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MIS' slip in ranks not surprising

By Olivia Sheng
Arizona Daily Wildcat
March 24, 1999
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To the editor,

A drop in the US. News & World Report's ranking of the management information systems graduate programs with the MIS specialization from third to fifth place is a great disappointment to all of us. However, it was not a complete surprise. Limited resources recently have had an unfortunate impact upon the department's ability to provide our students with an adequate number of instructors and classroom seats as well as sufficient opportunities for student-faculty interaction and access to MIS technology and infrastructure.

In the past year, the MIS department has seen a more than 30 percent increase in the number of MIS majors, which has reached more than 1,000 students.

However, the size of our full-time faculty not only has not increased accordingly but has dropped by four to 14, only 10.5 of whom are active in 1998-1999. The others are on sabbatical or leave. This translates to an average of one faculty per 100 MIS majors!

The MIS Department has not received adequate funding to hire enough full-or part-time faculty to provide sufficient course offerings and we have had to expand many of our class sizes to the absolute room capacities. We sometimes have even combined two sections into one.

Both faculty and students have been overwhelmed by the effects of these measures at a time when MBA or MIS programs at other universities have been expanding their faculty hiring and programs. The contrast between our department's situation and those of other institutions has clear implications for the rankings.

The MIS department has many positive initiatives under way that can help us recover our ranking. These include strengthening partnerships with industries through establishing the department's own board of advisors, enhancing technology synergies with Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, SGI, Compaq and HP in our research and education, and our strategic planning effort to revamp the curriculum to incorporate new technology and issues.

In addition, we are increasing the integration of real-world oriented learning experience through industrial mentoring, internships and student projects.

Given proper resources, we also hope to build new programs or program focuses.

However, if our efforts are to bear fruit these initiatives need faculty nurturing that can only be made available with sufficient funding for faculty hiring and program operation.

So, where do we go from here? It is clear that our future depends not only on support from faculty and students but also from our administrators.

Comments from within the college and the department deploring the new ranking provide a strong reminder that the MIS department cannot continue to maintain its enviable excellence without adequate resources. I therefore urge MIS students and faculty to make known to our supporters our needs and concerns, and at the same time to become more alert and supportive of any effort to improve the quality of our program.

I was, of course very much disappointed that we were unable to maintain the high ranking we have held in the past. I nevertheless believe that, despite difficult circumstances, we can work together to regain or surpass our earlier achievements.

Olivia Sheng
Management information systems department head