Kennesaw State Fintech Students Gain Competitive Edge Working with Payments Industry Partners in Experiential Learning Course

KENNESAW, Ga. (May 20, 2022) — Georgia’s financial technology job market is exploding, and Kennesaw State University students are already gaining the experience needed to thrive. 

Kennesaw State’s Michael J. Coles College of Business has partnered with technology firm Unqork and payment processing firm Elavon, an Atlanta-based subsidiary of U.S. Bank, to give students real-world experience addressing challenges that professionals in the Fintech industry face every day.

Kennesaw State FinTech Experiential Learning Class

In Spring 2022, students in the Fintech experiential learning course worked together to develop solutions for multiple mission-critical problem statements provided by the Elavon. Students collaborated using Unqork’s no-code application development platform and Elavon’s innovative payment processing technology to create solutions to these challenges and present them to senior management. Elavon provided the students with real client data that had been anonymized for research purposes.

The kinds of business challenges students tackled included innovating payment processes to make them faster and safer for consumers and exploring ways to embrace blockchain and cryptocurrency for in-person payment transactions. 

“This experience is the type of education that is immediately and immensely relevant as a job applicant,” said Information Systems student Lindsey Doan, referring to the opportunity to work alongside real Fintech companies using real customer data. “It prepares students to have the types of conversations employers want to have in a job interview.”

Subject matter experts from Unqork and Elavon met with the students each week to provide feedback, answer questions, and evaluate the presentations. Glenda Barnett, Community and Industry Relationship Manager at Elavon, sees the collaboration with Kennesaw State as a way to educate and prepare students for the future of the Fintech industry.

“As one of the largest payment processors globally, Elavon’s participation is a natural extension of our efforts to support the next generation of Fintech leaders,” Barnett said. "The opportunity to engage with students on projects like the Fintech experiential learning course allows our organization to work with professors and students to bring the latest industry perspective, best practices, and insights to the classroom."

Kennesaw State’s Fintech courses are offered as part of the Georgia Fintech Academy, which is a partnership between 26 University System of Georgia institutions to offer Fintech courses to students systemwide. The Academy partners with major Fintech companies, including several in Georgia’s so-called Transaction Alley, to develop courses and professional development opportunities that address employers’ talent needs.

“The Academy’s primary focus is on preparing diverse students for careers in fintech," said Tommy Marshall, Executive Director of the Georgia Fintech Academy. "Seventy-plus percent of the Academy’s students are from underrepresented groups and over 30 percent are women. These stats held true for the 33 students that completed this exciting project."

Scott Henry, Elavon’s Vice President in Product Management, was impressed with students’ performance and adaptability during the course.

“There was a great amount of excitement within Elavon about our participation in this new program at KSU and the student teams delivered,” Henry said. “We were impressed by the growth of the students throughout the program, their willingness to embrace design thinking, and ability to seek out creative solutions to the defined problem statements.”

Information Systems Professor Solomon Negash leads the experimental learning course and is excited by the level of industry engagement the experience provides.

“This year’s experiential learning course gave students hands-on experience,” Negash said. “They had exposure to client engagement, meetings, and were able to directly ask questions to industry experts with 20 to 30 years of experience. A big part of the program was that students were able to improve their skills and send their resumes to the partners, making direct contacts with them.”

Elavon plans to return to the program in Spring 2023, meaning more students will benefit from this innovative opportunity. Charlie George, an Information Security and Assurance student who took the course in the spring, urges others to follow in his footsteps. 

“I would encourage any student who has grown bored with the traditional classroom setting; or who is looking for an experience where they can grow as a professional; or who wants to develop situational awareness through work projects using real methodologies and software platforms to take this course,” George said. “It will challenge you in ways that will definitively set you apart from other job applicants.”

-Daijah Sims

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