Information systems is any organized system for the collection, organization, storage and communication of information. Understanding and operating all of the basics and processes of these systems is the aim of Dr. Rachel Chung’s undergraduate Information Systems and Operations (BUS171) class.
To Dr. Chung, the purpose of the Information Systems and Operations course is to introduce students to the field of information systems that can present both challenges and solutions to many modern businesses. Dr. Chung guides students in how to manage information through applications and processes such as Microsoft Excel and Access, Tableau, Google Analytics, basic coding methods, Business Process Model and Notation, and website management and design.
Data can be used in various fashions to be interpreted into information, a key concept to the assignments Dr. Chung has students complete. One example includes students learning to do basic, intermediate, and advanced functions in Excel, such as transposing, converting text to columns, creating pivot tables and charts, creating Nested IF functions, what-if analysis, and goal seeking, all using real National Football League data. Students were also able to create meaningful charts, graphs, diagrams, and maps using player scores, positions, places of birth, college and university attendance, and more using Tableau, a data visualization program. Students also got a taste of computer programming by creating Excel Macros using Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), a Microsoft coding language, that can be linked with interactive buttons and dialogue boxes, which both automate processes and make them more user-friendly and appealing.
Professor Rachel Chung, Director and Chair of Business Programs at Chatham University, is an active member of the Information Systems research community. Dr. Chung served as associate editor for the European Conferences on Information Systems (ECIS), guest associate editor for the Omega journal, and as ad hoc reviewer for numerous journals. She also received a $10,000 grant in 2012 from the Institute of Fraud Prevention (IFP) for research on the genetic basis of internet fraud detection, and another $10,000 grant in 2013, also from IFP, for research on the genetic basis of deception detection. In 2016, Dr. Chung received the IBM Faculty Award for her research on fraud analytics.
“One thing I want my students to take away is to never stop learning. The world changes so much and you always have to be ready to teach yourself.”
Dr. Chung loves Information Systems and her passion is palpable. When asked how to describe management information systems in one word, Dr. Chung replied with “Clever.” “There are always clever ways to innovate and radically accelerate productivity. You reduce errors and automate, it’s so clever!”
In conjunction with aforementioned individual assignments, Dr. Chung puts an emphasis on team-based assignments. All team assignments followed the business process of a company or institution chosen by the groups of three to four students. This experience granted students the opportunity to interview, converse, and work with members and leaders of successful ventures such as UPMC, LunaMetrics, PNC, and even Chatham’s Eden Hall Campus and Sustainability Program. With the aid of these professionals, students choose a business process to focus on the steps, actions, decisions, data flows, and repositories that go into their firm’s success. Now having knowledge of these processes, students go on to create formatted swim-lane charts using Business Process Model Notation, relational data models using Microsoft Access, and then create a concept for a “disruptive innovation” that will completely change, but improve, the process. What can be defined as a disruptive innovation varies based on the company and process. The UPMC team formulated a transition to completely paperless data entry using forms that collect answers and signatures featuring the use of tablets or iPads. The LunaMetrics team suggested a mobile application for clients that would allow for live updates, progress, and easy question proposal compared to the in-person or over-the-phone process being used now. Team PNC analyzed the loan application process and determined that an innovation such as converting application and form submission, as well as decision notices, to an online format would increase the efficiency of lenders and give more time to clients. The Sustainability team, focusing on enrollment and student progress tracking, hypothesized creating a hybrid database, allowing for relational database connections along with non-relational analysis and expansion for the ever-growing amount of student data being collected. To view each of these projects, other projects, and many of the concepts that have been reviewed, visit Dr. Chung’s BUS171 Course Website.
While the course is geared toward business students, there is a heavy focus on technology and systems that will prepare all students for the evolving world in the digital age. As Dr. Chung explains, “I think the knowledge we gain in this course empowers everybody to be a little more innovative and to empower students to improve systems and business processes. Once people are empowered, I hope that they are motivated to innovate on their own.”
Management of information systems (MIS) is a field that ties together many functional areas of business. Well-roundedness is key for success in many practices, but even more so in MIS. Dr. Chung takes time away from the technical areas of the course to have a section on project management and how it relates to the history and development of applications. Guest lecturer, Ginger Polozoff, MBA, PMP, a project management professional, spoke to the class on what it means to effectively manage a project. Not only does one have to see the project carried out, managers must update processes when there are changes in the desired outcome, understand the critical path, and control the scope of the project.
Ginger notes that “effective and efficient workflow management is important in all careers and across all disciplines. The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBoK) provides a framework for approaching complex projects. The formalized approach to managing projects was borne out of the construction and engineering fields and has been enthusiastically embraced by technical professions, such as computer programming. Even though I am not building bridges or writing code in my job, I use PM knowledge and skills daily to prioritize tasks and improve processes.” While project management is an essential skill in the world of information systems, it is a competence that can be carried throughout any career and aid students in becoming the world-ready individuals Chatham strives to create.
Students from the Spring 2017 semester from a variety of different majors share their experience in the course:
“I feel like I have gotten a lot out of the course. Based on the variety of processes I have learned how to do, including how to work with databases and also how to make and understand a business model, I find the course incredibly gratifying!” – Aurick Topacio, BS Sustainability ’20
“The course has taught me more about Excel and other necessary office software than any other course I’ve taken.” – Anh Nguyen, BA Economics and Marketing ’19
“Information Systems with Dr. Chung has taught me the value of learning how to navigate and use different application programs like Excel, and database programs, like Access, regardless of a student’s career path. By acquiring skills to use these programs, it will benefit any student because of how information systems are involved in all professions. Whether a student decides to work in health care, business, or science, they will use some type of information systems.” – Nikki Mammano, BA Economics ’18
The BUS171 course emphasizes what it means to be “world-ready,” something Chatham is built around. By being competent in our technological world, which will become increasingly more technologically driven, the students who go through the course become the future innovators who will shape society. Being conscious of this ever-changing world is crucial, and as Dr. Chung highlights, “Awareness is what we can give the student, and that is the best gift.”