Q&A: Donna Covington of Delaware State University

Once an executive with Lexmark, a Lexington, Ky.-based global imaging company, Donna Covington understands the value of SAP SE, one of the largest suppliers of the enterprise resource planning (ERP) software that helps organizations manage their businesses. At Delaware State University (DSU), Covington helped launch Project Propel, a partnership with SAP SE and the Americas’ SAP Users’ Group (ASUG). The goal is to make DSU a center for excellence in enterprise technology and put students on the path toward a career and not just a job.

Why did you feel it was important for students to learn about SAP products?

There is a need for diverse talent — people who have this training and achieve a TERP10 certification (which covers the basic structures, organizational elements and master data in the SAP ERP environment). We wanted to make DSU a center for excellence. Del State would train faculty at other historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) around the country, and we would put [SAP training] in our curriculum. We were looking at ERP, big data/analytics and design thinking. Obviously, there’s a need in the industry for people who are trained in big data [large data sets that may be analyzed computationally for patterns, trends and associations] and analytics. Design thinking is a way of driving innovation.

Will the training teach students to work on the SAP platform in an IT capacity or how to use it in their business role — whatever that might be?

Both. Students would graduate with some knowledge of how to use the ERP system, and [in the colleges of math and computer science], students are trained to write applications for the SAP software. These computer science students could do apps and cloud applications around the [SAP software]. In addition to Project Propel, we want student engagement, such as a club called STOMPP, which stands for skills, talent, opportunities and movement through Project Propel. (STOMPP provides DSU students the opportunity to participate in various on- and off-campus activities and events to increase their knowledge and understanding of SAP.)

Where are you in the evolution of this initiative?

We have trained our own faculty. We’ve trained faculty … from HBCUs. We’re in the planning stages of doing another HBCU training. We’ve incorporated it into our own curriculum. We have students who’ve been in competitions using SAP, including one with Deloitte Consulting, which has a big competition in Texas every year. We haven’t won yet, but we’ll get there.

Is this a dedicated class or is it integrated into existing curriculum?

Both. We have five faculty who are TERP10 certified. This summer, we are doing our first student TERP10 certification. Any student can go through it. What this really is about is preparing students for careers. If you do the research, there are more jobs than there are people to fill them. We care about HBCUs across the country, and we’re happy to train the trainers.

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