Category: MIS

Alec Fisher Scholarship Fund for Managament Information Systems Students

The Alec Fisher Scholarship Fund was established to honor the memory of Alec Fisher, a Michigan Technological University student who double majored in environmental engineering and management information systems. Raised in Portage Township, Michigan, and a 2016 graduate of Hancock High School, Alec was a member of the Blue Key National Honor Society at Michigan Tech.

Scholarship Information

Scholarship Requirements

  • Junior or above
  • Enrolled in management information systems or environmental engineering
  • 3.2 GPA or higher
  • Preference given to individuals from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan
  • Financial need considered

Milligan and Wall are 2019-20 Ten Haken Faculty Fellows

Exterior of Academic Office Building

The School of Business and Economics (SBE) at Michigan Technological University announces the appointments of Sheila Milligan, senior lecturer in accounting, as the Richard and Joyce Ten Haken Faculty Fellow in Accounting/Finance, and Jeff Wall, assistant professor of management information systems (MIS), as the Richard and Joyce Ten Haken Faculty Fellow in Business.

Photo of senior lecturer Sheila Milligan
Senior lecturer Sheila Milligan (center)

Dean Johnson, dean of SBE, says the fellowships shine a light on the important work Milligan and Wall do in the classroom and beyond: “Our faculty stand a part for being large enough to lead and small enough to care. They know our students’ strengths and goals, and they play integral roles in guiding them with hands-on learning and mentoring.” 

Milligan, a 17-year veteran at the University, says that Richard and Joyce’s giving inspire her every day. “I want to be my best for our hardworking students, who are very conscientious about their education,” she says. 

Photo of professor Jeff Wall with student
Jeff Wall (left). assistant professor of management information systems (MIS)

Fellowship funds will be used for student travel, experiential education, student scholarships and to provide teaching assistant positions and professional development for faculty. “Attending conferences in forensic accounting is critical to keeping my teaching agile and relevant to prepare students,” Milligan says. 

Wall intends to direct his fellowship funds toward undergraduate scholarships for students dual majoring in accounting or finance and MIS. “Using the funds–more than $8,000 in total–in this way can help support Michigan Tech’s enrollment goals for business students,” Wall says of the new initiative directed at growing the School of Business and Economics.

Trends in industry are placing a greater emphasis on the intersection of accounting and finance with MIS.  Wall anticipates seeing top-quality, interdisciplinary students through these scholarships.

The Ten Haken Faculty Fellowship positions were created in 2017 to attract and retain high-quality business faculty and to inspire teaching and research activity amongst business faculty. Both accounting majors with bachelor’s degrees in business administration, Richard and Joyce Ten Haken are pillars of support for SBE’s students and faculty. 

Tech’s MIS Students Benefit from Corporate Partnership

Drone photo of campus and Portage Canal
Students in a management information systems (MIS) course at Michigan Technological University are seeing the benefits of a partnership with the provider of the largest cloud platform for developing integrated, custom business applications. Students in Russ Louks’ MIS 4100 capstone course have developed applications using the Quick Base low-code/no-code platform.

Louks, management information systems professor of practice in Michigan Tech’s School of Business and Economics, said “One of the challenges we face in providing experiential learning opportunities for MIS students, is ensuring the tools and projects offered are in line with the learning curve.”

He said MIS intersects business and technology with graduates developing into “IT Swiss Army Knives.”

Relying on nearly three decades at Ford Motor company, Louks maintains a network of professionals eager to support his business students. One of those connections, Tech alumnus Evan Rice ’06,  senior director of IT operations, information and analysis services for CCI Systems, an Iron Mountain-based communications solutions provider.

Rice, who is also a member of Michigan Tech’s MIS advisory board, was instrumental in implementing a new classroom technology tool that is rapidly becoming a model for educational settings across the country.

“Evan suggested low-code/no-code as a concept our students should learn,” Louks said. CCI employs Quick Base in their professional work and offered to sponsor the licensing of the emerging technology for capstone students.

