I made my media debut when I was just a little kid in upstate New York, appearing on the Freddie Freihofer Show (I’m in the back row, third from the left in that photo), a popular local TV series sponsored by the baked goods company Freihofer’s.
Having had that taste of stardom, I was excited to record this video, which outlines my thoughts about what we at Isenberg are doing to ensure that our students are equipped to succeed in the business world of today and tomorrow. Spoiler: It’s not just facts and figures that allow you to successfully navigate rapidly changing work environments. We make sure your four years at Isenberg include experiences that help build other skills like creativity, critical thinking, leadership, interpersonal communication, and cultural intelligence. Collectively, hard and soft skills allow you to become more agile and adaptable – ready to embrace change.
If you’re interested in learning more about my background and how I ended up leading Isenberg, see below to read a Q&A from the interview.
Finally, I’d like to congratulate the team that worked for months to ensure that Isenberg’s inaugural Inclusive Leadership Summit (ILS) would be a success! Embracing diversity in all its forms is absolutely vital to connecting with clients, customers, and colleagues in the twenty-first century, and we want all the Isenberg students we send out into the world to be aware of the effects of bias in themselves and our society. Click here to learn more about the summit. Many thanks to Associate Dean Nef Walker, Cathy Lowry, Alaina Macauley, and everyone else who pitched in to bring this cutting-edge, student-centric learning experience to our school!
Anne P. Massey
Q&A: All About Dean Massey
Interviewer: Could you tell us a little bit about your background?
Anne Massey: I grew up in upstate New York, in the Schenectady area. I went to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, which was a great opportunity for me to intersect my interests in management, engineering, technology, and social sciences. I spent some time working at IBM and GE, and then I came out with my Ph.D in 1991. It was perfect timing—that was just when we were starting to see the real introduction of the internet in consumer markets with dial-up internet access and the web.
My background allowed me to join faculty in the area of information systems. I want to know how we use information technology and information systems in a business context, to either serve our customers or provide products and experiences.
How did you get to where you are now?
AM: My whole life, I've been very interested in history. I thought I wanted to be a history major. My parents said, "Well, maybe not. You've got other good skills. You can read history.” In thinking about technology, which is the space that I've worked in my whole career, in one fashion or another, I look at the history of technology. Which is really fun.
If you've read Steven Ambrose's book about the Louis and Clark opening of the Louisiana Purchase, and the western U.S., there's a chapter in there called “Jefferson's America.” I made my students read it when I was teaching telecommunications. The line that struck was, "In 1804, nothing moved faster than the speed of a horse.”
That's only a little over 200 years ago. Everything was built around waterways and horses. Then we started to introduce the telegraph, and the railroad, and the telephone in the 1800s. All of the work that I've done from a communications perspective, and the use of technology in my research and teaching ties back, in many ways, in a fun way, to my interest in history and my interest in technology disruption.
A lot of my work is around communication technology—how it and other technologies have disrupted our cultural, our societal, and our business lives. That has been very fun to me. It's also disrupting our educational world. We are in a very disruptive period right now that is fun, but challenging at the same time.
How do you deal with the disruption of technology?
AM: There's a relatively recent book called The Revenge of Analog [by David Sax] that points out how everybody's buying albums again, or they have Moleskine notebooks. There are some things in the physical world that we like to feel and touch and look at, that aren’t digital. This is an interesting evolution in history and how we respond as human beings, socially and culturally to our environments.
Where do you get your news?
AM: As a person who studies technology and teaches technology, I read paper newspapers. I love paper newspapers. I've read a lot of Nicholas Carr's work—for example, his article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” We have short attention spans. I actually still read paper newspapers, because I think it affects us cognitively. I force myself to read long articles, not just short blurbs.
AM: I read the New York Times. I'm very happy with the local paper, the Daily Hampshire Gazette. The Boston Globe. I'll read any paper you put in front of me. I do listen a lot when I'm driving to NPR and BBC World News.
When did you know that you wanted to get into the academic world as opposed to leading industries?
AM: I really enjoyed teaching and working with students at all levels. Being on the faculty of a business school was the best of both worlds. I got to research what I wanted to research, and I got to work with students and advance them, help them in their careers.
Are you still doing hands-on research and teaching at Isenberg?
AM: Yes. I wouldn't normally teach in my new role, but this fall, I volunteered to teach the business seminar with some of the honors students in Isenberg. I did that partially because I wanted to get a sense of who our undergraduate students are. I'm teaching my design thinking class with them—it focuses a lot on creativity and dealing with messy problems.
I always say to my students, If you really want to have an impact in an organization, you want to deal with the messy problems, the ones that are hard to figure out. What's the problem to be solved? What's the opportunity to go after? It's messy. It's ugly. There's no one solution. If you can deal with the mess, if you can manage yourself in terms of the uncertainty of that mess, you can have an impact.
AM: Over my career, I've studied collaboration and teams—virtual teams in particular, that are globally distributed and working remotely from each other. They may or may not ever come together physically. How do those individuals and teams interact and use technology to be efficient and effective? How do they adapt to technology? How do they adapt the technology to their work?
In that space, what I've gotten into most recently, because I'm interested in brainstorming and creativity, is virtual environments. Through the use of 3D virtual spaces, where with head-mounted displays, each individual is in the virtual space with other people. You can move around in the space. You can interact with objects in the space.
How do cultural and ethical considerations factor into the business ecosystem in your view, and how is that important for how students here are going to look at their educations, their careers?
AM: I've been studying technology my whole career. Both educationally and then also with IBM and at General Electric. There are good things with disruptions, and there can be downsides with disruption. How do we adapt culturally, societally to our downside? That’s what we’re all trying to figure out.