30 Years in the Making 

In celebration of AIS serving society for 30 years, we take a look back on an extensive history of AIS, the field of Information Systems and our community by highlighting certain aspects of the organization and our members.

Ten Questions for Munir Mandviwalla

May 16, 2024 

This week’s Ten Questions features Munir Mandviwalla, longtime AIS member and founder of the AIS Student Chapters program. The program, which began in 2009, has long been a source for Information Systems undergraduates to develop their careers and build networks beyond their home universities. In addition to the Student Chapters program, Munir has been instrumental in the work done on the IS Job Index, which is the only longitudinal assessment of placement, demographics, jobs, search, acceptance, geographical patterns, and knowledge of information systems (IS), management information systems (MIS), and computer information systems (CIS) graduates. Inaugurated in 2013 and published every 2 years, each report is based on several thousand recent graduates from more than 30 universities across the United States.

Munir is Professor of Management Information Systems, Milton F. Stauffer Senior Research Fellow, and Executive Director of the Institute for Business and Information Technology at the Fox School of Business, Temple University. His research focuses on how design can improve business and society on topics such as digital transformation, broadband, social media, and IT workforce.

1. You were instrumental in the formation of AIS Student Chapters. Please share a bit about that process and the timeline in creating that official program.

In 2008, at the AMCIS conference in Toronto, a group of IS faculty agreed to form a task force to discuss the value of changing the AIS mission and charter to formally include students – undergraduate and master’s students. A successful proposal was made to AIS council at the ICIS conference in Paris, in December 2008. The inaugural student chapter conference was held in April 2009 at Temple University and the chartering of the first AIS student chapters began in September 2009.  The founding chapters were inducted into AIS at a special ceremony in December 2009, as part of ICIS Phoenix. In 2010, the second annual student chapter conference was held at Georgia State University, the AIS student chapter advisory board was formed, and we announced the first annual student chapter awards in December 2010 at ICIS St. Louis. 

One simple way to understand the rationale for creating AIS student chapters is to understand why I got involved.  I had realized in my role as department chair, that our home grown MIS student organization had reached a plateau. Our students were doing a great job and they were very successful in meeting their goals but unlike students in accounting and marketing and other disciplines, they were not eligible for any external awards. They did not have a way to network with students from other universities and learn best practices from each other, and perhaps most problematically they did not have any sense of belonging to a larger discipline. At the most basic level then, AIS student chapters were started to provide a “home” for all IS students worldwide. 

2. You served as the first Vice President of Student Chapters on the AIS Council. What were some of the early goals of the program and was it challenging to get the support from leadership to buy into those goals?

The mission, vision, and chartering/governance model for student chapters was established and associated documents for managing student chapters, conferences, awards, and recruitment were created.  An award structure, criteria, rating and evaluation process, and prize schedule were created and a conference structure was created including governance, template for proposals, timelines and content management. Included in the conference structure was a  model and committee for holding competitions. Competitions have become an integral part of AIS Student Chapters.

The support was very enthusiastic overall. Both from AIS and from colleagues around the country and in places around the globe. I am very grateful to the people who made a leap of faith to attend the first Temple student chapter conference back in 2009. We had early support from AIS Presidents Dennis Galletta, David Avison, Bernard Tan, Joey George, and Dov Te’eni, as well as the AIS staff to ensure early success of the program.

3. There are currently 44 student chapters throughout the world. When AIS first introduced Student Chapters, did you ever envision it growing into such a large global program?

When AIS first introduced Student Chapters, we had 75 chapters. Over the years that number has fluctuated quite a bit. I think AIS and the entire IS community can do more to capitalize on the successes of our field and build chapter numbers back to their early days.

For the schools that remained actively engaged such as ASU, BYU, UGA, Alabama, Utah, Indiana, FIU, Michigan-Dearborn, Arkansas, a few schools across the world, and of course Temple, student chapters provide an important resource, it has become their go to community. I am very grateful and appreciative of all the leaders who have sustained student chapters for so long and I am very happy to hear about the recent appointments of AVP’s for student chapters.