CCI Systems Business Analyst and Application Development Manager Janet Plumley, led the student project for the past two years. She said, “In traditional settings, students would start by writing code, which can lead to frustration and inefficiencies.” MIS students use a data-model first approach; it’s an easier development environment.”

Louks added “Students enjoy the experience of going from nothing to having a finished product in one semester and a possible career path using the skills they have developed in the program.”

Plumley, who serves on the Builder Advisory Board for Quick Base, has another Husky connection; her son, David, is a current student.

The collaboration was so successful after the first year that CCI Systems expanded the program to include multiple student teams with Tech’s MIS faculty and Quick Base’s Builder Program, that provides no-cost builder accounts for learning purposes. Additionally, CCI adopted the application students developed in class and hired Tom Strome, a Houghton native and ’19 MIS grad.

Plumley said this real-world knowledge of up-and-coming technologies in their toolkit makes Michigan Tech MIS students even more valuable, whether they pursue IT or another high-tech field like finance. “It empowers them to solve their process improvement challenges.”

She added that because these students have a sound knowledge base, they catch on to new challenges quickly. “They aren’t doing theory — they are doing real work that can positively impact a real company.”

“The applications the students presented at the end of the semester were amazing in how closely they mapped to the requirements provided to them by CCI and Michigan Tech,” said Mark Levitt, Quick Base builder program team member. “These students are very well prepared to solve business problems that they encounter in the workplace.”

What began as an industry partnership between CCI Systems leaders and MIS faculty has now evolved into a great lesson about the value of this kind of partnership between universities, commercial organizations and service providers dedicated to helping to equip students with the tool and training they will need in the workplace.

Management information systems at Michigan Tech continues to provide Huskies with a broad background in modern technologies to solve business problems so employers will continue to value hiring its graduates.

Q&A with Russ Louks

Sit down with Russ Louks, management information systems professor of practice in Michigan Tech’s School of Business and Economics.


You received your BS from Michigan Tech in 1979. How has campus evolved since your time as an undergrad?

EERC had just opened. Walker was Sherman Gym. There was no Rozsa Center. The Union was about half its size. K-Day was either on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday. A whistle blew at Noon and class was dismissed. Students piled in their cars and went out to McLain for a barbecue. Not knowing when it was going to be held was a lot of fun.

Michigan Tech’s focus on academics hasn’t changed.

Tech students haven’t changed. They are still smart students who are technology focused.

The emphasis on experiential learning and preparation for a career has changed dramatically.

How do your nearly 30 years in industry inform your teaching?

I saw a huge technology change over my 28 years at Ford. Laptops didn’t exist. Devices didn’t exist. Computers were the size of a three-foot bookcase. But the concepts are the same, which is the key to longevity in the field. Eighties and nineties IT is unrecognizable, but the concepts are the same.

It’s about putting what you are trying to learn into a structure you already know.

The new Emerging Technology class I teach at MTU is the same thing I was doing at Ford, interfacing with the real world, using a computer system to use information to make decisions or control a part of the physical environment. It’s a realm I am still incredibly interested in.

What does it mean to be a professor of practice? 

Being a professor of practice goes back to experiential learning—I’ve been there, done that. I have a lot of war stories [chuckle]. I’ve learned how technology evolves. The trends that fizzle out. You learn to look deeper to determine if a trend is really going to make a difference, and how to apply it.

A technology whose hype tails off tend to be the ones who deliver on the offerings. MIS professionals ask: What’s behind this and how can we take advantage of the technology to solve business problems? Getting across the idea that technology is great, but it must solve a problem . . . a technology problem, a business problem, a social problem. Chasing a solution without a problem is wasting money.

You have a diverse background in computer technologies including experience with data collection technologies including 2-D barcodes, RFID technologies, computer networking, serial communications, and handheld computing devices. Why is it important for business students to have technology knowhow?

You can’t run a business today—even a mom and pop shop—without technology solutions. Whether you are in IS, CS, or any other area, you have to touch technology. We must ask: How can technology advance my business? Can I take advantage of it before others? What negative impacts will it have? Will it put me out of business? How will we use it? How will we make money?

