CIS Professors May, Lending, and Karabelas Earn Scrum Master Certification


May, Lending, Karabelas Earn Scrum Certification

If you’re a fan of rugby, you might know what “scrum” means.  In rugby, a scrum refers to the manner of restarting the game after a minor infraction where players push against each other until ball possession is determined.

But scrum has another meaning in the world of information systems. 

The Scrum framework is one of a number of agile development approaches that foster a hyper-collaborative environment with heavy customer feedback where incremental units of value are provided throughout the project lifecycle.  This is in contrast to older methodologies such as Waterfall where a plan is created upfront and is stringently followed until a final product is delivered at the end. 

Jim York, co-owner of Foxhedge Ltd. explains, “Scrum and other agile practices enable quick responses to changing customer needs and technology by chunking features into smaller units.  These smaller units can then be delivered faster to the customer where immediate feedback and a team willingness to adapt to changing requirements provides products more in line with customer expectations. He adds, “It takes a few minutes to learn and a lifetime to master.”

The whole process is performed by one cross-functional team across multiple overlapping phases, where the team "tries to go the distance as a unit, passing the ball back and forth,” just as in rugby.

Recently, three CIS professors, Jeff May, Diane Lending, and John Karabelas attended training to receive their scrum master certification.  York led the training, which was held in Arlington, Va., on June 19th and 20th.

FoxHedge conducts both public and private on-site workshops including Certified ScrumMaster, Certified Scrum Product Owner, Agile Team Workshop, Starting Your Agile Project, Lean and Agile Orientation, Lean and Agile for Executives, Lean Development, and Agile Requirements, Planning, and Estimation.

Why Scrum?

Lending says, “Each year we (CIS Department) have two Executive Advisory Board meetings with alumni who work in industry; essentially they told us we would provide immediate value to them if we started teaching our students the Scrum framework.”  For example, Osama Malik, of Booz Allen Hamilton stated,In the ever increasingly fast paced and dynamic world we live in, we’re finding value using the Scrum framework for all types of problem-solving beyond traditional development projects.  From a purely practical standpoint, providing an environment that fosters the practice of this methodology will certainly provide JMU students with an immediate edge in the job market.

The CIS Department is introducing the Scrum framework in the CIS454 class this semester and plans to add it to future CIS 484 classes.


Pedagogical Value

In addition to meeting the immediate needs of industry, Lending, May, and Karabelas all agree that pedagogical value can be found in teaching Scrum in the university setting.

May explains Scrum as “A framework that welcomes rapid changes in projects where the non-routine cognitive skills of adaptive learning, enhanced collaboration, and systems thinking are all enhanced. “

Karabelas notes,“From a pedagogical standpoint, teaching our students Scrum will undoubtedly enhance our student’s ability to self manage across team environments and to adjust accordingly to immediate fast-paced feedback.  In other words, they will become more agile.”


The JMU College of Business has a long history of working closely with industry to improve and enhance the educational experience for students.  One area of focus is ensuring that skills taught in the classroom are highly relevant and applicable to today’s work environment.  Teaching CIS students the Scrum framework is an example of the CoB responding to industry needs.

Matthew Carnali, a JMU alumnus who works at Capital One comments, “We have created an initiative that goes from 80% Waterfall to 80% Scrum. Hiring students who have experience with Scrum coming in the door will add immediate value to our company and should help to further enhance JMU’s reputation as a top-tiered CIS department.”

Published: Thursday, August 29, 2013

Last Updated: Wednesday, June 8, 2016

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