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Smith to offer new Information Systems elective

By Kate Yoon
On March 3, 2011

 

A new one-credit Information Systems and Finance elective will be offered next
spring due in part to last semester's successfully passed SUSA bill to create more
Information Systems electives.
Former SUSA President Chris Coraggio, who proposed the bill, met with
Professors Sunil Mithas and Zhi-Long Chen, the new chair of Decision, Operations and
Information Technologies on Jan. 31.
"I shared my ideas of doing a 1-credit Special Topics in Information Systems
class, proposing topics such as cloud computing, information security, information
technology strategy, and more," said Corragio.
Chen and Mithas said the elective to be offered next spring semester
is "experimental." "It will start as one-credit and maybe become three-credits," said
Chen. The course content is yet to be determined.
After going to a General Electric job interview where he was asked to talk about
his IS classes, Coraggio began to believe that there were not enough IS elective courses.
"[Coraggio] went on a GE interview where he was asked about [topics like cloud
computing]. The reality is that we cover it in 301. When he took it, maybe it wasn't
covered," said Mithas. " The IS major changes very quickly, so it's very possible that
when Chris took the course the topics were not there.... We have already sent out an
email to faculty to cover these topics."
The bill passed unanimously on the day it was presented to the SUSA General
Assembly.
Sophomore IS major Moses Lahey said, "I think [the bill is] definitely a great
idea. At the career fair, I talked to a representative of the I3 program, a summer program
trying to increase interest in the IS field, who mentioned that currently, they do not have
enough warm bodies to fill in the demand for IS students. I feel like this push for more IS
classes might help increase interest in the field."
The faculty want the IS curriculum to prepare us to be systems analysts,"
Coraggio said. "The curriculum is currently sufficient for that purpose. However, I
believe that our curriculum should be more about becoming the next CIO, which entails a
much broader curriculum."
Making Master of Science IS courses available to undergraduates is being
considered as another solution to any limitations within the IS undergraduate program,
according to Coraggio.
"But there needs to be a lot of discussion around the implications of such a
decision," he said.
Chen and Mithas said that making MS courses open to undergraduates is "likely"
if they get approval from the school on a "case by case" basis.
Chen said students' needs expressed through the approved SUSA bill were not
surprising.
" We wanted to have more electives," said Chen. " We know there's a problem."
"We were actually happy [that Chris approached us] because there was more
support to our case [to the Dean's office]," said Mithas.
According to Corragio, the next step after passing the bill and meeting with
faculty is to "get a committee of junior IS majors together to keep this discussion going
and survey IS students."
 
Chen and Mithas said that in order to offer an elective class, at least 15 to 20
students need to enroll.
Mithas, other faculty members and Coraggio said that the major problem with
adding classes is a faculty shortage.
"We have hiring plans in the process," Mithas said. "[The school] is currently
receiving applications. We are expecting to interview in the next two to three weeks....
The school hires one faculty member every year."
"The new IS masters program also needs faculty," Mithas said. "We take [this
issue] very seriously because the major is increasing."
Professor Hassan Ibrahim, the primary lecturer of the IS department, said, "There
are a bunch of electives.... The variety offered is huge."
He had not heard of the SUSA bill, but said that although professors
are "committed to the students" and "open to communication," it is challenging to add
more classes.
"The constraint is working with the number of hours required," Ibrahim
said. "Adding another elective would require dropping one [of four] required classes.
You would have to make the program longer.... I don't think students would be very
happy to prolong the program."

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