Impact sat down with Brandon, Elyott, and Mackenzie, and asked them about their experiences in the Management Information Systems (MIS) Program.
Brandon Bliss came to Michigan Tech from Mt. Pleasant, primed to be an engineer. “My first year
at Tech, I found myself excelling in my Java programming class and wanted to apply
myself in a new way,” he says. He switched his major after discovering Management
Information Systems because it was more hands-on. It’s turned out to be a perfect
“In our IT Oxygen Enterprise, we’ve built an Android-iOS app that converted a textbook into an app,” he says. “It was really fun.”
Brandon interned at Isabella Bank last summer, where his responsibilities spanned the corporate IT structure, from minor technical support to troubleshooting networks and servers. After graduation in 2019, he’d like to be a software developer, but he’s also interested in quality assurance testing—debugging code. If it sounds like Brandon will have options, that’s typical, says his professor, Jeffrey Wall. “MIS is so broad,” he says. “Our graduates go in many different directions.”
Elyott Hedmark is proof you don’t have to be a code warrior to succeed in the MIS program. “I came
here knowing little to nothing about computer science,” he admits. His only computing
classes at Marquette Senior High School were in Photoshop and basic HTML. “When I
first started in MIS, I wondered, ‘What am I getting myself into?’”
But he quickly gained traction. “The professors here will teach you what you need to know,” he says. In particular, Elyott likes the hands-on aspect of the MIS curriculum, working with clients and figuring out how to meet their needs. “I find that rather fascinating,” he says.
After he graduates in 2019, Elyott doesn’t plan to spend much time at a desk. “I want to work with people, probably as a business analyst,” he says. “I’d much rather deal with customers than sit behind the computer all day.”
At first, Mackenzie Pirie thought she might be an accountant. Then she took an MIS course and found her real
passion. “I really like databases,” she says. “There’s so much you can do with them.”
Now her focus is on MIS. She is already working for Michigan Tech IT to develop a database that tracks all University software, coupling it with a user-friendly web-based interface.
This summer, Mackenzie has a business intelligence internship with Dow Chemical. If that goes well, she may begin her career in her hometown of Midland after finishing her bachelor’s degree in 2019, with a
double major in MIS and accounting. Or maybe she’ll go to grad school in database science. “Databases enhance people’s daily lives, and I want to be part of that,” she says.
SBE’s Management Information Systems program doesn’t just break the mold, it crushes
it. That’s the big reason Jeff Wall joined the faculty three years ago.
“Our hands-on nature at Michigan Tech is unique,” said Wall, assistant professor of MIS. “That’s what drew me here. Our graduates can hit the ground running their first day on the job.”
That first job is usually in business, with starting salaries of $65,000 and up, because the MIS program prepares its graduates to be key players in the corporate world. “MIS focuses on the needs of business and business people,” he says. “CS is more about optimizing the mathematics of a program, while MIS is about optimizing its business value.”
As the name suggests, MIS grads are frequently called upon to develop custom information systems. Off-the-shelf systems often fail because a one-size-fits-all approach rarely lives up to the hype. “Our students learn to build systems that users want and need,” he says. “MIS prepares students to see a system from the user’s perspective.”
Other job opportunities involve security, and considering headlines featuring the
likes of Equifax, Uber, and Facebook, the demand for MIS is there.
“The bachelor’s program in MIS prepares our students for a lot of different avenues, and security is near the top of the list,” Wall says. “That’s getting increasingly difficult because of the internet—there are lots of entry points where someone get into an organizations systems, and our students learn how to secure the network.”
Students don’t just learn to protect data, they learn to manage and communicate it through a focus on databases. “They give managers the information they need to make good decisions,” says Wall. And if they like, MIS students can become developers, building everything from web pages to phone apps.
How do they get so good at so many things? Students say it’s the hands-on learning and great teaching.
“All the classes have a project,” says Brandon. “I wouldn’t have learned nearly as much without the hands-on aspect.” Says Mackenzie, “faculty are passionate about their subject, and they care about your learning.”
Elyott agrees. “I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve knocked on Jeff’s door, and he’s always there for me,” he says. “No matter where you are, MIS professors get you on the right track to where you need to be.” Elyott is confident he’s on track to land a job he loves, helping businesses succeed. “Lots of companies are looking for people like us,” he says.
Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 54 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.