It’s an imperfect science.

As the advisor of IT Oxygen Enterprise, what does the team have in store for this academic year?

We’ve got a stream of all-new projects this year including data science projects; we’ve got a project with the Department of Defense, where we will research how to keep mobile networks alive in extreme environments; a project with Microsoft; a project with Ford; and an internal project within Enterprise to develop an easy-to-use web template for the dozens of Enterprise teams on campus.

IT Oxygen is multidisciplinary, bringing together students from computer science, MIS, engineering, and scientific and technical communications. All components are necessary. All skills are complementary–not in competition. Any overlap in skills is what allows us to communicate.

One of your research areas is information security. What can a layperson do now to protect themselves?

Be vigilant. The biggest cybersecurity threat in the world today is people. Perform a risk analysis just like in a financial situation. There isn’t a business immune from cybersecurity issues. You are responsible for the data you collect and store. Change passwords. Use strong passwords. Implement two-factor authentication. It can be a pain, but it’s today’s world. Every morning I check my bank accounts. The cost of convenience is vigilance.

What keeps you motivated?

If you are really enjoying what you are doing, you keep up on trends without realizing it; you read for pleasure. It doesn’t feel like a burden (if it feels like that, you are in the wrong job). Reading, going to events, and learning—not to learn—but because there’s an interest. Working with students is a joy; it’s easy to stay motivated.

What has been your biggest source of pride in working with Huskies?

Watching the transformation that takes place over the course of an internship. The light turns on and students return to campus as young professionals. Just because I teach doesn’t mean students learn. It’s incredibly rewarding when students come back and say, “I get it now.” Seeing them progress and seeing their success makes this job worthwhile.

Q&A with Mari Buche

Get to know Mari Buche, associate dean of the Michigan Tech School of Business and Economics and professor of Management Information Systems

Associate Dean of Business and Economics poses alongside Blizzard, Michigan Tech's mascot
Associate Dean Mari Buche began her post July 2.

Q: Congratulations on your new role as associate dean. Can you share some of your goals or your vision for the School of Business and Economics?

My first goal is to assist the dean in preparing for the upcoming Continuous Improvement Review by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). I provide reports and documentation to communicate the incredible work being done in the School of Business and Economics at Michigan Tech. Essentially, I’m helping to tell our story.

The accreditation is an important barometer because it’s an external assessment. It’s easy for us to claim we’re high quality, but when an outside agency confirms it, it adds value to our degree programs. For students pursuing graduate education, it can provide exceptional opportunities when the institutions see they are from an accredited business school. Another benefit is the Beta Gamma Sigma honor society, sponsored by AACSB. People in industry also recognize the emblem—these invited members are clearly the cream of the crop. Accreditation also highlights our connectedness to current business trends.

In addition, I see my role as supporting both faculty and staff in the department. It’s important that everyone works together. Good communication is vital to our ongoing efforts.

Overall, I’d like see the School of Business and Economics work toward achieving 10 percent of Michigan Tech’s student population, helping even more students become business- and tech-smart.

Q: How is the School of Business and Economics at Michigan Tech unique?

Our students stand out because we put them in teams beginning with their first year. They have more collaboration and conflict resolution skills than the people they are competing with for jobs. That’s what recruiters tell me. Also, our emphasis on technology is embedded in the curriculum. Collaborating with engineering majors gives our students a technical awareness and confidence that creates unique opportunities.

Q: You have a military background. How does it inform your daily work?

My dad was in the Air Force, and I joined the Air Force as a means to get tuition funding and serve the nation. I spent five years as a missile launch officer, which helped me develop my initial technical background. I was a distinguished graduate (top 10 percent of my class) in both Titan II and Minuteman II ICBM weapon systems training. The military is a comfortable culture for me—having a chain of command and maintaining professionalism and integrity. Although academia is very different from the military, collegiality and collaboration are common foundations in both cultures.

Q: Off campus, you are active in Rotary Club and other community service organizations. What value do you find in serving the community? What makes Houghton special?

