The University of Minnesota's Management Information Systems program and the Management Information Systems Research Center began 46 years ago. It is always difficult to say who was "first." What we can say with certainty is that we began at the time when MIS was first emerging as an academic field. We may have been the first formal graduate degree program in MIS (Master's and Doctorate) associated with a viable research center.
THE BEGINNING OF THE MIS RESEARCH CENTER
The fall of 1967 was the start of planning. U of M professors Gordon Davis, Gary Dickson, and Tom Hoffmann felt that the time and place were right to establish a formal program in the organizational use of computers in information systems. To start a program with solid support from IS professionals working in industry, the local business community needed to play a strong part in curriculum development and applied research - a link that would be facilitated through the formation of a "research center."
Selected companies in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, notable for being internationally known and investing heavily in information systems, were invited to pledge support as "Associate Companies" of the MISRC. As sponsors, companies would have a direct influence on the directions taken by the university program, as well as having direct access to graduates from the program, research outputs, and training programs. The response from the business organizations was excellent, and by the summer of 1968, the Management Information Systems Research Center had been established with 21 founding Associate Companies.
From the outset, the Associate Companies were involved in the selection and direction of research and program topics. Since that first year, annual planning meetings with Associate Company representatives have assisted the research and program directions of the MISRC to continue to shift with changing industry conditions as reported by the Associate Company representatives. The first year featured lectures by nationally known speakers, including Alain Enthoven of Stanford University and James Emery of the University of Pennsylvania. This speaker series evolved to become one of the core activities of the MISRC Associates Program.
ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGES AS WE GREW
The MISRC was originally granted windowless office space in the basement of Blegen Hall on the university's West Bank campus, next door to a computer center with a CDC 3200 (purchased in 1968 partly with MISRC funds). Gordon Davis became the first director of the Research Center. As director, he reported directly to the dean of the School of Management (then the College of Business Administration). Two part-time secretaries provided support; graduate assistants helped wherever needed.
After the first two years of operation, it became clear that a senior faculty member alone could not adequately perform all of the needed MISRC functions while still being involved with teaching, research, and doctoral students. In response, the position of assistant director was created. Through the years, this invaluable position has been filled both by University appointees and by Associate Company personnel.
March 1977 saw the first issue of the MIS Quarterly, a journal established through a joint venture of the MISRC and the Society for Information Management, and based out of the MISRC offices. The MISQ is a journal that caters to both the academic and practitioner IS communities.
James Wetherbe, formerly associate dean of administration and associate professor of MIS at the University of Houston, came to the U of M MIS faculty in July 1980 and became the new director of the MISRC, bringing with him valuable management experience in industry and administrative experience at several universities. This enabled Gordon Davis to devote more time to leadership of the MIS academic area, and in 1981 Davis became Honeywell Professor of Management Information Systems, the first holder of the first academic endowed chair specifically designated for MIS, fittingly bestowed upon a pioneer of MIS in academia.
1985 brought the MISRC and MISQ a home on the third floor of the new Hubert H. Humphrey Center. Besides having windows for the first time, the move brought the MISRC onto the same floor as the MIS faculty.
Curtis L. Carlson building
In December 1997, we moved into the new Curtis L. Carlson building. The new building provides a home for the entire Carlson School of Management in one building (CSOM previously inhabited portions of three different West Bank buildings).
THE MISRC TODAY
The MISRC has grown as new companies continue to join the Associates Program. We continue to update our topics and offerings to address current issues of our Associate Companies, and by extension, the corporate IS world. The past 46 years have been eventful and productive, and we are pleased to have been a significant factor in the development of information systems as an academic field.