4. A key component of the AIS Student Chapter program is the Student Chapter Leadership Conference and its corresponding competitions. How have those competitions changed over the years (previously hack-a-thons) and how do you think the competitions need to evolve to keep students engaged?

The conference and competition have always been very important and very well run. The Temple students always come back glowing from each conference. I am only observing from a distance now so don’t know much about the details. However, it would be nice to have an outlet for more technical students. For example, a prototyping competition.

5. The IS Job Index was first created in 2013 and has served as an invaluable resource to undergraduates for more than 10 years. What was your role in the creation of the Job Index and its partnership AIS?

The IS Job Index covers both undergraduates and masters’ students. The 2022 report featured 1800+ graduates from 36 universities across the U.S. In 2022, about 10,000 postcards and 5000 print reports were distributed to deans, industry executives, and academics. All the major AIS conferences feature the report with banners and participating school logos. To date, isjobindex.com has received more than 60,000 unique views, and the full report has been downloaded more than 20,000 times.

Back in 2011, I was concerned that as a field, we knew little about who our graduates are, what they know, how they perform in the job market, and what kinds of jobs they end up doing. Established fields such as Accounting and Computer Science were far ahead of us in understanding their students and graduates. Solving this problem piecemeal university by university did not make sense, it had to be a field level effort. I pitched the idea to Pete Tinsley, Executive Director at AIS at the time, to form a partnership with Temple, who would take the lead in forming a coalition of universities. The initial team at Temple included Paul Pavlou and Crystal Harold who designed the survey.

6. How do you see the IS Job Index changing as IS continues to evolve and the market changes?

The IS Job Index basic survey instrument has stood the test of time remarkably well. The basics of our field have not changed. New developments such as analytics and now AI are relatively easily added on as job types. Moreover, the AIS staff and several prior presidents such as Jane Fedorowicz, Joey George, and Matti Rossi have been very supportive. Matt Nelson, AIS Associate Executive Director has been the biggest cheerleader. These folks have been critical to sustaining the effort for more than a decade. At Temple, the corporate partners and advisory board of the Institute for Business and Information Technology have also been critical to the success.

For the future, I would like to see more schools participate in the US to make this valuable resource even richer and we need to expand globally. Global expansion is the most important goal for the resource to be useful to the entire field.

7. What would you tell students looking into a future career in IS? What area of study should they focus on and how can AIS further support undergraduate students with their professional goals?

Career prospects for IS are excellent and will continue in the foreseeable future. Only a small percentage of businesses worldwide have been digitally transformed. They will need help. IS students are best qualified to do so. The basics of IS such as programming and data will always be ‘hot.’

AIS should and must do a better job focusing on undergraduate students. There is much more that could be done in curriculum, engagement with industry, jobs, and so on. When I started talking about students, colleagues thought I was talking about doctoral students…  

8. Who have been major influencers not just in your career, but also in your volunteer service with AIS and why? 

Lorne Olfman (my advisor), Paul Gray (who was one of the founders of AIS), Rick Watson (former president and still the broadest thinking person I know even though he uses a MAC), and many others.

On AIS, I am especially grateful to Blake Ives (ISWorld founder), Joey George, Jane Fedorowicz, Matti Rossi, Pete Tinsley, and Matt Nelson who were always willing to listen to my crazy ideas. I still recall with gratitude how David Avison, Matti Rossi, and Jason Thatcher, all AIS presidents, trusted me enough to fly in for the inaugural student chapter conference.

AIS staff such as Tmitri Owens, Aretha Wright, Tenez Quarles, and Brook Pritchett have always been key supporters.

9. What are some of the most important research areas with the potential for lasting global impact that IS researchers should focus on more?

There is still much more to do in digitally transforming firms and in digital innovation.

10. What is the one trend you are most excited about for the future of IS?

Digital transformation is about IS and this trend will last far beyond digital enablers such as analytics, AI, and [insert current hot topic].

