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PostJoys of Academic Life (Tor Guimaraes, USA, 05/16/17 5:48 am)
After I got my Bachelor's and MBA from CalState Los Angeles, I had a choice to make: go into industry, which at the time seemed to have a large number of positions for MBA students with background from South America, or become a professor in the USA. Given that I was born to be a perpetual student and teacher, it was an easy choice. I realized that I would be paid less money but would be paid twice (money and knowledge with freedom to learn); also the more I learned the greater my value to society, theoretically speaking.
One day the Dean jokingly showed me an instructor's position in St. Cloud, Minnesota, saying why don't you go there and freeze your arse? The position needed someone to teach introduction to computers and basic statistics. The salary range seemed reasonable and I had a good feeling about it. I applied, and got the position. After a few years, the Dean told me all about AACSB accreditation and that I would have to get a PhD or be a second-class citizen.
By coincidence, the first and absolutely best PhD program in MIS in the world had been started at the University of Minnesota a few years earlier. I applied and was turned down. Later found out that one of the professors rejected me for coming from a "lesser" university. And so started a long and challenging process of transformation from a Brazilian happy seat-of-the-pants intellectual to an obsessive-compulsive researcher. I went to the most senior widely respected professor and struck a deal: I would take the first few required courses and if my grades were mostly A's with nothing below a B, they would accept me. Otherwise I would walk away quietly. Once in, I learned a great deal about academia: the students are the raw material, the professors are the manufacturing equipment; most of this equipment is very competent but some are not, some are dumb, some are lazy, just like people in general. The most important lesson was that they can get you started with some knowledge and tools, but ultimate success depends on your own ability to grow yourself in the areas and activities that you want to be good at. You are free to choose.
With PhD in hand (1981), my first job was at Case Western, with strong faculty from many prestigious universities and tremendous business community and government support. Working with industry was a great experience, which enabled a higher-level performance in teaching and research. After 4 years my wife missed her family so we moved back to St. Cloud State University in her home town. Some of my U of Minnesota professors thought I was destroying my research career but I knew they were wrong and managed to find partners and complete many research projects.
In 1991 I saw the add for the Jesse E. Owen Chair at Tennessee Tech and was very interested. I got the job, which called for my transformation from a very competitive professional, perfectly willing to run over obstacles and people, to being a research faculty mentor, putting junior faculty names as first co-authors, while also providing some free consulting to the community on request.
I am still here, and at the risk of sounding sappy, it has been like a good marriage. Thus, while mildly sympathizing with Enrique Torner regarding the cruelty of academic life, I don't really share his feelings. It has been a bumpy but wonderful ride for me. I thank God the Universe.
JE comments: I've always been curious, Tor: Who was Jesse E. Owen? He must get confused a lot with Jesse Owens, the legendary Olympian.
Jesse E. Owen (not Jesse Owens)
(Tor Guimaraes, USA
05/18/17 3:21 AM)
In response to John Eipper's question about the Jesse E. Owen name, it is not related to the great athlete. Our Mr. Owen's family/estate was the largest contributor ($250K) to the Chair's endowment (total $1.2 million). He was a local entrepreneur, the owner and manager of the local Pepsi-Cola company. The total Chair endowment is quite small for the grandiose ideas that I had in mind. To enable all the research projects that we planned and executed over the years since 1991, I had to implement a virtual organization which existed only in terms of specific research projects supported by their corresponding research partners. Thus, in most cases, each project drew on the resources of the participating partners, including the Owen Chair, the only common denominator.
In total, the virtual organization was quite impressive because it encompassed a potentially very long list (dozens) of partners interested in participating in a particular project. Once a research study was initiated, the potential partners likely to be the most knowledgeable and/or able to ensure project success were invited to participate. These partners were/have been the best in the world on specific areas of knowledge, have access to essential information or other special resources, for some projects their organizations were keenly interested in answering the specific research question, etc. The partners have come from academia and/or industry, from anywhere in the world. Correspondingly, one cannot overemphasize their contribution to specific project success. Overall, they have been literally instrumental in accomplishing the total results we have today: over 150 research reports published, dozens of national and international presentations, all focused on the management of technology for more successful business innovation.
