James Madison University

NEW COLLEGES FORMED A plan to reorganize the College of Integrated Science and Technology into two colleges took effect July 1, 2012. The new colleges are the College of Health and Behavioral Studies and the College of Integrated Science and Engineering.

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Student Spotlight: Zachary Hittie Through The Years

By: Christine Borkowski
Posted: March 7, 2011

PHOTO: Zach Hittie"I will graduate Saturday the 18th… wrapping up 8 years and 16 semesters of my JMU experience," JMU graduate Zachary Hittie said in December. "And there's not a whole lot of it that I would change." Hittie entered JMU fall of 2002, double majoring in computer science and ISAT with dual concentrations in Information Knowledge Management and telecommunications. During Hittie's undergraduate career, he was quite involved. He was a Resident Advisor (RA), a Marching Royal Duke and a UREC Aquatics student manager. Hittie was also involved with JMU Athletics.

After Hittie graduated from JMU in December 2006 with a minor in music tacked onto his double major, he started working for High Performance Technologies, Inc. (HPTi). HPTi's focus is to seek out the technology challenges of the federal government. The company specializes in fields such as advanced program management, computational science, secure software development and systems engineering; Hittie worked in their software solutions division.

When Hittie returned to JMU in fall 2007 to pursue a graduate degree he was also hired by the Harrisonburg Fire Department as their Information Technology specialist. When Hittie noticed limitations the fire department had to contend with in 2009, it sparked an idea that would shape his second career at JMU.

One problem the HFD faced was that their Geographic Information System (GIS) was unusable on a laptop computer in a fire engine, so it could only be used in the firehouse. Furthermore, the fire department relied on large binders of maps and building plans that slowed the department's response time to calls.

PHOTO: Firefighter using systemWith a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Hittie was able to consolidate the binders into one large database. In addition, HFD installed laptops with wireless internet cards to use the GIS system as well as Google Maps. Hittie's modernized GIS system includes large tabs and buttons so firefighters can use it while responding to emergencies or wearing protective gloves. The firefighters can also access water source information, turn-by-turn directions, building floor plans and hazardous material instruction through the system. These enhancements reduced average response time.

Not only was the GIS system recognized by the HFD, but Hittie was also selected to present the project at Virginia Council of Graduate Students Forum (VCGS) along with other JMU students. Each year graduate students are chosen to present their research to the General Assembly during the forum. Selections are based on how the research reflects current concerns facing the legislators.

Usually the MSISAT program takes a full two years to complete, but he was able to finish in three semesters with a summer of thesis work. Hittie graduated this past December with a Master of Science degree in ISAT.

"Future plans… not 100%, but for now I will continue working at HFD and follow up on the possibility of marketing this solution to other public safety agencies," Hittie said of his future. "I love the Valley and would like to stay in the area. And I definitely will be no stranger to JMU. If you haven't figured it out by now, I love it here!"