Piecing Together the IS Puzzle

May 1, 2024 

Before the establishment of the Association for Information Systems (AIS), information systems (IS) research was characterized by a fragmented landscape with limited coordination and collaboration among scholars, practitioners, and educators. While emerging as a distinct discipline, the field lacked a unified platform for scholarly exchange, sharing of knowledge, and advancement of research agendas. Consequently, research efforts were often scattered across various academic disciplines, including computer science, business management, and engineering, resulting in silos that the early pioneers of IS hoped to align.

In the early days of IS in business schools, most academics in the area came from other disciplines such as economics, accounting, organizational behavior, operations research, and management science. Most IS academics had professional affiliations in other underlying disciplines and they did not see IS as its own professional field even though they were teaching and researching IS topics.

As the field grew in the 1970s and 1980s with new IS programs and class offerings, the notion of IS as a professional field of study and practice grew. Many IS academics saw the need for an organization that could represent the professional values and aspirations of IS business-school academics. Although the focus differs somewhat from region to region, the predominant approach was to recognize the different needs of IS academics from those of faculty in computer and information science.

In 1974, Niels Bjørn-Andersen worked to establish an academic network beyond Nordic countries and proposed the establishment of a so-called “Technical Committee” on Information Systems. This was approved by the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) Council in March of 1975 as Technical Committee-8. As one of the founding members, he worked strongly to establish Working Group 8.2, where for many years he would have the role as conference chair, co-editor of proceedings, and other various roles.

Across the pond, in 1980, Gordon Davis, William (Bill) King, Blake Ives, Eph McLean, Phillip Ein-Dor, Paul Gray and others started working toward developing the field in both the institutions and research avenues.

The first major effort in this direction came in 1980 with the creation of a major international research conference—the annual International Conference on IS (ICIS)—a nonprofit organization with a governing executive committee that was responsible for site selection and choosing the conference chair and other key positions for upcoming conferences. It rapidly became a major focal point for the research interests of academics across the world.

“In 1980, the only institution was ICIS and it was held only once a year, usually in the US,” said Phillip Ein-Dor in a 2013 interview with Dov Te’eni. The first conference was held at the University of Pennsylvania as the “Conference on Information Systems”.

In 1982, Jan DeGross at the University of Minnesota, worked with Gordon Davis on a project to build out the MIS Faculty Directories. “I developed a database from everybody’s rolodex cards and sent out, by mail, questions to ask, ” said DeGross. “The first edition was in 1983 with 420 people listed.” This directory helped to build a cohesive listing of faculty who were involved in IS in some form.

Throughout the early 80s, IS programs continued to appear at universities around the world. In 1985 IBM awarded $2 million each to 13 U.S. universities to establish and enhance doctoral programs in information systems. The goal was to help graduate schools of business update their curricula and research to keep pace with the rapid advances in IS. More than 200 proposals were received by IBM and winners included:

  • University of Arizona
  • University of California, Los Angeles
  • Claremont Graduate School
  • University of Georgia
  • Georgia State University
  • University of Illinois
  • Indiana University
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • University of Minnesota
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • University of Rochester
  • University of Texas at Austin

This investment helped winning programs share their knowledge with programs across the globe. With the rapidly changing infrastructure and the complexity of information systems ever increasing, IS programs worldwide were established.

By 1986, as Canadian and European attendance and participation at ICIS continued to grow, “International” was appended to the name, thereby creating the International Conference on Information Systems. 

As ICIS grew and prospered, various informal groups met there to discuss the need for a professional organization to more broadly represent the interests of IS academics. Several studies and surveys were conducted with mixed results and little action.

“Bill King came along with the idea of establishing an association for information systems. We held discussions about where we should go in organizing the field,” said Ein-Dor. “From the very beginning, the decision was made that it should be an international organization. The idea was to establish AIS to increase the visibility and influence of the IS discipline in those universities in which it existed. Also, to encourage intellectual development of the field.”

The journey of IS from its fragmented beginnings to the early discussions surrounding a formal organization, showcases the evolution and maturation of the field. As IS programs continued to grow and conferences like ICIS gained prominence, the need for a professional organization became apparent.

The next article on the history of AIS will cover the start of the organization and how pioneers came together to blend service and community to form the Association for Information Systems.