I moved to Houghton in 2003 and joined Rotary six months later. Rotary International is one of the largest international community service organizations in the world. I wanted to get connected and meet people. I am passionate about our community, and especially appreciate the way we came together following the recent flooding. To me, the University isn’t a separate entity. We are intertwined with the people and programs of Houghton and Hancock. I feel like a liaison between the two circles. I’ve never thought of it as Us vs. Them. I grew up in a small college town in Pennsylvania, so I know what it’s like to be a ‘Townie’. I also enjoy learning about different cultures I experience through my work with Rotary and Rotaract (a Michigan Tech student organization).

Having been nominated and received multiple teaching awards, what in your opinion makes a good professor?

Being nominated by students means a lot to me. It’s validation that I am connecting to them and providing value. It’s important for teachers to clearly communicate expectations and help students stretch themselves to achieve challenging goals. I incorporate a lot of personal stories and experiences in my lectures that help illustrate complex topics. I also include nuggets of professional skills like negotiating and developing effective teams. I teach students that they can do anything they can imagine, but they must be willing to work hard for it.

In my field of management information systems, you can’t stagnate. It wouldn’t be valuable to students to allow my teaching content to degrade—and my students would be the first to call me on it. I like attending classes and workshops at the Center for Teaching and Learning. We all have a lot of room to grow, and it’s rewarding to build skills. Attending conferences, presenting my research, and reading voraciously keeps me motivated.

Q: Speaking of research, will you maintain your projects as associate dean?

Yes, in fact, I am working with colleagues from Florida State and Baylor University, looking at cultural, physical, and emotional barriers preventing women from entering—or staying in—STEM fields.

Q: Within the field of management information systems, what do you think are some of the keys to getting girls interested in STEM?

In my experience, the focus needs to be on problem-solving rather than the technology itself. Challenging problems are energizing, and using creativity to develop a solution that benefits someone brings the subject to life. When students implement their solution, and the organization is impressed with the results, that helps feed their passion. It comes down to the “Aha” moment and creating something of value. MIS offers a wide range of career paths, from very technical to more managerial or business-centric. Learning to write computer code takes some of the mystery (and fear) out of the activity. Many students are intimidated at first, but they gain confidence as they build upon their successes.

Q: You are an avid Huskies sports fan. How are MTU athletes unique?

I’ve always loved sports. I played soccer in college . . . we had to petition the school to form a women’s club soccer team. Coming from two Division I schools, I can say that our Michigan Tech Huskies are some of the hardest-working student-athletes I’ve ever met. They are often natural leaders on project teams. I respect the amount of time they invest in their training, similar to a full-time employee. They demonstrate deep commitment as they strive for excellence in both academics and athletics. Without exception, they thank me for my support when I attend their events. I feel very connected to them when they compete. I am also proud of the incredible conduct exhibited by our players, coaches, and fans, even when coping with a disappointing outcome. As a group, their attitude is professional and gracious to the opposing teams and referees. A class act.

Q: You are a new grandma—congrats! When your grandson is of college-age, how will business and economics fields be different?

That’s a very good question! Sam will have opportunities we can’t even imagine at this moment. Technology is changing at a rapid pace. At the same time, disruptions are being created by these innovations. It is challenging on many levels. When he heads to college, the crazy pace of change will be considered ‘normal’. The discussion won’t be centered on managing change; it will be seen as the normal flow of things.

Commercialization of technology is quite different today than in past decades, and the pressure to reduce time-to-market is constantly increasing. Companies are expected to maintain and support older products while simultaneously developing the next generation of products. Some customers may develop ‘upgrade fatigue’ if changes are imposed too quickly. However, other groups will clamor for something new and exciting. It’s hard to please both groups with limited resources.

Like my students, Sam will have to scan the industrial horizon and take the initiative to develop skills employers require. The greatest challenge is that employers don’t even know what skills they will need in the coming years, but

Three things will always be in demand: interpersonal communication, creative problem solving, and insatiable curiosity.

If those transferable skills are combined with a positive attitude, you’ve got the ‘secret recipe’ for professional success.