As many students from the BYU Marriott School of Business were about to begin finals week at the end of the fall 2021 semester, two MISM students were presenting their innovative ideas to some of the brightest minds in the information systems (IS) profession at the International Conference for Information Systems (ICIS). As some of the only master's students presenting, Lilia Brown and Benjamin Richardson impressed the audience with their preparation and fresh take on IS topics.
ICIS is an annual conference where information systems researchers from around the world gather to discuss innovative research in the field. For the 2021 conference, ICIS invited participants to submit case studies to be workshopped by other conference attendees. When BYU Marriott IS professor Degan Kettles received the invitation to attend ICIS, he immediately thought of his two research assistants, who he felt confident would be willing to step up to the challenge. Brown and Richardson, with help from Kettles, were tasked with developing case studies that exemplified how companies transformed to fit changing needs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the week of December 12, 2021—the week designated by BYU as the fall semester finals week— Brown and Richardson, accompanied by Kettles, arrived in Austin, Texas, ready to present their case studies. The duo presented to a group of experienced information systems professionals and impressed the audience with their innovative and unique perspectives.
“As far as I am aware, Lilia and Benjamin were the only master-level students who presented during the workshop,” explains Kettles. “Everyone in the audience was extremely impressed with them because this was an activity that would typically be done by a faculty member or a PhD candidate, and they performed as well or better than those who conduct this kind of research in a full-time capacity.”
For Richardson, the event was a fish-out-of-water experience as he and Brown were not among peers but rather were in a group of tenured professors and others who had spent years studying these topics. Richardson believes that his and Brown’s fresher perspective played to their advantage as they proposed ideas that those entrenched in the field may not have considered. “After our presentation, we had a lot of professors tell us they hadn’t seen a paper like ours in a long time. It was a completely fresh view on some IS stuff that, because we’re not tenured in the field, we have a different view on,” says Richardson.
Brown shares that while the opportunity to speak was exciting, the presentations still sparked some anxiety. Despite the nervousness she felt, Brown says the IS program at BYU Marriott played a vital role in preparing her and Richardson for opportunities such as these.
“Presenting was extremely intimidating,” says Brown. “Benjamin and I were surrounded by experts in the IS field. But the MISM program has taught us how to overcome being intimidated because we’re always learning new things, such as Python or C# programming languages. Having practice in that type of learning environment was useful in being prepared for the conference.”
Kettles believes the IS department will continue to see students such as Brown and Richardson excel in whatever they put their minds to. “I believe our students are of a high caliber and are prepared to take on a project of this magnitude when given the opportunity,” says Kettles. “Students have the inherent capability, and our department is active in providing them with opportunities to showcase their skills.”
Writer: Marissa Lundeen