The History of MIS at UGA

 Introduction

We decided that it would be useful, interesting, and fun to describe key events in the evolution of the MIS program at Georgia. This history is based on personal recollections, discussions with others involved, and assorted documents. Hopefully, you will find the history interesting. Please add to its richness by adding your interesting/humorous/insightful remembrances about the program.

The Early Years

In 1969 the Departments of Management and Accounting created a new program called Business Systems. Though it was a joint program, it was administered and quickly assimilated by Management. The program’s name was changed to Management Information Systems and it became one of the first MIS programs in the country.

The Department of Management contained multiple programs – Human Resources, Organizational Behavior, Business Strategy, and Operations Management. Each had its own faculty and curriculum. The first MIS faculty members included Ellis Scott, Larry Rausch, Asterios (Stell) Kefalas, and Hugh Watson. Some of the MIS courses, such as Systems Analysis and Design, continue today, while most of the others have changed. For a programming language, students took COBOL, which was taught as a service course by the Computer Science Department.

The placement of MIS in Management worked well. Howard (Ted) Smith was a beloved department head who created a collegial environment that continues today. Dick Huseman, Archie Carroll, and Bob Gatewood followed Ted as department head and made many contributions. The socio-tech nature of today’s program was influenced by its placement in Management. Over time, however, as the size of the MIS program grew, it had to compete for resources with other programs in Management, which became a factor in the later decision to create a separate MIS department.

The IBM MoIS Grant

In 1984, IBM announced a $27 million grant program to support teaching and research on the management of information systems. In a highly competitive, multiple-round selection process, the MIS program at Georgia was one of 13 schools (e.g., MIT, Minnesota) selected to receive $1M in cash, $1M in hardware, and unlimited software. The grant program ran from 1985-1990.

ibm-grant

Being a grant school was a tremendous boost to Georgia’s program. It provided resources for teaching and research that would otherwise not have been available. For example, the Smart Office, a lab for teaching and research on the office of the future, was constructed in Caldwell 201 and an associated lab was located in Caldwell 205. It also provided credibility for the MIS program throughout the country, UGA, and Terry College of Business. Using grant money, many of the leaders in the MIS academic community came to UGA for the first time and experienced what makes Athens and MIS at Georgia so special. Grant money also allowed additional faculty to be hired.

The MIS Advisory Board

The Board was created in 1984 to serve as a mechanism for interacting with the business community, especially with those companies that hire our students. Hugh Watson initiated the Board and most of the initial Board members were people known to be interested in MIS education at Georgia. The Board meets in the spring to discuss the curriculum, changes taking place in the field, recruiting our students, research opportunities, and more. At a spring banquet, individual and company-sponsored scholarships are given to our best students.

Over time, the Board and its activities grew. More companies and individuals joined the Board. When the Terry College of Business facility in Atlanta opened, a fall Board meeting was created. At the first meeting, undergraduate students Viji Kannan and Jessica Marceau went along to help with the meeting and their assistance and popularity with Board members led to the inclusion of student representatives on the Board. It remains one of the best Board-related decisions made. Board members also speak to classes and attend various events to meet with students. The Board is well known in the academic and business communities and is discussed in a webinar.

SMIS

The Society for Information Management (SIM) is the leading professional organization for senior MIS managers. Previously, it was called the Society for Management Information Systems. In 1984, we tried to create an Atlanta SMIS Chapter with faculty and student members from UGA. The application was turned down, however, because it didn’t fit the SIM chapter model. Later, an Atlanta Chapter was created with Georgia’s MIS faculty in leadership roles. The idea of a student professional organization stuck, however, and was called SMIS, though it has no formal affiliation with SIM.

Hugh Watson was the first faculty advisor for SMIS, but Tex Carr, John Schleier, David Van Over, and Bob Brown all took their turns in later years. Hugh Head was the first SMIS student president. From the beginning, the leadership for SMIS came from the student officers. This philosophy and approach has been practiced by Mark Huber, who has been the organization’s faculty advisor since 1999. SMIS is arguably the best student professional organization on campus. This excellence is validated by SMIS being selected by the Association for Information Systems to receive its first student chapter of the year award in 2010.

Faculty and Students from Management Science

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Management Science Department developed a competing program to MIS. Due in part to the resources and recognition from the IBM MoIS grant, the MIS program thrived. Ultimately, the Management Science Department was disbanded and four of its faculty – Janine Aronson, Bob Brown, Pat McKeown, and Ton Stam – joined the MIS Department. This infusion of talent facilitated the further growth of the MIS Department. We consider all Management Science graduates to be part of the MIS family.

The Brooks Hall Fire

Brooks Hall is the home of the MIS program and the Terry College of Business. This changed for two years beginning in 1999 when a fire erupted on the roof and caused the worst fire in the history of the University of Georgia. The fire raged throughout the day as hundreds of people watched firemen try to put out the blaze. Brooks Hall was closed while renovations were made and the MIS program was moved to the Dance Building on South Campus. A lingering memory is the sound of the classes’ music and dancing. The MIS faculty soon realized how much they loved North Campus and its proximity to downtown. We quickly tired of eating at Snelling Hall and the Georgia Center for Continuing Education.

