"Connecting people with people and people with information in a global setting" is how Anne Massey describes the ways that many of the School of Business' M.B.A. graduates will use information technology in their work.
Massey is an associate professor of information systems in the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University Bloomington, at which she co-directs the Internet and New Media Academy with Raymond Burke, E. W. Kelley Chair of Business Administration. The academy provides M.B.A. students with a grounding in the technological, commercial, and human issues that information technology is bringing to the workplace.
The school's academies offer students opportunities to augment their M.B.A. course work with special classes, written work, and activities such as invited speakers and field trips, all focusing on a particular area. The Internet and New Media Academy has about forty members, and student interest has grown immensely in the four years it has been in existence, according to Massey. Unlike many of the other academies, it cuts across functional areas within the school. Massey explains that marketing students need to know how to sell information technology products and services. Finance majors need to know how to price them. ("It's not like selling a box of cereal where we all understand what it is.") Managers need to know how to work with international work teams that communicate electronically across half a world.
New media for communications such as fiber optics, the World Wide Web, and cellular and satellite technologies are changing the world of commerce that M.B.A. graduates will enter. Existing companies are changing the way they do business to accommodate these new ways for data and people to connect. New companies are emerging at a rapid rate to offer services and products in information technology. The academy helps students prepare for their roles in a world transformed by these new media, a world, according to Massey, where students will face the challenges of creating and maintaining a global and interconnected workplace.
The global nature of Massey's research reflects the nature of commerce today. She is working with international groups on two research projects. The first explores the challenges of marketing on the Web to an international audience with diverse responses to advertising. The second investigates virtual teams (groups of people who work together but never meet in person, instead interfacing through electronic means such as e-mail, teleconferencing, and communication software like Lotus Notes). Students work with Massey on this project, learning about the ways that information technology impacts the workplace.
Students learn about these and similar issues through academy events and specially designed courses. Topics include communication technologies and their applications, legal issues in cyberspace, and customer interface issues in electronic markets. In recent years, academy students have collaborated on research projects, sometimes working with a company on a topic of mutual interest.
Students also write papers on topics relevant to the academy. Each student selects a new technology or application and writes a concise analysis, for example on data mining or online trading. The technology is important, but in writing about technology implementation students also need to consider the "alignment of people and tasks and organizational structure as well as technology," according to Massey.
In an emerging field like this one, people at all levels can learn from one another since "no one's an expert in everything," says Massey. Students contribute their papers to an online knowledge repository, and academy graduates stay in touch through an e-mail list, so the community of learners can continue to interact once they are on the job.
The academy gives students the chance to connect with potential employers in their fields. Faculty members encourage students to complete an internship as part of their academy experience, and field trips to potential employers give students a look at the work world they will enter. Students have visited Washington, D.C., and Silicon Valley in California to learn about information technology at companies like Fannie Mae, Cisco, Arthur Andersen Strategic Technology Center, 3Com, Hewlett-Packard, and Online Focus (a major company in Web design and technology).
These field trips are only one of the ways the academy prepares students for a world in which volatile communications technology is radically changing the way we do business. Students gain high-tech knowledge and contacts within the information technology industry in addition to their business education. As companies struggle with the challenges of creating and maintaining global networks, this unique skill set will allow these students to make the connections that will power a new kind of commerce. --Mary Hrovat
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