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What is Informatics? NKU Knows.

Northern Kentucky University is one of a handful of universities to have this program that prepares students for lucrative careers in a wide variety of fields.

By Kevin Litwin on February 11, 2022

Kroger Technology & Digital Innovation Lab at Northern Kentucky University
Kroger Technology & Digital Innovation Lab

Higher education institutions in Northern Kentucky are continuously going above and beyond to offer students new and exciting programs and opportunities that better prepare them to take on a career – and a rewarding one, at that – once they turn their tassels. 

Northern Kentucky University (NKU), for example, established the College of Informatics (COI) at its campus in 2005, and today, it is one of only five such colleges in the U.S. 

The COI has seen consistent growth since it first opened. In 2011, the college occupied the university’s entire Griffin Hall building, and in 2019, it added an Informatics+ department, which serves as an outreach arm, making it easier for the community to connect with faculty and students, and for the department to broadcast the great work happening at COI. 

“Informatics is the bringing together of all the disciplines that gather, protect, analyze or communicate information at their core. That includes fields such as computer science, cybersecurity, advanced software engineering, data science, business management information systems, communications, journalism, documentary filmmaking and so forth.” 

Kendall Fisher | Informatics+

Kendall Fisher, executive director of Informatics+, says there are many information field subsets in which COI students can pursue interesting and lucrative careers. 

“For example, students interested in communications can become a media specialist, social media manager, videographer, virtual reality specialist, news reporter, editor, broadcaster, director, digital designer and more,” she says. “The same goes for computer science, with opportunities in data analysis, IT project management, health information specialization, business informatics and on and on.” 

Connecting with Kroger 

Partnerships are also a large part of the COI, as many area companies are interested in hiring COI students for both internships and jobs. Some businesses that have partnered with the college include Fidelity Investments, Gravity Diagnostics, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport and Kroger Co. 

In January 2020, Cincinnati-based Kroger Co. opened a Kroger Technology & Digital Innovation Lab in Room 350 of Griffin Hall. The Kroger Lab is outfitted with the latest in digital technology and even has a Kroger staff person on-site who helps student interns work on actual Kroger business initiatives. “Kroger has made a major investment to work on real projects that impact their stores around the country,” Fisher says.

“Working at Kroger is not just bagging groceries and stocking shelves. The company is a big player in areas such as video analytics, digital technology, data analysis, artificial intelligence algorithms, analytics architecture and more.” 

Kendall Fisher | Informatics+

Heading into 2022, 13 COI students were interning with Kroger, and the company now has four full-time employees who previously studied at the Kroger Lab. 

Dan Whitacre, senior director of Kroger’s R&D and Technology Transformation, says the lab experience allows the company to work with students to expose them to all emerging technologies occurring at Kroger. 

“We create an environment on the campus that further develops the Kroger brand as an innovation company,” Whitacre says. “The students get firsthand exposure to the fast-paced retail industry, and many NKU students would like to stay in the area after graduation and work on new and exciting tech. Kroger provides that opportunity.” 

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