News & Press: InSider

Joey George: Why I Became an MIS Professor

Tuesday, February 17, 2015  

Joey F. George
Iowa State University

In 1981, I had been convinced that I should pursue a doctoral degree in computer science. This is not necessarily unusual, as many people decided to pursue doctoral degrees in computer science in 1981, but at the time I had never seen a computer. I had never programmed. Yet I had been told this would be a good thing for me to do. I applied to the doctoral program in computer science at the University of California, Irvine. Even more surprising than me applying was that they accepted me. My undergraduate degree from Stanford was in English. I wish I had been privy to the conversations of the admissions committee when my application was under discussion.  I’m sure that was entertaining, at least.

So I enrolled in the CS doctoral program at UC Irvine in fall 1981.  As soon as I got past the orientation for new students, it was clear that this was not going to work. Some days I felt that I had been dropped off on Mars and that the return to Earth was going to be a long and painful trip. For my assistantship, I had been assigned to grade essays in a required computer science course that dealt with social issues related to computing. Since I had taught English for two years, this seemed like a safe and productive place to put me.  After agonizing about the computer science doctoral program for a couple of months, even though I enjoyed the student essays and the material presented by the professor, I decided that this had been a big mistake. It was time to bail.

I told the professor who taught the social issues class about my decision. His name was John King. I don’t remember how long we talked about this, or where the conversation took place. All I remember is that John said that I could continue to study computing, but from a different perspective, in the business school. John’s appointment was split between computer science and business, so he had a unique perspective on the subject. He suggested I take a few business courses to see if that approach would work. I did, and it did.  I applied to transfer to the business school doctoral program, and I was accepted for fall admission.  Four years later, with John as my dissertation chair, I graduated and started my first job as an MIS professor.

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