A message from Temple MIS faculty and staff to the Class of 2021.
While we look to the summer and fall with hope for returning to normal, I am proud of what our students, faculty, and staff have accomplished during a challenging year.
I am pleased to highlight two significant achievements, one from our faculty and one from our students. First, Temple MIS faculty were the most prolific in the world in 2020, according to the Association for Information Systems’ List of High-Quality Journals. This accomplishment reflects the dedication and diverse research interests of our faculty.
Second, the Temple University Student Chapter of the Association for Information Systems (Temple AIS) won Student Chapter of the Year for the 2019-2020 academic year. Read about how Temple AIS continues to excel amid a challenging year, fulfilling its mission to its members and the larger community.
We feature professor Aleksi Aaltonen, who studies how people work with data in real-world business settings. Learn how his work goes beyond analytics to investigate the problems caused by big data and how companies should solve them.
Read about how our new, innovative undergraduate course in user experience (UX) design prepares our majors for the workplace. You’ll hear from two recent graduates who have used the UX skills they learned in their careers.
We also profile three of our alumni. Read about how Thomas Steigerwald (BBA ’10) applies the lessons he learned in the Temple MIS program to succeed in multiple roles at Lamps.com. You will also learn how MS in Information Technology Auditing and Cyber Security alumni James Foggie (MS ’19) and Magaly Perez (MS ’17) used their degree to pivot into new careers.
This year has certainly been unique, but it has also been gratifying to see our students and faculty continue to achieve extraordinary success.
The Temple University Student Chapter of the Association for Information Systems (Temple AIS) has won Student Chapter of the Year for the 2019-2020 academic year. The Student Chapter of the Year Award is the highest award given to an AIS chapter. According to the AIS Student Chapter website, it is given to a chapter “that has demonstrated an exceptional, well-rounded, and organized program.”
“We are truly honored to receive this award on behalf of this year’s and last year’s leadership team,” said Kevin Publicover, senior MIS major and president of Temple AIS. “Keeping our members engaged was a big challenge during the pandemic, but we were able to successfully pivot online last Spring and keep our organization going this year.”
“I’m proud of what Temple AIS’ leadership has been able to accomplish during a difficult year,” said Steven Sclarow, assistant professor of MIS and faculty advisor for the student chapter, “This award reflects the hard work of the entire team.”
Temple AIS has many activities that provide their members professional development opportunities that also serve the broader community. Notable initiatives include creating a coding club for middle school students at the Tanner Duckrey School in North Philadelphia and launching the Optimize Consulting Group, which provides pro-bono technology services to non-profits.
Student Chapter of the Year is the highest honor Temple AIS has received since 2015 when they won Distinguished Student Chapter, the second-highest honor for a student chapter. Temple AIS previously won Student Chapter of the Year in 2013.
The organization will be recognized at the virtual 2021 AIS Student Chapter Leadership Conference on April 9 and 10. More information can be found on the AIS Student Chapter website.
The MIS department was created with a focus on research. So for those who work and study here, it came as no surprise that Temple MIS faculty were the most prolific in the world in 2020 according to the Association for Information Systems’ List of High-Quality Journals, specifically MIS Quarterly, Information Systems Research, the Journal of Management Information Systems, and the Journal of the Association for Information Systems.
Temple faculty enjoys the distinction of having published in those four journals 14 times in 2020. Jason Thatcher, who joined the faculty last fall and holds the Milton F. Stauffer Professorship, topped the 2020 list.
“Our research productivity is a function of our excellent faculty,” says MIS chair and professor David Schuff. “We also provide an environment that strongly supports and encourages research,” he says.
Temple was also the most frequently published institution in those journals during the period from 2018 to 2020. In addition to Thatcher, four other MIS faculty appeared on the list during that period: Taha Havakhor, Detmar Straub, JaeHwuen Jung, and Anthony Vance.
Thatcher credits the atmosphere at Temple for his remarkable achievement. “I knew I was joining Temple, and I felt like I had to measure up. Temple MIS has a really strong tradition of people doing really good things,” he says.
