MIS professor: Rankings are hard work

June 28, 2013
Dr. Graham Peace

In the past several years, the College of Business and Economics has received favorable rankings by U.S. News & World Report and by Bloomberg Businessweek for both graduate and undergraduate programs.

These rankings didn't happen overnight and they didn't happen by accident. It was hard work.

That's the viewpoint of Graham Peace, assistant dean and associate professor of Management Information Systems. He should know. He has been gathering data, crunching numbers and filling out surveys since early 2011 so that the College would be considered in national rankings.

"The fact is, a college won't be ranked unless someone supplies the data to the ranking agencies," he said. "Since Dean Sartarelli arrived, he has put strong emphasis on getting the College ranked, which meant, to a large extent, getting the data to the people who do the rankings. That was something that we simply hadn't focused on before. We have great programs, great faculty and great students, but we simply weren't providing the proper data."

Dr. Peace is also in charge of gathering data for The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business "assurance of learning" criteria that leads to re-accreditation. This demonstrates that the College is "teaching what we're supposed to teach and that the students actually leave here with the knowledge base that we want them to have," he said. The College must demonstrate assurance of learning as a requirement for re-accreditation.

Since Dr. Sartarelli arrived in August 2010, he has been encouraging the understanding of how rankings work and an effort to collect the needed information, Peace said.

"Putting into place ways to gather data for surveys is very important," he said. "I've been working with the dean, the Center for Career Development, Graduate Programs and Undergraduate Programs and the various department chairs to build a culture of participation in collecting what we need to do this."

When the College began accepting freshmen (previously students joined in their junior year), that, too, had a positive effect on the ability to acquire the needed information, Dr. Peace said. "Because they become more closely affiliated with the College during their four years with us, compared to just two, I believe we are having much better luck with our surveys of graduates. It is important to be able to get information from grads for the rankings surveys," he said.

Additionally, all this data is "feedback," which is valuable in assessing the school's strengths and weakness and taking measures toward improvement, Peace said.

"Since Dean Sartarelli arrived, he has put strong emphasis on getting the College ranked, which meant, to a large extent, getting the data to the people who do the rankings. That was something that we simply hadn't focused on before. We have great programs, great faculty and great students, but we simply weren't providing the proper data."

Having received a bachelor's degree (1985) and an MBA (1987) from Michigan State University, Peace earned a doctoral degree from the University of Pittsburgh in management information systems (MIS) in 1995. He joined B&E in 2001 after leaving a post at Duquesne University.

He was instrumental in creating the MIS department and building it from a focus area to a full major in 2005. He became chair of the department during the fall 2012 semester.

Peace said he is part of a department that is a "great collaborative effort" and that all of the faculty in the group work very well together. "Each MIS faculty member is an expert in a specific area," he said. "Thus, in combination, we complement one another, and I believe our students are getting excellent educations. We have a superb set of MIS faculty that is a pleasure to work with."

One of the best parts of being a professor at B&E is teaching, Peace said, and sometimes he learns as much from the students as they do from him. "It is amazing what students know about technology today," he said. "For me, it's terrific to work with our students and to see them develop and be successful."

In addition, Peace has been involved in research in the information ethics area, including software piracy. He is currently interested in privacy issues and ownership of data in the social media context.

Along with Lee Freeman of the University of Michigan, he edited the academic book Information Ethics: Privacy and Intellectual Property,and has been published in several journals, including Communications of the ACM and Journal of Management Information Systems.

Peace is active in the local soccer community, and is currently coaching the WVUSC Shox U17 Girls, who recently won a major regional competition. He was head coach for five years, before taking on the assistant coach role. He became a soccer fan partly because he was born in Modbury, England, where soccer is a way of life. He and his wife, Elizabeth, enjoy traveling when they can. The couple has two children, Lauren, 17, and Douglas, 15.