on experience."
Podeschi specializes in relational databases and IT infrastructure. Prior to his full-time faculty appointment, he served his alma mater for 11 years in a variety of information technology roles, primarily building and maintaining enterprise databases and administrative systems.
The majority of his information technology experience revolves around Oracle database administration and enterprise reporting. Previously, he has owned a local IT consulting company with two other partners serving the technology needs of small businesses in the central Illinois area.
Podeschi received his Bachelor of Science in Management Information Systems from Millikin in 2002 and his MBA from Millikin in 2004. He served as an adjunct faculty member at Millikin for two years prior to earning his full-time teaching post.
When asked about his favorite part of being a professor, Podeschi says he enjoys the one-on-one interactions with students.
"By working with students one-on-one, that's where I feel I can help support students the most," he said. "Sure, I could be carrying on a conversational type lecture-style in front of a class, but in the end I love it when students are working through a problem and they need someone to coach them through it."
Podeschi is the faculty advisor for Millikin University Performance Consulting, a student-run IT venture when students provide technical services to the campus community as well as the Decatur, Ill., community on a variety of technical projects.
Podeschi says student-run ventures are a great way to build confidence. "There's no textbook in these experiences. You're given a problem and you have to solve it with the tools you've previously learned or the experiences you bring in. These experiences are building the students' resume now instead of after graduation. Students are doing some of the work that they'll be expected to do when they are hired for their first job."