It’s never easy to keep students’ attention. That’s what sets great teachers apart: They turn topics that seem dry or forbidding on the surface into provocative business cases and relevant life lessons. That’s one of Dr. Jason Chan’s gifts. An assistant professor of information and decision sciences at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, Chan brings to life topics like IT management, digital technology, and analytics – the same topics that are driving business decision-making worldwide.
Chan knows his audience well. From precocious undergrads to fatigued EMBAs, Chan tailored his approach so students could see how the content related to their work and interests. For professionals coming off a full day of work into a three hour class, he would forego lecture in favor of hands-on, minds-on tools like mock negotiations and group activities. However, it was who Jason was, as much as what he knows, that truly set him apart.
“Jason’s teaching style is unique and very effective,” writes one anonymous student. ”He clearly communicated class material and related it to current business trends. Jason also has a high level of engagement with students which makes people feel comfortable participating and sharing during class. Lastly, Jason is a sincere individual with a passion for his students and profession, which is an admirable quality.”
At current institution since what year? 2014
Education: (title of degree, area of study, institution and year obtained)
PhD, Information Systems, Stern School of Business, New York University, 2014
List of courses you currently teach: IT Management (PT MBA); Competing in the Digital Age (EMBA); Innovation through Emerging Technology (DBA); Enterprise Systems (UG)
Twitter handle: N/A
TELL US ABOUT YOUR LIFE AS A PROFESSOR
“I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when…”
I completed my first research paper during my undergraduate senior year in Singapore. Having experienced what research is about, I find the process of conducting and crafting a piece of research to be rather satisfying (yes, I am nerdy), and I wanted to keep doing more of that. That’s when I seriously considered being a professor. I have never looked back since, life in academia is very rewarding.
What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it?
My research centers on the societal impacts of IT. Since the advent of the Internet, online technology has permeated many aspects of our lives, and it has substantial impact on how we live now. Motivated to learn more about the extent of its impact, I have embarked on a series of investigation on how IT affects outcomes in areas of healthcare, crime, and employment. While online technologies do bring benefits to our lives, it also introduces a fair share of ill-effects on society. Because online platforms facilitate the search and locating of individuals, enhances the dissemination of ideas/thoughts, and enables economic transactions, I found that it played a role in increasing the prevalence of contagious diseases (HIV), racial hate crimes, and prostitution incidence. Moreover, due to the information asymmetry issues in the online environment, people are more prone to rely on heuristics when making decisions online, leading to hiring biases in online labor markets. In all, these results point to the fact that new policies and regulations need to be in place to curb the unintended, negative consequences of the online environment, while not diminishing the positives that the digital tool provides.
“If I weren’t a business school professor…I would sign up to be a detective. I have a strong interest in solving puzzles/mysteries, and a satisfying outlet to capitalize this interest would be in the legal enforcement career.”
What do you think makes you stand out as a professor?
My choice of research topics is “eccentric.” After hearing about my work, people are often surprised that business school research can be so relevant to everyday life.
One word that describes my first time teaching: Exhilarating
If your teaching style/classroom experience had a theme song, what would it be? N/A
As a b-school professor, what motivates you?
Interacting with students in class, hearing about their thoughts on the course subject, and learning that the discussion topics have helped them in their work. On several occasions, students who graduated from my class wrote to me, thanking me for the discussions we had in class, as they found those conversations to be highly relevant to things that they are seeing and working on in their jobs. Others have come up and asked if I am teaching other classes, as they would like to sign up to take further courses with me. I am greatly encouraged by these gestures, and they make me strive harder to improve the content that I bring to my students.
Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: N/A
Professor you most admire and why:
Albert Einstein. His approach of looking at questions is highly admirable to me. Specifically, Einstein does not shy from thinking outside the box and is keen at exploring non-mainstream ideas in his work. To him, imagination and curiosity are the most valuable aspects that one should have. I couldn’t agree with that more, as I could see that it is exactly these two traits that allowed him to make several groundbreaking scientific discoveries in his time. He is not afraid of meeting failures in his work, but instead learns from these mistakes to get closer to the solution. How I perform research is heavily influenced by his views.
What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?
My students bring in their experience from the field and their work, while I bring in knowledge from academic research. Classroom time is about putting these two things together and teaching one another what we know. I find that to be very fulfilling for everyone involved.
What is most challenging?
Assigning grades to a pool of smart, conscientious students.
Using just one word, describe your favorite type of student
No favorites, I like all students equally well.
Using just one word, describe your least favorite type of student
I like all my students!
What is the most impressive thing one of your students has done? N/A
What is the least favorite thing one has done? N/A
What does a student need to do to get an A in your class?
Be hardworking; be curious.
When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… N/A
But I would describe myself as… N/A
Fill in the blank: “If my students can apply the class concepts at their workplace, then I’ve done my job as their professor.”
LIFE OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM
Fun fact about yourself: There are only three Singaporean MIS professors working in the United States. I am one of them.
What are your hobbies?