Sources:

https://aisel.aisnet.org/history_interviews/1/

https://aisnet.org/news/news.asp?id=164942

https://aisel.aisnet.org/history_interviews/21/

https://escholarship.org/content/qt6191n363/qt6191n363_noSplash_22740f7d67e1fc4623bdac64699ad7b5.pdf?t=krn8kd

https://ishistory.aisnet.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/04/Association_for_Information_Systems-History-2014.pdf

Ten Questions for Jane Fedorowicz

May 1, 2024 

Our first guest in the series is Jane Fedorowicz, the 19th president of AIS, and Professor Emerita at Bentley University following her retirement in 2023. Previously, she held the Chester B. Slade Professor of Accounting and Information Systems and held a joint appointment in the Accountancy Department and the Information and Process Management Department. She was integral in the creation of Bentley’s STEM-designated Masters’ Degree in Accounting which offers five concentrations with strong analytics and information technology foci. Prior to serving as president of AIS, she was heavily involved in the ICIS Women’s Breakfast, which later became the AIS Women’s Network. She served as the 2019 ICIS Conference Co-Chair with Helmut Krcmar and went on to serve as the ICIS Representative on AIS Council for one year.

1. You have had many roles as an AIS volunteer, from Vice President of Affiliated Organizations to Secretary to President to ICIS Rep. How has AIS changed over the years from your perspective?

AIS has become increasingly global, not just in its membership distribution around the world, but also in its initiatives, conference siting, journals supported, and national chapters. Relatedly, membership has also diversified, and the association’s offerings now better reflect the range of interests and responsibilities of this broader membership.

2. How did the association change as AIS shifted from a volunteer-run organization to a staff-run organization, moving from more tactical roles for AIS volunteers to more strategic roles?

AIS has always had a strong support staff. Over time, as the association grew and the number and breadth of programs expanded, more staff was added. The big change came when there was an effort made to move from a volunteer-run organization to a staff-run organization. This gave the association a more consistent and formalized set of procedures and has documented institutional memory. I was often consulted about past initiatives and votes when in office, and was surprised at how often Council would start to investigate a strategic activity that had already been done years before. I hope records of Council activity are available and more searchable to support its members, as short election cycles quickly lead to a vacuum of historical perspective on Council. The staff who attend Council meetings are a great complement to the enthusiasm of Council in moving in new directions.

3. What was the most rewarding part of your time as an AIS volunteer? Are there any programs or initiatives that stand out that you were especially proud to be involved in?

I found my time as an AIS volunteer to be enormously rewarding. I was able to create programs and provide support in many areas about which I remain passionate. These included several DEI initiatives, the first of which was a task force on the status of women in AIS and the profession I assembled while President. This action led to other efforts to help AIS become more inclusive for other minority groups among the members, such as ensuring conference and association committees comprise diverse membership. I continue to pursue inclusion work on behalf of the Senior Scholars in my retirement. 

I also volunteered on many conference committees and journal boards. Two especially rewarding efforts were my times co-chairing AMCIS 2001 in Boston (with John Gorgone) and ICIS 2019 in Munich (with Helmut Krcmar). 

Volunteering is a learning experience – much of what I did within AIS carried over to my campus life, with similar benefits. 

In addition to accomplishments, I have made lifelong friends with many people from around the world while working with my colleagues on committees and conferences. What other career introduces you to so many wonderful individuals from so many countries?

4. If you had to go back and change one thing about your time as an AIS volunteer, what would it be?

This one is hard. I don’t have any regrets and I tried everything I wanted to try. So – no changes?

5. You were heavily involved with the ICIS Women’s Breakfast, which later became the AIS Women’s Network. What was that transition like for it to move from a once-yearly gathering to a more robust group? Who were some of the key players in that change happening and what were some of the early wins?