According to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, "the Chairs of Excellence program began in the midst of the education reform and improvement measures passed by the General Assembly in the mid-1980s. This program brings eminent scholars to Tennessee public institutions and attracts research initiatives and private funding to our state. The program has resulted in an unprecedented level of donations to higher education from private and corporate sources."
Finally, our web page summarizes: "The J.E. Owen Chair is dedicated to the discovery and validation of new knowledge regarding the use and management of new technology, particularly information technology, in a wide variety of areas including manufacturing, health care, and financial services. The many research projects the Owen Chair has undertaken in the past and present are in partnership with many leading companies, universities, and research centers throughout the world. The research reports since 1991 have been categorized into four not mutually exclusive categories: Emerging Technologies, System Management, IT Human Resources and Strategic Management."
JE comments: Most impressive. You must have to answer the Jesse Owens question a lot, Tor. I have a question of my own: What percentage of your time, more or less, do you devote to fundraising? Another question: What is the most surprising (or unexpected) source of research support you've encountered?
Reflections on Fundraising and Project Teams
(Tor Guimaraes, USA
05/19/17 8:11 AM)
Our distinguished editor's commentary on my last post about the Jesse E. Owen Chair included two questions: "What percentage of your time, more or less, do you devote to fundraising?" The answer: zero time. The second question: "what is the most surprising (or unexpected) source of research support you've encountered?"
Regarding research support, the enormous team effort required by some research projects created some very big surprises, which taught me firsthand about four important things: 1. The power of personal trust. 2. Managers can get just as excited about research projects as the researchers. 3. Don't try to do everything yourself; pick the right partners and you can move mountains. 4. Students can get just as excited about research projects as the researchers.
1. The power of personal trust: I started to learn about this phenomenon when I noticed that my first meetings with prospective partners had to be face to face for me to feel the "chemistry" between us. If the chemistry was good, we were immediately in business and in every case, after a few projects, we became close personal friends. If the chemistry was not good, no matter how famous, clever, or wealthy the person, I learned that we should not work together. It would not be very productive in the long run. In summary, I learned that good chemistry turns into trust, and hearts and minds really come together to get the job done. More than once, partners who were the best in the world at something but were not involved in a particular project, dropped what they were doing to help. They had faith (trusted) that sooner or later they would also benefit from their generosity.
2. Managers can get just as excited about research projects as the researchers: We have completed projects that without the active participation of top managers from major companies could not have been carried out. For example, they provided mailing lists, or sometimes used corporate email systems to collect company data for projects directly from employees. On one occasion after project completion we had a meeting to get permission to publish the research results from a study based on DuPont's Expert Systems portfolio. To my great surprise, at the end of the meeting a manager and co-author said "what project are we going to do next?" I was embarrassed not to be prepared with a good answer.
3. Don't try to do everything yourself. Pick the right partners and you can move mountains much easier: Many if not most research projects can be quite complex when done properly. Many unrelated skills are involved in following the necessary research steps: Defining relevant questions important in practice and literature-supported hypotheses to be tested, choosing the research design and experiments set up, choose appropriate construct measures, questionnaire construction, data collection, data analysis, writing reports. The likelihood that anyone is world class in all the skills is rather low. Different studies require deeper expertise in different areas and partners need to be picked from the best available.
4. Students can get just as excited about research projects as the researchers: Academics have used students as subjects for a long time. I have used students for collecting data from companies, whereby the students are reasonably prepared to show how smart, competent, well-groomed they are, hoping that the experience will turn into an internship or a real job. The students provide useful and reasonably good research support. However, only lately because our university is promoting student inquiry as a means for learning, I have noticed student enthusiasm about actually trying to follow the required research steps listed above under item 3. Unbelievably, under appropriate instructor guidance, they seem to actually like "doing research" better that the more traditional lecture/discussion format.
It would be right for me to say that because of my meager budget for research support, I was forced into creating the virtual organization mentioned earlier. Perhaps I have been fortunate to become independent from external sources of funds, which in return define the issues to be studied and the research questions.
JE comments: Personal trust is Tor Guimaraes's #1 factor, and WAIS is an excellent example. We can be adversarial in our on-line discussions, but after the face-to-face time of a conference, ideological squabbles go out the window.
- Reflections on Fundraising and Project Teams (Tor Guimaraes, USA 05/19/17 8:11 AM)