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Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business Set to Confer First Doctoral Degree

Feb. 15, 2012

by Devin Etzold

Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business will confer its first PhD in Information Systems on candidate Janice Lo during formal commencement in May. Lo successfully defended her dissertation "A Theory of Information Systems Strategy: Antecedents and Performance Impacts Through the Development of Dynamic Capabilities," on Feb. 2, 2012. Her dissertation committee members were Information Systems (IS) faculty members Dr. Dorothy Leidner, Dr. Timothy Kayworth, Dr. Cindy Riemenschneider and Dr. Jonathan Trower. Dr. Wade Rowatt served as an external member from the Psychology department.

Baylor's Information Systems PhD program, which began in 2008, focuses on training the next generation of IS researchers, teachers and scholars to analyze and understand the multi-faceted impact of information and communications technologies on individuals, organizations and society. The program is small and selective so the faculty can devote considerable time to each student. The first stage of the program consists of successfully completing required courses in Information Systems. The second stage is a qualifying paper where students develop a new idea, gather data, analyze the data, and write the paper, which qualifies them to move on and become a PhD candidate. In the third stage, students teach undergraduate classes, work on a dissertation proposal, collect data and prepare to eventually defend their dissertation.

"Traditionally, PhDs are very individual programs without much teamwork or group projects," said Dorothy Leidner, director of the PhD program. "It can be a very lonely undertaking, but it doesn't have to be that way. We are finding ways for students to work cooperatively in their classes, even if ultimately, their dissertation will involve a lot of individual time and effort."

The first student of the program to defend her dissertation, Janice Lo, is originally from China. Lo grew up in California where she received her undergraduate and graduate degree in Management Information Systems from California State University, Sacramento. In 2007, she began her doctoral studies at the University of Arkansas but transferred to Baylor University when her mentor, Cindy Riemenschneider, joined the Baylor faculty.

The PhD program takes a broad perspective, favoring an approach in which the impact of information systems is examined from multiple perspectives, including, but not limited to, organizational theories. During her first years in the Baylor program, Lo said she gained "breadth rather than depth, when it came to research because I wanted to explore a lot of topics. It wasn't until I came across the topic I decided to do my dissertation on that I finally began the depth of my research."

Leidner led Lo to discovering her dissertation topic on performance impacts through the development of dynamic capabilities. Due to Leidner's experience with the topic, she then became Lo's dissertation chair and mentored her through the process. This mentorship serves as an asset of the program.

"The biggest strength in any PhD program is the faculty that you work with, because you are being trained in research and learning to become a researcher," said Timothy Kayworth, department chair of Information Systems. "So your mentors need to be faculty that have been very successful in their own research. Fortunately, we have some great faculty."

Lo agreed and said the program has provided her with a friendly, supportive community of faculty and colleagues.

"Culture is a very important issue in that you are a good fit for the department," Lo said. "It's your everyday life, you're immersed in it and you want to be happily integrated. The department has very supportive faculty. Dr. Leidner is a top-notch researcher so I trained well under her. I had fun with my colleagues; it's as though we grew up together."

Though she won't officially become Dr. Lo until her formal graduation in May, she has successfully presented her dissertation before department deans, a committee of professors and students. Though her journey is far from over, Lo plans to remain in the realm of academia. Currently, she's interviewing for multiple positions as an assistant professor that would allow her time to continue her in-depth research with her dissertation, while pursuing her aspiration of being published.

Lo said she is honored to be the first PhD graduate of the Hankamer School of Business and is thankful for those who have helped on her academic journey.

"It's exciting. Somebody had to be first, and I'm lucky that it is me," Lo said. "It's an honor not only for me, but also for the University and the department. I have to give credit to those who helped make this a reality--Dr. Leidner and everyone who worked with me along the way and those who served on my committee."

The PhD in Information Systems remains the only doctoral program offered at the Hankamer School of Business. Currently, there are nine students enrolled.

To learn more about the PhD program in Information Systems, visit

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