Faculty Profile

  • William Sunna

    “Teaching at Northwestern is a special experience for me. I like using my teaching skills, and my students are enriched by learning about what I’m doing in industry.”

    William Sunna is a master builder — of data warehouses, that is. “Data warehouses contain highly summarized information that can be used to make smart business decisions,” says Sunna. With years of experience providing data solutions to Fortune 500 companies in the insurance, retail, and financial services industries, Sunna understands his clients’ needs. “A big retailer can collect point-of-sales information and generate summarized reports about where and how a product is selling,” says Sunna. “Insurance data can be used to determine pricing and to document it for regulators.”

    Sunna is equally at home in the academic world. He earned a PhD in computer science from the University of Illinois at Chicago and has presented and published research on ontology alignment in various domains of knowledge such as geography and medical research. Sunna brings his academic and industry experience to Northwestern’s Master of Science in Information Systems program, where he teaches Computer Information Systems Project. Students in the course work in groups to develop large-tier information systems. “They have to prove they are capable of taking a complete project from beginning to end,” says Sunna. “It tests everything they know.”

    The classroom doubles as the conference room. Sunna suggests a project, usually a business problem. “I tell them, ‘I’m your customer. Here’s what I have in mind,’” says Sunna. “Each team comes up with a different design solution and way of doing things. That makes it interesting.” Sunna says students learn as much about communication as they do about software development: “In the academic world things always go according to plan. In the real world, things can go wrong. Project management can be just important as database management.”