WPI Restructures MIS Major

Contact: WPI Media Relations, 508-831-5616

WORCESTER, Mass.-Although WPI's newly restructured undergraduate management information systems (MIS) major will not debut until A Term in late-August, it is already a smashing success. "More than 35 students transferred into the major after the restructuring was announced in October 1996," says Department of Management Head McRae Banks II.

"While the MIS major has been part of the department for years, it has never been a large drawing card," Banks explains. "Typically, no more than five MIS majors graduated in a given year, but they were well-received in the marketplace and quickly found top jobs. One recruiter from an international consulting firm identified WPI's MIS majors as the best-qualified of all that he hired, year-in and year-out. Therefore, the task facing the department was to find a way to bring in more students while maintaining the program's traditional strengths and building new ones."

With support from the WPI administration, the department took action. Assistant Professors Wenhong Luo and Diane Strong, who were hired to fill vacancies when faculty members departed for other universities, teamed up with Professor Dieter Klein to create a new and higher level of energy and enthusiasm in the MIS group. The group reviewed the previous offerings and competing programs and developed a new program design based on what are known as the IS '97 Guidelines, which themselves were developed over the last few years by all the major professional organizations involved with information systems, computer science and computer engineering.

"The guidelines are so new they have not yet been published in final form, although that is expected in the next few months," says Banks. "As near as we can determine, our program is one of the first in the nation to follow this model."

According to the IS '97 Guidelines, "information systems, as an academic field, encompasses acquisition, development and management of information technology resources and services and development and evolution of technology infrastructures systems for use in organizations." Such information technology is used in every organizational function, including accounting, finance, marketing, human resource management and production.

Unlike computer science, which focuses on algorithm system software development, MIS addresses the effective deployment and use of all computer-based technologies within organizations. MIS students bring skills in communications, computer applications, information technologies, problem-solving, and systems theory and development to the workplace. Their knowledge base encompasses personal computing productivity tools (spreadsheets, e-mail, word processing, databases, graphics, and analysis tools); expertise in designing, developing, implementing and administering information technologies to support all business functions; and the ability to communicate well with IT users throughout the organization. WPI's MIS program starts with the development of solid knowledge of the core business functions and continues with two core IT courses in business application platforms, an overview of applicable computer technologies, and business application development tools,an overview of applicable software development tools. It then adds courses in systems and database development and the use of communications technologies in developing national and global corporate infrastructures.

Banks and the Department of Management faculty have high hopes for the restructured major. "We believe the new program captures the continuing rapid changes in information technologies and their application in organizations and businesses," says Banks. "With appropriate promotion of the program we believe the changes and the already strong reputation of the program will attract even more students and keep WPI ahead of the competition for some years to come."