MALVERN, Pa. — Bridging the gap between industry and academia is a key component to Penn State Great Valley’s mission, and faculty who do so are invaluable to students’ growth. Penn State Great Valley recently added one such faculty member: Dusan Ramljak, assistant teaching professor of information science.
Born and raised in present-day Serbia, formerly Yugoslavia, Ramljak worked in a variety of information technology roles, including at U.S. Steel and the Hydro-Meteorological Institute in Serbia and the Institute for Systems and Robotics in Portugal, and taught undergraduate and high school courses in Serbia.
Ramljak came to the United States in 2010 to pursue his doctorate in computer and information sciences at Temple University, where he studied a wide range of topics, including machine learning, neural networks, AI, social network analysis, optimization and more. During his doctoral studies he worked on NSF Industry-Academia collaboration projects with HPE, Dell, Huawei, Salesforce and other companies. After finishing his doctorate, Ramljak did research at Temple and taught at Northwestern University and West Texas A&M before joining Penn State Great Valley.
Given his familiarity with the Philadelphia area, the campus’ location was a draw for Ramljak. In fact, he was even familiar with the corporate park in which Penn State Great Valley is located — as a doctoral student, he participated in a hackathon at the Microsoft building across the road.
“Just thinking about the area, Microsoft [being nearby] and Penn State Great Valley and having postgraduate students who are more into what I’m going to teach, that was all tempting,” Ramljak said. “And then the connection with the faculty. … That small campus in that huge school, it’s awesome.”
Ramljak’s passion for teaching began at a young age, thanks to his maternal grandfather and father, both of whom were teachers. At 5 years old, Ramljak was tutoring friends in his neighborhood, and as he got older, his teaching horizons expanded.
It isn’t just teaching information science that intrigues Ramljak — for more than 20 years, he owned his own business in Serbia, teaching dance and aikido, a form of martial arts that focuses on redirecting opponents’ momentum. So, do dance and martial arts influence Ramljak’s academic teaching philosophy? Absolutely, he said.
“That physical side of the balance I established, and I’m trying to explain all that to the students, that they need to establish balance,” Ramljak said. “Also, the discipline and the routine which comes from all sides, martial arts, dancing and industry. Industry relies a lot on a routine, so I try to establish the routine in the classroom.”
Inclusivity is another focus for Ramljak in the classroom, a practice that harkens back to his days as a small-business owner in the former Yugoslavia when he opened his dance and martial arts facilities to persons with disabilities at a time when that was largely avoided.
Now, in his academic teaching, Ramljak fosters an inclusive environment to help students succeed in and out of the classroom. He’ll teach the course Data-Driven Decision Making in the fall II term.
“Every person matters and everyone should be treated the same,” Ramljak said. “It is important and it is part of the way I am and the way I teach. I’m trying to understand where the student comes from and help them.”