Interview with Dr. Elizabeth Pierce, Chair of the Information Science Department

The IQ Graduate Program has gone a long way. Since its inception in 2006, the program has graduated many students. We are very proud of our Alumni, as they continue to contribute to the success of their companies, and we are just as proud of our current students.

Without the efforts of the excellent faculty, the IQ Program would not have reached its current success. We, therefore, are continuing a series of articles about IQ Faculty, their achievements and their vision for the IQ Program.

We talked to Dr. Elizabeth Pierce, Chair of the Information Science Department about the IQ program.

IQWP_000033 Program: Dr. Pierce, thank you so much for accepting to do this interview with us.

Dr. Pierce: Thanks very much for the opportunity to chat.

IQ Program: Could you please tell us some information about you? Who is Dr. Pierce?

Dr. Pierce: I am a person that has always been fascinated by how information is gathered, transformed, and stored (information systems) and how information can be analyzed for decision making (data mining and statistics).  Consequently in terms of my education, teaching, and research, I have bounced back and forth between the two disciplines (I have a BS in Quantitative Business Statistics, MS in Computer Science, and PhD in Statistics and Management Science).  For me, information quality is the glue between those two disciplines.  That is, you need to make sure your systems are providing quality information in order to make effective use of the information for analysis.

IQ Program: You have been one of the founders of the IQ program. What was the main goal for creating this program?

Dr.  Pierce: My first job after college was working for IBM as a programmer analyst.  It was there that I saw first-hand the inefficiencies caused by poor quality data.  Someone would request a simple report (or rather a report that should have been a simple job); however, writing the program to generate that report was anything but simple.  The data for the report was stored in files where anything could go wrong.  Text could be in numeric fields, strange values could appear anywhere, values could fall in nonsensical ranges, format inconsistencies could occur, etc.  Consequently one had to spend hours (or even days) building in all types of data checks before a report could be created.  Although I did not realize it at the time, I had started my journey to being a data quality professional.  For me, the main goal for creating this program is to eliminate the waste that is caused when someone does not have the right information when they need it.

IQ Program: Do you see the IQ Program to be where you have envisioned it more than 9 years ago?

Dr.  Pierce: I am really pleased with the progress of the IQ Program.  Under Dr. Talburt’s leadership the program has grown from 25 students to approximately 125 students. Our biggest challenge at this point is to find additional resources to offer more sections of courses to keep up with student demand and to continue to evolve our curriculum to keep up with changes in information technologies and systems.

IQ Program: The IQ Program is one of the Information Science Programs. How does the Information Science Department provide the necessary support for the IQ Program?

Dr.  Pierce:  The Information Science Department is home to 3 different undergraduate programs:  Information Science which represents IT for Work, E-Commerce which represents IT for Shopping, and Web Design and Development which represents IT for generating a great user experience and 3 different graduate programs: Information Quality, Information Science which focuses on Advanced Data Systems and Analytics, and Bioinformatics. Fielding the appropriate faculty, staff, and resources to support these programs is an ongoing challenge for both the department and the college but one that is worth it given the explosion of IT careers and research opportunities.

IQ Program: What makes the IQ Program unique than any other program in the Information Science Department?

 Dr.  Pierce:  There are several things that make the IQ program unique.  First the program is very interdisciplinary – it combines communications, project management, quality management along with database, visualization, system analysis, and data quality principles and practices.  Second the program is offered in a hybrid format.  Students can choose on any given night whether to attend class on campus, to attend class via the live webcast, or to view the recorded webcast later.  Third this program is the only one in this niche area.  That part surprises me most of all.  I feel that there are far more job opportunities in the data quality arena than in the data science/big data field.  Yet you can find many universities that offer data science/big data certificates and masters and we are the only ones offering a certificate and masters in information quality.

 IQ Program:  In your opinion, how does the IQ Program prepare IQ students for a very competitive and challenging job market?

Dr.  Pierce: I think our program does a very good job of preparing students to take on data quality roles in industry, government, and the non-profit sector.  We have a very good track record of placing our students.  In addition, many students who already had jobs when they were students have been promoted or obtained leadership roles thanks in part to the training they received from our program.

IQ Program: How do you see the program a few years from now?

Dr.  Pierce: The main thing I would like to see is our program continuing to expand in terms of more faculty, students, and partnerships with other universities in the field of information quality.

IQ Program:  Finally, what is your advice to IQ Students?

Dr.  Pierce:  Keep learning and keep yourself open to as many different resources as possible.  There is no one rule for what works with information quality.  You have got to be open and flexible for trying different ideas and approaches.



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