A picture of the roof of the Brooks Hall fire.

 

The MIS Department Is Created

Due to the strong economy, .com boom, and Y2K in the late 1990s, there was rapid growth in MIS enrollments. The program had outgrown the Department of Management and the decision was made to create a separate department. Pat McKeown was named the first MIS Department head in 1999. As a separate department, the program became more entrepreneurial.

Graduate Programs

A small cohort of students started in the Master of Internet Technology (MIT) program on the Georgia campus in Fall 2000. It was initially a joint offering of MIS, Computer Science, and the New Media Institute. In 2004, the program was moved to Georgia Gwinnett College as a part-time program offered by the MIS Department. To meet increasing demand outside the Atlanta metro region, the Master of Internet Technology program in 2014 was retooled to be 100% online delivery. Craig Piercy has been the program’s director since 2006.

The PhD program is one of the oldest, largest, and most successful in the country. The first graduate was Michael Parks in 1973, and over the years, there have been over 80 graduates. They have gone to prestigious universities such as MIT and the University of Virginia, been chaired professors, and held positions as department heads and deans. In the early days, Management and Computer Science faculty were very helpful in serving on dissertation committees. The involvement of Computer Science helped foster a good relationship between the two programs that continues today.

Recent Years

The boom of the late 1990s turned into a bust as the economy and IT hiring and spending were cut. Student enrollment in MIS is tightly linked to the job opportunities for its graduates; consequently, the number of MIS majors declined dramatically. Much of the efforts of department heads Dale Goodhue and Rick Watson were to increase enrollment.

Fortunately, Dean George Benson, unlike deans at some other schools, continued to support the MIS program through the lean years. This support was also extended by Dean Robert Sumichrast. Both Deans had tenure in MIS even though their backgrounds were in Operations Management.

Over the past few years, MIS hiring and enrollment have grown significantly. Maric Boudreau has headed the department during this period. Currently, the demand for the MIS major is high. In fact, it is currently the most difficult major to get into in the Terry College of Business, and is also at the top in terms of placement and starting salary.

Points of Pride

  • The MIS undergraduate program is ranked No. 12 in the country by US News & World Report
  • The MIS PhD program is one of the original MIS programs – celebrating its 45th year
  • The Association for Information Systems named SMIS the Student Chapter of the Year in 2010; and Distinguished Student Chapter 2011-2013
  • Home to the Society for Women in Technology organization
  • Faculty have authored more than 50 textbooks and publish extensively in the field’s leading academic journals — MIS Quarterly and Information Systems Research
  • MIS is ranked 6th internationally in research productivity in the field’s top two journals
  • Faculty also publish in leading professional journals, such as Harvard Business Review, Sloan Management Review, and California Management Review
  • PhD graduates hold positions in leading universities, such as MIT, the University of Virginia, College of William & Mary, University of Arkansas, and Arizona State University
  • Conference and program chairs for the two leading IS conferences (ICIS and AMCIS).
  • Originator of the Global Text Project
  • Founder of the Teradata University Network, a teaching resource for data warehousing, business intelligence, and analytics
  • Research director for the Advanced Practices Council of the Society of Information Management
  • Past President of the AIS, the leading organization for IS academics.
  • Multiple senior editorships of MIS Quarterly and Information Systems Research, the field’s preeminent journals.
  • Three AIS Fellows – awarded for outstanding global and regional contributions in MIS. One LEO Award winner – AIS’ highest honor for exceptional lifetime achievement in MIS.
  • Chairman of the Atlanta Chapter of the Society for Information Management

Full Time MIS Faculty over the Years

  • Janine Aronson (1987-present)
  • Nick Berente (2010-present)
  • Bob Bostrom (1988-2012)
  • Maric Boudreau (2001-present)
  • Kathryn Brohman (2000-2003)
  • Bob Brown (1967-1998)
  • Houston (Tex) Carr (1984-1989)
  • Dave Chatterjee (2001-present)
  • Paul Cheney (1982-19880
  • Alan Dennis (1991-2000)
  • Dale Goodhue (1996-present)
  • Jeff Howells
  • Mark Huber (1999-present)
  • Elena Karahanna (2000-present)
  • Stell Kefalas (1971-2000)
  • Pat McKeown (1976-2003)
  • William Lewis
  • Bob Mann
  • Craig Piercy (2000 – present)
  • Larry Rousch (1969-
  • John Schleier
  • Ellis Scott (1969-1981)
  • Nikhil Srinivasan (2013-present)
  • Ton Stam (1986-2000)
  • Amrit Tiwana (2010-present)
  • David Van Over (1988-1991)
  • Hugh Watson (1970-present)
  • Rick Watson (1989-present)

This document was prepared by Hugh Watson (hwatson@uga.edu) and Mark Huber (mhuber@uga.edu). Contact us if you have any thoughts, questions, or comments.

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