Thatcher, who studies how people use technology to make decisions, also points to a culture unusually friendly to doing research. “The department recognizes the top researcher, and there are enough resources for doing research,” he says.
The breadth of subjects faculty focus on also adds to the department’s high rate of published research. “We don’t have 12 people working on the same subject,” says Schuff. Faculty members study strategy, the business value of IT, individual decision making, modeling, and more, notes Thatcher.
Another important ingredient in this formula for publication success is the MIS students themselves. “Really smart people from all over the world apply to this program. The best way of teaching people to do research is to do research with them,” Thatcher says.
When the new MIS curriculum was rolled out a year and a half ago, the department made some bold decisions. For one thing, it replaced the Systems Analysis course with a User Experience (UX) course. “UX is what today’s C-suite cares about,” says professor Munir Mandviwalla, who created and teaches the course. “Having a strong UX foundation makes our students better prepared for a more digitized economy and society,” he adds.
There are many ways of defining UX, but for Mandviwalla, who applies Donald Norman’s worldview on the subject of UX, it encompasses every aspect of a user’s interaction with a product, business, or brand. “Today you need to consider the emotional and social experience as well as the functional requirements and the steps you take to complete a task,” he says.
The course takes students through two hands-on projects. They conduct a usability analysis of an existing website they are randomly assigned and later they create a new transactional website that demonstrates their growing UX design expertise.
“The user experience has become much more crucial as the role of tech has expanded from the back office into our everyday lives. We judge an institution or business on how good the UX is,” says Mandviwalla.
In the course, he helps students learn to approach UX design from more than one point of view. “For example, the ease of use perspective suggests reducing the number of clicks it takes to complete a task. But sometimes the business model is such that you may want to add clicks to provide a better experience,” he says.
The course has helped recent MIS graduates launch their careers. “The UX Design course forced me to think about every single possible user interaction before it happened. A good design is one that is a step ahead of the user and can predict what the user will do next,” says Ahmed Hosny (BBA ’19), a software engineer at IBM.
Justin Kish (BBA ’19) also applies the UX design skills he learned at Temple in his work as an associate product manager at Bentley Systems. “The class taught me to challenge myself creatively in ways not typically found in a coding class. By utilizing the skills I learned, I’ve been able to analyze and lead products leading to better, long-lasting UI/UX solutions,” he says.
Assistant Professor Aleksi Aaltonen is interested in how people work with data in real-world business settings. “Not just data analytics–there are a lot of people studying that. I’m interested in data as a new kind of resource for economic activity.” It’s an interest that goes back to Aaltonen’s Ph.D. thesis.
“You need to think about finding, cleaning, integrating, and interpreting the data before you can actually analyze it. We often ignore or gloss over this work,” he says. But, he stresses, if the business world wants to harness the increasingly massive data at its fingertips, someone must pay attention to these practical matters.
One of Aaltonen’s recent projects, forthcoming in the Journal of Management Information Systems, looks at a company with a new business model. “They wanted to turn a mobile network into an advertising space,” he says. People in the network would get advertisements via text message. But counting how many people receive such an ad can be a surprisingly complex thing, according to Aaltonen. After all, no one is going to buy an advertising space unless you can prove someone will pay attention to it.
“If we send a message to a person does that count as a person seeing it? Or do they need to take some other action for it to count?” he asks.
“Solving these problems is surprisingly laborious,” says Aaltonen. The flashier subjects of data analytics and artificial intelligence get more research attention, according to Aaltonen. “But answering these mundane questions is just as important when it comes to actually make use of data in a business setting.”
Aaltonen is also exploring new ways of organizing information. “I’ve studied Wikipedia a lot, and what is most fascinating is the question of how is the system managed. How did Wikipedia learn to govern the 1 billion contributions into a high-quality encyclopedia with no managers?” He thinks part of the answer lies in transparency. On Wikipedia, for example, “you can see who added, removed or changed every a comma,” notes Aaltonen.