Too many. I pick up new hobbies as a way of enriching my life. I enjoy playing ball games, running, hiking, working out, cooking, photography, fishing, among others.
How will you spend your summer? Conference travels (with sightseeing on the side)
Favorite place to vacation: Iceland
Favorite book: The Bible. It’s the source of all wisdom, which transcends time and nations.
What is your favorite movie and/or television show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? Inception. The amount of thought that went into the plot and the making of the movie is simply amazing. No one would ever say it is bad.
Favorite type of music and/or favorite artist: Chinese Pop: Mayday
Bucket list item #1: N/A. Live each day to the fullest; no regrets.
THOUGHTS OF REFLECTION
What professional achievement are you most proud of?
Publishing my dissertation (on the impact of Craigslist on HIV incidence) in one of the top MIS journals (i.e., MIS Quarterly). This is the first work of its kind to link the spread of sexual transmitted diseases to the expansion of a website, and it has inspired other scholars to examine similar and related trends. I am greatly encouraged by the reception of this work, both by academia colleagues, and by public media.
What is your most memorable moment as a professor?
Getting my first “Thank You” letter from my student.
If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this…
Experiential learning courses. Through my experience of coaching masters’ students in their experiential learning program, I saw how on-the-job training helps students to quickly pick up new skills or techniques that were taught in the classroom. While schools are considering the value of physical in-class sessions in the era of Coursera and online courses, business schools can provide unique value to students by incorporating more experiential learning elements in its physical class time. These hands-on experiences, coupled with immediate feedback by professors, complements the basic knowledge that online courses are unable to provide.
And much less of this…
Online teaching. Despite the convenience that it provides, online education takes away the privilege of professors have in interacting with their students. Deep and meaningful interactions are hard to replicate in asynchronous online environments. “Distance learning” extends the psychological distance between the students and the professor, and between the students; this might not be a good thing. We are innately social beings, yet we are utilizing digital technology in a way that prevents us from being social.
In your opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at doing what? Please explain. Pay more attention to the potential unintended usage of online features, and have checks and balances to prevent such occurrences. These unintended uses can bring about serious consequences to your brand image or the society. In the last few years, we see several cases on the misuse of online features/sites that were initially intended for enhancing user engagement. For instance, users were broadcasting violent criminal acts online, spreading fake news, cyberbullying others, and the list goes on. If a problem has surfaced, act swiftly to resolve the damage created.
Looking ahead 10 years from now, describe what “success” would like for you:
Success means keeping the current passion that I have in research and teaching, and not lose sight of my first love for joining the profession.
“Professor Chan inspires critical thinking and in-class debate. He begins each class period with a poignant case with a theme that stretches through that session, challenges our assumptions, and helps us understand both issues and opportunities from little known but most important perspectives. He concludes each class with a case study and a group activity that further challenges our assumptions and forces to develop creative solutions with a group of four or five. Prof. Chan got us thinking differently in the first class by showing us how Radiohead and other bands have succeeded with a “name-your-own-price” business model of selling music online, bypassing the record labels, music stores and other distribution platforms. The case study was followed by a group activity that allowed our teams to either set certain prices on certain products (as if we were a major band), let our fans set their own prices or do a mix of both strategies. By mixing the strategies, teams were able to choose a variety of products that would allow consumers to name their own price or pay a set price. Thus, each team had a different mix and different strategy. Prof. Chan had written an algorithm that weighted consumer preferences and incorporated limited demand for each item that was tangible vs. intangible (e.g., physical record vs. digital music). It was educational to see it play out visually after debating in teams. Several activities like this are incorporated in Prof. Chan’s course, but this one set a great tone for the course from week one.”
Full-Time MBA Candidate, Class of 2018
Carlson School of Management | University of Minnesota
“Jason is one of the finest young MBA professors at the Carlson School of Management. I took his Information Technology Management class in my first semester in the program and he set the bar incredibly high for my expectations of future professors. His current, thought provoking topics and insights lead to great in-class discussion and lively conversation. He is well versed in current events and stays up to date with the latest in the topics of information technology, which creates extremely relevant lectures that are among the most applicable I have had in the program thus far. In addition, Jason has great energy, incredible teaching aptitude, is engaging, communicative, and genuinely cares about the success of his students. We are privileged to have him teach at the Carlson School of Management.”
PT MBA Student
Carlson School of Management
“Dr. Jason Chan is an accomplished professor who teaches Competing in the Digital Age for the Carlson School of Management’s Executive MBA Program. His curriculum encompasses Information Technology (IT) and the ways it affects businesses both positively and negatively when factoring in human components. He does an exemplary job at leading interactive discussions about IT developments that draw from all the MBA disciplines taught across the program.
Jason’s studies led him to a groundbreaking discovery that the internet (specifically Craigslist) was a catalyst for growing HIV transmission trends. As a healthcare professional, I find this revelation to be remarkable in the ripple effects it could have throughout the world. Now that Jason has brought this issue to light, HIV transmission trends can be studied across all social media applications. Armed with this data, policy makers and health professionals can work together to develop preventative measures.”