New faculty: Each sees IS differently

The Department of Information Systems added three new faculty members this fall, each bringing distinct skills and knowledge to our undergraduate and graduate degrees. Meet Assistant Professor Victor Benjamin, Clinical Assistant Professor Kavous Roumina and Lecturer Phil Simon.

The Department of Information Systems added three new faculty members this fall, each bringing distinct skills and knowledge to our undergraduate and graduate degrees. Meet Assistant Professor Victor Benjamin, Clinical Assistant Professor Kavous Roumina and Lecturer Phil Simon.

Assistant Professor Victor Benjamin

Benjamin-Victor-text-IDEASWith his doctoral studies at the University of Arizona nearing completion, Victor Benjamin focused his job search on schools that valued research. The W. P. Carey School of Business was among his top picks, and not just because he is a Phoenix native.

“This was one of the few departments that cared about pursuing external funding, especially from the National Science Foundation. Many other IS departments do not prioritize NSF funding, as this funding source is typically not traditional to business schools,” he said. “During my job search, some universities told me that they do not care about NSF at all, but the faculty at the Department of Information Systems was excited at the prospect of working on NSF-funded projects.”

He also noticed that the department has an active doctoral program. “Students play a very key part in supporting faculty research. Having a large and successful doctoral student program is vital to supporting the overarching research direction of the department,” he added.

Benjamin’s research revolves around cyber security, machine learning and computational linguistics.

“I combine my knowledge from these three areas to explore cybercriminal communities and black markets existing on the Internet, especially those communities hidden in the ‘Darknet’ that are not accessible through normal means,” he explained. Leveraging his knowledge of machine learning and linguistics, he develops new techniques and algorithms for handling large-scale datasets that contain cybercriminal conversations and hacking assets.

The end result is better detection of emerging threats and their geopolitical origins, a clearer look at stolen data markets and more.

In the classroom, Benjamin followed the learner-centered teaching philosophy. In this model, the instructor facilitates the process of students taking charge of their own learning.

“This means less lecturing and spoon feeding of information, and more interactive in-class activities, group projects and granting students a voice in directing class discussions to topics that interest them,” he said.

Clinical Assistant Professor Kavous Roumina

Roumina-Kavous-text-IDEASJoining the Department of Information Systems merges the technology and teaching threads of Kavous Roumina’s career. For the past 22 years he worked in the health care technology industry, in the Center for Pathology Informatics at the Cleveland Clinic. During that time, he earned a Ph.D. in computer science at Case Western Reserve University, and taught more than 20 different classes at Lakeland Community College. Finally he decided it was time to devote himself to an academic career full-time.

“I felt it was time to devote all my attention to preparing the business leaders of tomorrow,” he commented. “It’s been said that to teach is to learn again, so I want to teach, learn and stay current with the latest technology as it relates to information systems, technology and the world of business.”

The Department of Information Systems caught his eye because “it was the first school or department that I had known that has a degree in business analytics.”

Roumina said his teaching style is “as interactive as possible,” which allows him to gauge his students’ level of understanding.

“I always like to start with the global view — from 30,000 feet — and gradually bring it down to the details, street level,” he said.

Lecturer Phil Simon

Simon-Phil-text-IDEASjpgAuthor and speaker Phil Simon has written seven books about technology, trends, communication and management, and has been a successful consultant since 2000, with nearly 100 clients from a wide range of industries. That experience will be valuable as he teaches the capstone courses, where students get exposure to industry projects and work with clients.

Simon is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University and Cornell University. “At Carnegie Mellon, even the poets can code,” he said. “My fascination with technology never really left me, even though I obtained my graduate degree from Cornell in labor relations. These days, every company is a technology company although some have not realized that fact.”

Students will recognize themselves in Simon’s account of how he became interested in technology: “I grew up with a computer. Looking back over my career and my life, I was always an early adopter. I wouldn’t say that I found technology; technology found me.”

“To quote Melvin Kranzberg, technology is neither good nor bad nor is it in neutral. I think about that axiom quite a bit in my daily life,” he added. “Technology is an essential element of tremendous opportunity, but tremendous risk and danger as well.”