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The World Acting Globally

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International students blend business and tech with SPU’s information systems management degree

By Clint Kelly | Photo by Mary Campbell

Megha RaoMegha Rao and her Nordstrom team of data engineers and program managers specialize in business intelligence and analytics.

When Megha Rao of Bangalore, India, decided to pursue a master’s degree in the U.S., she looked at the program options offered by universities in the Pacific Northwest. While a number of them offer degrees in information systems management, Seattle Pacific University has the ideal mix of system integration, program management, and data management that she sought.

Garima Agrawal MS ’13 of Ghaziabad, India, wanted an ISM master’s degree program that would complement her MBA in finance and her experience as a business analyst with J.P. Morgan and as a customer insights analyst with Walmart India.

Both women found the ideal mix — technical expertise, rigorous study, real world mentoring, and fertile business contacts — to accelerate their progress into their chosen fields. Rao MS ’13 oversees a team of 20 as a senior IT manager for Nordstrom. Agrawal is a business systems analyst for Concur, a firm that provides automated travel and expense management to its worldwide business clients.

“I waited for the right time, the right program, and the right university,” says Rao. “My SPU professors became my friends, philosophers, and guides. They provided valuable feedback and introduced students to industry contacts. They brought out the best in me.”

Nordstrom, long her favorite corporate brand, supported her master’s degree studies while she worked for the company full time. “I started working for Nordstrom two quarters into the ISM program,” says Rao, whose IT team helps the multi-billion company make data-driven decisions based on customer shopping trends and patterns. “I could immediately apply the programming practice and principles learned in class and measure their success on the job.”

Agrawal found valuable guidance from Professional Development Specialist Daniel Hallak in the School of Business, Government, and Economics. “He assisted me on more than one occasion in tweaking my résumé and coaching me,” she says.

She secured an internship at Concur, which she says was a good balance for her — neither too heavily business or too hardcore IT. The summer internship turned into a full-time position, and the division she joined has grown from two positions to a team of seven.

“Garima is one of the smartest ISM students I’ve had the privilege to work with,” says Ryan LaBrie, associate professor of management and information systems in SBGE. “Her internship at Concur was so well done that out of 81 interns, she was chosen one of the top 11 to present before company executives.” LaBrie says many of the international students, such as Agrawal, come with another master’s degree and several years of experience at large multinational firms back home. And Rao worked three-and-a-half years as a systems engineer for Fidelity Investments in Bangalore before coming to the States.

The international population studying at Seattle Pacific represents 35 different countries. “The MS-ISM program has always had a strong international student presence,” says LaBrie. “The outstanding ones are giant fans of their degrees from SPU.”

Want to learn more about SPU’s master of science in information systems management? Visit