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MIS to deny some students advanced standing


Wildcat File Photo
Arizona Daily Wildcat

"We feel a tremendous commitment to our current students. We're not turning our back on them at all." James LaSalle chairman of MIS undergraduate curriculum committee

By Erin Mahoney
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
September 28, 1999

When Leigh Anne Gallagher began her academic career at the UA, she expected to earn a degree from one of the top Management Information Systems departments in the country.

Now, funding cuts and staffing problems may leave Gallagher and other MIS majors unable to complete their degrees.

"I very much feel cheated," said Gallagher, an MIS junior. "They can't even support their program."

MIS majors are required to apply for advanced standing in their sophomore years and are given two chances to apply before they are forced to select a different major and detach from MIS.

The MIS department normally admits more than 200 students into its advanced standing program each semester, but increased interest and depleted faculty have reduced spring admissions to a minimum of 50, said James LaSalle, chairman of the MIS undergraduate curriculum committee.

The department hopes to admit a maximum of 100 students into the advanced program this semester, LaSalle said

"It's simply because we're lacking some resources to staff the classes we're offering," he said. "It's a temporary emergency procedure."

About 150 people attended an advanced standing orientation last week, where Gallagher said she was shocked by the news.

"There were so many questions," she said. "People were noticeably upset."

But LaSalle said the UA is working to accommodate more students next year.

"We're hoping that by fall, we'll have additional resources," LaSalle said. "It's a dilemma the university has to deal with...it may be a shift of resources."

Meanwhile, the UA is not allowing students to declare majors in MIS.

General business senior Chris Suffecool attempted to change his major to MIS and said the situation is frustrating.

"It is especially difficult for me," Suffecool said. "This is what I've chosen to do. You would think they would have the facilities and funding to be competitive."

Gallagher, however, declared a second major in case she isn't granted advanced standing.

"MIS is what I want," she said. "I pay tuition, and it (the MIS program) is not for sale to me."

LaSalle said the MIS department is obligated to help current MIS students who may not receive advanced standing.

"We feel a tremendous commitment to our current students," he said. "We're not turning our back on them at all."

UA Chief Budget Officer Richard Roberts said MIS funds are not under his jurisdiction but that "nobody has enough resources."

The UA's MIS department is ranked No. 5 by "U.S. News & World Report," but LaSalle said staffing problems are common in top-ranked MIS departments due to competition for qualified professors.

"There's a universal problem," he said. "They don't have sufficient faculty."

Jeff Meldman, director of the undergraduate MIS program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said his department - which is No. 1 in the country - has also run into problems finding faculty, although financial restrictions are not a concern.

"It's a different resource constraint (here), but it's still a constraint," he said.

Patrick Jaillet, chairman of the MIS department at the University of Texas-Austin, said his university created an MIS minor in order to alleviate heavy interest in information technology fields.

"We want to keep the program to a reasonable size," said Jaillet, who chairs the No. 3 MIS program in the nation. "It's difficult to recruit faculty."

LaSalle said the department is making an effort to inform incoming students of the problem, and "if necessary, call attention" to the situation.

But Gallagher said the UA has a responsibility to help current students.

"It's not fair," she said. "As a student, what's going on behind office doors is not my problem."

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