I was finishing my doctorate at Mississippi State in Starkville. Originally I figured I’d come here for a couple of years and then move on, and that was almost 29 years ago.
When I first came here, we were mainly a commuter school, and practically all our teaching was in the evening because we were serving the community, people that needed degrees that needed some place to go.
With the online students, because most of them are working, whether they’re undergraduate or graduate, and are seeing to get a degree, it’s very similar, and the goals and objectives are the same for most of them.
And that’s also interesting in the classroom because you get students that are working, and they have a lot more to contribute because they can actually relate better to some of the things that you’re doing and/or may have experience in some of the things that you’re trying to cover in the classroom.
That sort of gives us, particularly for online students, a different perspective than they would see at a normal four-year institution. So we understand better the types of students that we get, and because we’re in the midst of a city, I think we’ve got better connections to the local businesses, so we have a better sense of the pulse of what’s happening.
Every class that we have has a discussion component to it, so what you have to create is an environment where you can have ongoing discussions, and usually I’ll seed the discussions with certain questions to get things going, but then students start answering not just the questions, but also posting new material, and pointing new things out.
When you look at information systems, it sort of permeates everything that we do in a business environment. Two really hot areas right now are security, information security. And typically what’s required there is somebody with a technical background that understands a business so that that they can help craft the security controls that are necessary to make sure that you do the right thing at the business level.
The other very hot area right now is in business analytics or business intelligence. We are accumulating vast amounts of data of all sorts, everything from the data that you get when you go to the store and purchase something, and the point-of-sale terminal records what you purchased. Companies are looking at that data as a valuable resource to learn more about the customers that they have, and the products and services that they offer, and how they’re used and so forth, to try to refine those offerings, to try to target specific groups of customers. From that perspective, it’s a great time, and there’s a lot of demand for people that have the technical skills and can use those skills to solve business problems. And any time that you have somebody that can solve business problems, those are people who are in great demand.
I think you have to have an affinity for working with technology. You don’t necessarily have to understand all the nuts and bolts of what you’re using, but have to understand how it’s used, and what it’s used for. And as you move through your business degree in Information Systems, you’re going to pick up where it’s used and what these tools are used for, and you also need to be a little creative. So, even though you may not be the one that creates that application, if you have the right level of imagination and creativity, you may be able to see where you can create something unique that solves a problem in a particular way. That’s what we’re seeing now with the myriad of apps that we have for our phones. Who would have thought that we’d create something like an Uber app, so that you could call and get a ride?
Again, a little creativity, understanding of the underlying technologies, and an affinity for doing that. And last but not least, the desire to learn. Because you’re never going to be able to stop learning, if you want to stay in it.