The IQ Program attributes its success mainly to the great faculty and a world-class curriculum. IQ Faculty members have been recognized nationally as well as internationally for their scientific and academic achievements. We, therefore, are starting a series of articles about IQ Faculty, their achievements and their vision for the IQ Program.
One of the main contributors to the program’s success is Dr. John Talburt, Professor of Information Science and Acxiom Chair of Information Quality at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR), where he serves as the Coordinator for the Information Quality Graduate Program. He is also the Chief Scientist for Black Oak Analytics, Inc., Little Rock company that was incubated from the UALR IQ program. Previously he was the leader for research and development and product innovation at Acxiom Corporation, a global leader in information management and customer data integration. He is an inventor for several patents related to customer data integration and the author of numerous research papers and articles on information quality and entity resolution. His books include Entity Resolution and Information Quality (Morgan Kaufmann, 2011), Data Engineering: Mining, Information and Intelligence (Springer, 2010), Information Quality and Governance for Business Intelligence (IGI Global, 2014), and Entity Information Life Cycle for Big Data: Master Data Management and Information Integration (Morgan Kaufmann, 2015).
IQ Program: Dr. Talburt, thank you so much for accepting to do this interview with us.
Dr. Talburt: It is my pleasure. I don’t think enough people know about our program and what we are doing.
IQ Program: Can you please let us know some information about you? Who is Dr. Talburt?
Dr. Talburt: That is a complicated question. I have always been a builder. I like to build things, and perhaps the thing I enjoy most about that is designing. So I guess I am about designing and building. Of all the major research methodologies the one I enjoy most is “design science.” Back when I had more time, my hobby was woodworking. I designed and built several wooden chests and jewelry boxes. In fact, I originally intended to major in mechanical engineering when I started college, but at the last minute changed my major to mathematics. I didn’t have a chance to work with computers until I entered graduate school. The first computer language I learned was FORTRAN, then IBM 360 Assembly Language. Later I learned COBOL, RPG II, PL/1, C, and Java. In that same vein, I have really enjoyed working with Dr. Wang at MIT, Dr. Lee at Northeastern, and Dr. Pierce at UALR to design and build the UALR Information Quality program.
IQ Program: We know that you have established the IQ program back in 2006. What was your vision back then for the program and did it change over the years?
Dr. Talburt: The original vision was to transform the MIT Executive Training Program into a degree program. Right away we realized two things. First, the degree should be positioned at the master’s level. That is because unlike management, computer science, or other established disciplines, there are not undergraduate programs in Information Quality. By putting the degree at the master’s level we could bring in undergraduates from all disciplines and add IQ knowledge and skills to their prior training. As you know, our students come from different backgrounds. The second thing we realized that we had to take the program online. There were not going to be enough candidates in the local Little Rock area to sustain long-term growth. In addition, as the only IQ program in the nation, we felt it is important to make our program available to everyone.
That mission really hasn’t changed. Certainly we have made a few changes in the requirements over the years, but the basic plan is still intact. The biggest changes were adding the Graduate Certificate and the IQ Track to the Integrated Computing program. The certificate provide an entry into the master’s degree, and the integrated computing program provided a way to extend the master’s studies.
IQ Program: What do you think about the opportunities that the IQ Program curriculum can offer prospective students? And how does the curriculum meet the requirements of the growing IQ job market?
Dr. Talburt: Clearly Dr. Wang was very forward thinking. We were fortunate to get the UALR IQ program up and running just as industry was beginning to get the message that their business was about their information, not about their technology. That is now in full swing. IT is becoming a commodity, and trend being driven by outsourcing, open source software, and cloud computing. Businesses are now realizing that they have to compete based on their information, not on their software. Already I am seeing more and more of our students being hired in positions related to data governance and data stewardship that are focused on managing information as an enterprise asset.
IQ Program: What opportunities do IQ Students have after graduation?
Dr.Talburt: As I said before, I think that employment for IQ-related jobs is really on the rise. The positions and job titles may not always use the words information quality or data quality, but they usually fall into the domains of the information quality as defined by the International Association of Information and Data Quality (IAIDQ). These include IQ Value and Business Impact, IQ Policy and Strategy, IQ Environment and Culture, IQ Assessment and Improvement, Sustaining IQ, and Information Architecture Quality. Most of our graduates have accepted job offers before they are graduated.
IQ Program: What challenges do you think are currently facing the IQ Program?
Dr. Talburt: Most of our problems are caused by our rapid growth and demand for resources. I have no doubt that we could easily double the number of students in the program in one year if we had a way to increase funding for graduate assistantships. Of course, that would also mean that we would need to hire more faculty to teach these students. The basic problem is that universities take time to react and adapt to changing enrollment patterns. I guess what I am saying is that we have reached a point where even though there is great demand for the program, it is going to be difficult to continue growing enrollment while still providing a quality education.
IQ Program: How do you see the program 10 years from now?
Dr. Talburt: I think it will look quite different by then. I hope that by then it will be a more interdisciplinary program that closely integrates business, communication, and computer science. It could also overlap with specific disciplines like engineering, health care, education, and marketing. Just as Big Data and Social Media has started changing our current curriculum there are bound to be even more transformative computing paradigms to be accommodated in the future.
IQ Program: Finally, we would like to ask you to say a word to IQ graduates, your current IQ students as well as prospective students.
Dr. Talburt: For our graduates I would say “don’t forget us!” Keep in touch and network with our current students to help them along. If we keep our sense of community we will all be stronger for it. For the current students I would say “focus on becoming a professional.” Take advantage of the program to learn new skills and build your professional resume. Participate in the IAIDQ student chapter, be active on LinkedIn, participate in internships, and attend workshops and conferences. For prospective students, “a career in IQ can be rewarding, but getting into the program is becoming more competitive.” As more students compete for limited program resources you will have to be better prepared to earn your seat in the program.