Academics

How M.S. in MIT Director Stefano Grazioli Prepares Students for an Ever-Changing Digital World

Grazioli and his fellow faculty members in the M.S. in MIT Program make it their mission to monitor emerging digital technologies and the possible ramifications of those technologies in the business world.

Professor Stefano Graziolo teaching

How can businesses rise to meet and shape new technologies, using digital transformation tools to take on the challenges and opportunities of their industry? And how can the people behind those businesses—leaders in management and technology—pave the way?

Those are some of the most essential questions that Stefano Grazioli, Professor and Director of UVA McIntire’s M.S. in the Management of Information Technology Program, grapples with in his teaching and research. He is deeply interested in how businesses can use information technology to create “better products, better processes, better services, and better decisions,” as he puts it, and in the technologies that make those changes possible.

Preparing for a New Frontier: The Metaverse

Grazioli and his fellow faculty members in the M.S. in MIT Program make it their mission to monitor emerging digital technologies and the possible ramifications of those technologies in the business world. Together with their students, they explore how emerging technologies can improve customers’ experiences and meet their needs in new ways, enhance organizational efficiency, and enable businesses to enact positive change.

“I am interested in digital innovation and in enterprise architecture—the technology that connects different digital innovations,” said Grazioli. In all of his courses, he uses his own experience and research to prepare students to apply emerging digital technologies in their workplaces, finding ways to improve business processes, strengthen data management, and offer more value to their organizations and customers.

Grazioli can quickly run through a list of technologies that currently intrigue him, from drones and mobile devices to virtual reality, quantum computing, digital currency, NFTs, and artificial intelligence. Then there is the metaverse—a term for a virtual world that several tech companies, including Meta (formerly Facebook), have staked their future on.

“My most recent research focuses on the metaverse as it applies to business,” Grazioli said. “It is extremely interesting as a concept, and I am particularly interested in its relevance to the IT practitioner.”

The metaverse could not exist without IT professionals accessing and building it for their own organizations, Grazioli points out, and IT leaders must consider both the user experience and the resources needed to effectively construct a compelling digital world.

“The technology is so complicated that it forces us to bifurcate competencies: Engineers must construct this world, while business leaders must worry about how their consumers will experience it,” he said. M.S. in MIT students will be able to bridge that gap—pairing technical knowledge with strategic vision and leadership.

“We are equipping a generation of leaders who will understand complex technologies like the metaverse and also be able to identify businesses uses and explore how to use emerging technologies to provide better services and make people’s lives better,” Grazioli said.

Leading in an Evolving Digital World

In all of his research, Grazioli focuses on how the technology and digital transformation tools he studies apply to IT leaders and the challenges that they face.

“Our students in the M.S. in MIT Program are mostly full-time employed individuals who have an average of 12-13 years of work experience,” he said, noting that students in the one-year program come from a wide range of industries and work with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, consulting firms, and more. “I connect my research to my teaching very directly, and to their work in the field.”

M.S. in MIT students, he said, will become the leaders trying to understand what the metaverse is and identify its business uses. How can we use the metaverse to provide better services and make people’s lives better, more entertaining, or easier?

“I don’t think anyone can predict exactly where the metaverse is going, as the technology is changing rapidly,” he said. “That is one reason it is so exciting to be in this arena. There are always new things, new digital transformation challenges, and new problems for our students to solve. I think I have one of the better jobs in the world.”

Grazioli also loves to see the progress that his students make during their time in the program.

“Many change their jobs, get a promotion, or get the position they were aiming for,” he said. “Students tell me the program has been truly life-changing. At its best, it empowers them with the ability to think not only like an engineer or a computer scientist, but also like a manager and leader. That is a big and important shift.”

Students who succeed in making that shift, Grazioli said, can help companies think about the capabilities enabled by these new and emerging technologies and how they can be used in business settings, and they use enterprise design thinking to determine what resources are needed and what steps companies should take. Those skills are extremely valuable as businesses respond to ever-evolving digital world and seek to be the best in their field.

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