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Letter from the Chair - December 2015

Steve Gilbert PicIn September I assumed the role of Chairman of the Department of Information, Risk and Operations Management, after our former Chairman, Professor Prabhudev Konana, stepped down. As you know, Prabhudev was an amazingly successful steward of the department. Under his leadership, our undergraduate major in Management Information Systems grew from 233 to 361, and our major in Supply Chain Management increased from 121 to 221. But undoubtedly, his most significant legacy is the creation of the Master of Science degree in Business Analytics (MSBA). We were among the first universities to offer such a program, and have served as a model for other schools who have introduced their own programs since then. We are grateful for Prabhudev’s leadership over the past four years. Fortunately, he has not gone anywhere and will continue to be a force in the department.

This fall, we introduced some major changes in the curriculum for the undergraduate MIS program with the objectives of increasing the rigor and ensuring that our students have a solid set of relevant technical skills that they will need upon graduation. MIS 304, Introduction to Problem Solving and Programming, is now using Python as the programming language.  In addition, MIS 333K, Web Application Development, now uses HTML5, JavaScript, JQuery, Bootstrap, Visual Studio, C#, and Entity Framework, including ASP.Net MVC and Identity. These changes are a direct response to the advice that we received from the IM Steering Committee and Advisory Council Meetings and represent a big step toward ensuring that our students have the most relevant skills for the workplace when they graduate.

Our MSBA program continues to thrive. Our 2015 graduating class had 98% placement within 60 days of graduation with an average starting salary of $86,500. In spite of the fact that we face increasing competition in this market, our admissions process is off to a strong start. For the class that will arrive on campus next summer, we received 160 applications in our first review round in October, up from 98 last year. With additional rounds of applications in January and March, it appears likely that we will surpass the total of 650 applications that we received last year. Such a healthy rate of applications bodes well for maintaining a high level of quality among the class of 50-60 students that we anticipate enrolling.

Finally, I would like to call your attention to a few particularly notable accomplishments on the part of our faculty. Professor Andrew Whinston, Anitesh Barua and Guoming Lai were all honored with prestigious external research awards this year.  Professor Whinston received the Career Research Excellence Award from the University Co-op, and is only the second member of the McCombs School to win this prestigious award.  Professor Barua was named a Distinguished Fellow of the Information Systems Society, joining Professor Whinston among a total of only about 25 such Distinguished Fellows world-wide.  Finally, Professor Lai won the Wickham Skinner Early Career Research Accomplishments Award from the Production and Operations Management Society. In addition to these external awards, two other faculty members, Professors James Scott and Kumar Muthuraman, were recognized with internal (McCombs) research excellence awards this year.

Our faculty have also been recognized for excellence in teaching. Katie Gray was named by the Alcalde, the official newsletter of the Texas Exes, as one of the top 10 most memorable faculty named by alumni. In addition, Clint Tuttle was recognized with the Hank and Mary Harkins Foundation Award for Effective Teaching in undergraduate classes, and doctoral student, Gorkem Ozer, won the Fred Moore Assistant Instructor Award for Teaching Excellence. We are very proud of our faculty for receiving these well-deserved awards.

In summary, the Department of IROM has a lot to be proud of, and the current faculty and students give good cause to be optimistic for the future.