‘Gig’ health,’ new faces, and the SCOB round out department news

As you settle into the fall 2017 semester, learn about a new grant that’s helping two of our IS professors study how the gig economy affects health. Meet the six new faculty members. And get the volunteers’ guide to The Secret Code of Business workshop.

Two IS professors get grant to study ‘gig health’ 

Assistant Professor of Information Systems Yili (Kevin) Hong gets photographed for the autumn 2017 alumni magazine with a headshot of Professor of Information Systems Bin Gu (laptop) who is in China.

Assistant Professor of Information Systems Yili (Kevin) Hong and Professor of Information Systems Bin Gu were awarded $120,024 from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the largest philanthropy focused on health in the U.S.

The RWJF grant will go toward Hong and Gu’s research of online labor markets in a gig economy — where jobs are often short-term and have little security — and study how this new way to work affects health.

While the RWJF typically provides these grants for research and programs aimed at the country’s most pressing health issues, they also consider pioneering ideas to help anticipate the future of work and its health outcomes.

When the research is complete in two years, the results will provide insights into the health consequences of these labor markets, offer guidelines for platform design, and help balance the opportunities for all participants, including hiring companies and workers.

Read the full story originally published on the Research and Ideas website, “New grant will help decode bias and health issues in gig economy platforms.”

Meet the new faculty, who will prepare students for BDA and CIS careers

Among the many bright minds at the W. P. Carey School of Business, a few new faces are joining the Department of Information Systems to teach business data analytics and computer information systems.

New assistant professor Ni (Nina) Huang gets to research the latest phenomena in technology, an exciting part of her job.

“From e-commerce to mobile commerce, from augmented reality to virtual reality, I have always been fascinated by how technology advances are c hanging daily lives,” she says.

In her new department role, she’ll teach as well as continue to conduct high-standard research. Huang will join the faculty in the spring after she completes her doctoral program at Temple University’s Fox School of Business.

Clinical Assistant Professor Andres Diaz Lopez, who is coming on board to teach CIS classes says, “It is a privilege to be able to contribute to the learning experience of enthusiastic students.”

Lopez’s research interests are in data analysis and visualization, transportation, and innovation. W. P. Carey, he says, is like a superpower for innovation and can change the world for better.

Another new face coming to W. P. Carey is PhD student Amin Sabzehzar. He will focus on business administration and computer information systems. Sabzehzar has a passion for data.

“I love to work with data, especially when it comes to helping businesses make faster and smarter decisions,” he says, adding that he’s looking forward to contributing to W. P. Carey’s well-established reputation for research and innovation.

Lecturer Edgard Luque, who says he’s looking forward to teaching students how to succeed in their careers, will use his experience as an entrepreneur and corporate executive to teach students about business intelligence and Big Data. Luque describes himself as a lifelong learner and says the innovations in CIS make for an exciting world.

“I believe the world is a better place because of the contributions of technology, business intelligence, and Big Data.”

Jessica Pye will join the IS department faculty as an assistant professor upon completion of her doctoral program at George State University this spring. Her research interests center on the business value of IT in the main institutional settings. Her research has appeared in leading peer-reviewed scholarly publications, including MIS Quarterly and Journal of Medical Internet Research.

David Darcy will also be joining the Department of Information Systems faculty as a clinical assistant professor. He’s teaching Business Project Management (CIS 311) and Business Intelligence (CIS 512).

A day at The Secret Code of Business workshop

Despite the early hour on a summer morning, anticipation could be seen on the faces of junior high students as they gathered on the Dean’s Patio. The local middle schoolers were on campus to attend The Secret Code of Business (SCOB) workshop held on June 20, 2017. The workshop, which is meant to introduce kids to the technological side of business, is hosted by W. P. Carey students and members of the Department of Information Systems Club (DISC).

As the sixth, seventh, and eighth-grade students arrived and checked in, groups of them were led to a computer lab where they spent most of the day. The first item on the agenda as they settled in: brain teaser games to break the ice. They were asked a series of riddles as a way to spark their problem-solving skills, explains Elizabeth Baxter, a computer information systems sophomore and three-time workshop volunteer. “The brain teaser portion is always a surprise,” she explains. “It’s a shocker when the students can quickly solve certain puzzles that the facilitators can’t answer.”

Another icebreaker activity the students did was think of, plan, and present their dream vacation. “The students did a phenomenal job with the dream vacation workshop,” says SCOB volunteer and CIS sophomore Brittney Ginther. “I was most impressed with their creativity and attention to detail. Some even came up with a fantasy vacation spot called, Basketball World. I loved how they thought that one through.”

Once the opening activities were done, students had a snack and got a preview of the day’s activities before it was time to begin the meat of the workshop — data games. Animated games help them interpret and apply data to get ahead in a match.

While the students ate lunch, they listened to a presentation about digital security and encryption. Then they were asked to look at an encrypted message and decode it. “The lunchtime activity we did was probably my favorite part,” says Trevor Tumas, SCOB volunteer and a junior studying CIS and business data analytics. “We focused on showing the junior high students the way encryption works and how important security is with digital information. After they had an idea about what encryption was, we gave them a basic encryption brain teaser. Several teams deciphered different sections of the message. They had to work together to figure out what it said, and it was a lot of fun.” 

The last, and possibly the most anticipated activity, was the hour of coding. The students got to animate their dream vacation. “My favorite part of the experience was seeing the kids experience the same gratification that I feel as a programmer, thinking of something they want the program to do, making a few failed attempts, then seeing the joy of getting the code to do exactly what they want. It’s one of the best feelings in the world,” says Russell Woodworth, SCOB volunteer, and a CIS junior.

By 3 p.m., the students were escorted by the W. P. Carey student facilitators for pick up, holding their completion certificates and supplied with coding books for practice at home. “By the end of the day, the students were proud of what they had accomplished,” says SCOB volunteer Madeline Verette, a junior majoring in business data analytics.  

Emily Beck, a CIS junior, DISC member, and repeat volunteer says her favorite part of the workshop is seeing the students get excited about technology. “SCOB opens the conversation on what not only a degree in technical business can offer them but also what any degree in college can provide them,” she says.

Middle schoolers left the workshop with newfound skills and confidence, while the college students gained experience to help them in their future careers. Take Tyler Hale, who graduated in May with a CIS degree and now works in software development for Revature. He volunteered in several past SCOB workshops and says that helping the kids in the workshops gave him a better understanding of coding.

Four Secret Code of Business workshops are held throughout the year, thanks to a generous grant from State Farm. The company donated $10,000 to cover the costs of the workshops, which included course materials, take-home workbooks, lunch, snacks, and transportation for the students.

“Supporting The Secret Code of Business workshop aligns with our goal to inspire children’s interest in STEM at a young age, which will strengthen the overall STEM talent pool,” says company spokesperson Naomi Johnson. “Our youth are already surrounded by technology. It is pervasive in every aspect of daily life, and STEM skills will only continue to grow in importance.”

Learn more about the SCOB and how to get involved.