There’s a tendency in big business to exert managerial control over everything, according to Aaltonen. “But the ultimate aim of a firm is not to control things, it’s to make a profit. And if you can make better products that people want to use, then you have to look at that,” he says. Wikipedia is probably the most used reference product in the world. “It’s a new way of creating valuable products and businesses have to stay on top of that.”
As an undergraduate in MIS, Thomas Steigerwald (BBA ’10) took an expansive view of his future. Unlike some people who have a detailed vision of their dream job, Steigerwald knew only that he wanted to solve business problems with technology. Looking back on his years at MIS, he says his time as president of the student organization AMIS (now Temple AIS), through which he was able to connect with industry leaders, helped prepare him for what was to come. “Munir Mandviwalla is a big mentor,” he says.
After graduation Steigerwald landed a job at Aramark, which he describes as his “first taste of e-commerce.” During the year he was working there as a technical analyst another Temple alumni introduced him to Chris DiMarco, who was in the early stages of starting Lamps.com. At the time, he urgently needed his website launched.
“I knew I wanted to be solving business problems, and at that moment, I met someone who had a fun challenge,” says Steigerwald. The education Steigerwald got at Temple gave him a robust skillset that allowed him to build out the infrastructure and architecture of Lamps.com as well as leading the digital marketing strategy.
He was the first full-time hire for the start-up. “As the company has grown, I’ve grown and taken on many roles,” he says. “Everything the MIS and Fox school curriculum covered, I’ve used or applied here.” Even though he’s done it all at this point, Steigerwald has never held a formal job title at Lamps.com.
“I like not having a title,” he says. “It allows me to be flexible and add value in a variety of ways.” He can respond nimbly to the changing technology and business environment. “Ten years ago, platforms like Instagram and Pinterest weren’t around,” he points out. “You didn’t even consider building a responsive website, but as times have changed I’ve been able to quickly adapt.”
No matter which hat he is currently wearing, his work remains grounded in technology. “I can describe myself as a software engineer–I write code–but some people describe me as a solutions person because I’m finding and solving our businesses needs with technology,” notes Steigerwald.
It was a major leap of faith when he left his corporate position at Aramark to join a startup. “I saw the potential, and I was able to take the risk. And it’s been worth it,” he says.
James Foggie (MS ‘19) was a longtime systems engineer with Verizon when he felt the need for a new set of career challenges. “I had 20-plus years experience in IT, and I was looking to move from what I’d been doing into compliance and governance,” he recalls. “Most people would cringe when the auditors came around, but not me. I encountered people who were really great at their jobs.”
It was around this time that he received an email from the MIS department about a new specialized master’s degree in information technology auditing and cyber security. “It was an omen,” says Foggie.
He enrolled. And he credits the program with how quickly he was able to make his desired career shift. “In my last two semesters especially, I went to all the career development events,” he says. Foggie appreciated the way the program’s career council made connections between students and companies. It was at such a match-making event when recruiters from Vanguard first met him. “Two weeks later, HR called me.”
Today he’s a senior advisor in IT risk and controls for Vanguard. It’s exactly the career shift he wanted. “I work hand in hand with the internal auditors. All those hands-on assignments and group projects we did in the program prepared me. I pull from the knowledge gained in the program every day,” he says.
It was a similar twist of fate that drew Magaly Perez (MS ’17) to the program. “My background is in liberal arts,” she explains. “I didn’t know if I had the tech skills I’d need for the program,” she recalls, even though she was very interested in pursuing cybersecurity. When she called the department to learn more, she spoke with Richard Flanagan, then director of the program. “It felt like the stars aligned because he had a similar background in the liberal arts,” she says. Knowing his story made her feel like she could make the leap into a more technical field, too.
Magaly was awarded a scholarship to the program, which was sponsored by Intel. She says the hands-on activities and case studies helped her to fully grasp the very subjects that had made her nervous to apply. “Halfway through the program, Intel requested my resume and they reached out for interviews,” she says. The company offered her a position as an information security specialist. After several years in that role, she’s currently transitioning to become an enterprise architect with an emphasis on business architecture. “I’ll be working on the company’s strategy to use technology to achieve its goals,” she says.