My first Women’s Breakfast meeting occurred at the second ICIS conference in 1981. There were ten of us who met in the hotel restaurant. We didn’t even need a reservation! AIS did not exist yet, and women made up approximately 10% of ICIS attendees. As ICIS and AIS grew, so did the number of women attendees. The annual event started to attract sponsors as the breakfast gathered more attendance. A few men attended regularly too (I’m thinking of Dave Salisbury and Steve Sawyer in particular). Speakers were added (I spoke at the Barcelona breakfast). When Colleges were created, it was a natural transition for this group to become more formalized and hold more events. The women’s task force created under my presidency can take some credit for this move. And we were off – the College now has a strong governing board, hosts many events at regional conferences, and sponsors a mentorship program, among other activities. Key players at the outset (and I apologize to those I omit) included Joyce Elam, Mary Culnan, Lynne Markus, Cynthia Beath, Carol Saunders, Katie Kaiser, Foxy Mason and Jan DeGross. Many others have been closely involved over the years – check out the Web presence at aiswn.org to learn more!

6. You have always had a keen understanding of increasing opportunities for underrepresented faculty and students and were one of the lead speakers at the 2019 ICIS Senior Scholars Panel, “Diversity and inclusion in academia: Does AIS have a problem?”. How have AIS’s efforts toward inclusivity changed over the years and now five years out from your initial panel, what do you think the next wave of efforts should include?

By 2019, gender inequity had gained attention in AIS, but other identifiable minorities had not. I have to say this was probably the least well attended Senior Scholars panel at any ICIS. Maybe it was the session timing, maybe it was the topic. But “back then”, it seemed that only those few members and colleagues who publicly identified as being in a minority paid the topic any attention. As the facilitator of Senior Scholars, I worked (with others) to move DEI to the top of their agenda. Several initiatives have resulted, the most successful of which is a mentorship program for colleagues who self nominate as a member of a minority, or are in a non-tenure-track position. It is now in its second year, with 75 mentor-mentee pairings each year. 

What’s next? We need to get to a place where inclusion is a natural occurrence and does not need to be monitored on conference committees, editorial boards and in other programs. The interim step is to constantly monitor and advise on how to diversify, and to recognize that many of our colleagues have differing academic expectations, particularly around the tradeoff between research and teaching, that should drive more diverse programming and strategy for AIS.

7. What is your favorite memory at an AIS event (ICIS/AMCIS) or affiliated conference (ECIS/PAIS/etc.)?

I could cheat and say the Hearts (card game) tournaments I organized after hours for many years at ICIS were my favorite, but that’s probably not what you want to know. I am especially proud to have been the moderator of a keynote session panel of high ranking German women at ICIS in Munich, entitled, “Inclusive Leadership in a Digital World”. This was the first time a DEI topic had been featured at a keynote session at ICIS (and maybe other AIS conferences as well).

8. What do you think the next big area of focus will be for IS? How can AIS support it?

AI is clearly the research topic of choice, probably replacing data analytics as the hot thing to study and teach. Both are changing how business is run, and also how academia operates. IS academics have to self-motivate to keep up with what is happening in business and in society because of these two technologies. A side effect of both is that they make it easier for potential students to acquire skills and knowledge without stepping foot on campus (along with Zoom of course). AIS can expand its instructional resources and training to help faculty obtain the expertise needed to stay ahead of the curve (and ahead of students!) to remain competitive as an industry.

9. What are some of the most important research areas with the potential for lasting global impact that IS researchers should focus on more?

The easy answer to this question is the obvious one – AI. AI is advancing so fast and so ubiquitously that there is no dearth of researchable questions to be investigated. The less obvious answer, in my opinion, is to look at how technology affects people and places that have little voice in the world – refugees, war survivors, the poor, the elderly, those with disabilities, etc. As my career developed, I realized that conducting research that could make a measurable impact on those without a strong voice was much more rewarding to me. I urge you to look into something that will make a difference that reaches beyond your vita.

10. What is the one trend you are most excited about for the future of IS?

I think there is much more global collaboration among researchers and instructors than at any other time in my career. I would encourage young faculty to seek opportunities to work with colleagues around the world, to collaborate on international grants, and to spend a sabbatical or take a Fulbright position someplace you have never lived before. Technology enables easy collaboration – find someone with similar interests or teaching needs as you and see where it takes you. You will look back on those opportunities as highlights of your career as you reflect during your retirement.