Elena Karahanna, the L. Edmund Rast Professor of Business in the Management Information Systems Department, studies the use of information systems in health care while helping prepare graduate students to conduct high-impact scholarship of their own.
Where did you earn degrees and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?
I earned my doctorate in management information systems at the University of Minnesota, my M.B.A. at Lehigh University and my bachelor’s degree in computer science, also at Lehigh University. I am the L. Edmund Rast Professor of Business in the management information systems department of the Terry College of Business. I’m also the graduate coordinator for the management information systems Ph.D. program.
When did you come to UGA and what brought you here?
I joined UGA in 2000. I came here because UGA has one of the best information systems departments in the world, a vibrant research environment that also cares deeply about teaching, and a family-like culture.
What are your favorite courses and why?
My favorite course is the first Ph.D. seminar that our doctoral students take. This course is where I can see their transformation from being good students to developing into good scholars.
What interests you about your field?
We live in a digital era. Information systems permeate everything we do and have resulted in fundamental shifts in how individuals work, learn, play, shop and interact with each other; how organizations innovate, engage their customers and conduct business; how entrepreneurs obtain funding; how markets operate; and how governments interact with citizens and provide services, to name just a few examples. So this is an exciting time to be in our field. My current research interests focus on the use of information systems in health care—the use of telemedicine to provide medical care in rural areas, coordination of medical teams, health care analytics and online patient communities.
What are some highlights of your career at UGA?
Being named Distinguished Research Professor and a Fellow of the Association for Information Systems, receiving the Terry College Research Award and receiving several teaching awards.
How does your research or scholarship inspire your teaching, and vice versa?
I share my research—not just the topical knowledge, but also experience with the research process—in my doctoral seminars. Describing the “stories” behind research projects and papers prepares students to better confront and overcome research challenges and become better scholars and reviewers.
What do you hope students gain from their classroom experience with you?
Passion for research, attention to quality, the importance of lifelong learning and the importance of giving back.
Describe your ideal student.
Someone who combines motivation—being a self-starter, being proactive, being intellectually curious and being receptive to feedback—with ability.
Favorite place to be/thing to do on campus is…
Walk across North Campus in the spring when everything is in full bloom.
Beyond the UGA campus, I like to…
Walk, travel, watch movies, play with our dogs.
Community/civic involvement includes….
Being actively involved in our academic community. I have served for 11 years as senior editor for our top academic journals, am actively involved in leadership roles in our conferences and participate as a mentor to junior faculty and doctoral students.
Favorite book/movie (and why)?
My favorite poem is “Ithaca” by Constantine Cafavy. In a literal sense, it describes Odysseus’ journey home. But the poem is really about cherishing the journey and the learning and experiences that it brings, despite setbacks. The destination provides the motivation, but it is the quality of the journey that matters. Here is a short excerpt from the poem:
“Have Ithaca always in your mind.
Your arrival there is what you are destined for.
But don’t in the least hurry the journey.
Better it last for years,
so that when you reach the island you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaca to give you wealth.
Ithaca gave you a splendid journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She hasn’t anything else to give you.”
Proudest moment at UGA?
My proudest moments always involve the achievements of our students and the achievements of our department. For my doctoral students, the proudest moments are when they graduate, get promoted at their respective institutions and receive best dissertation, best paper, best reviewer and best associate editor awards (we’ve had all of these). For the department, we are highly ranked in terms of research productivity in our top journals (seventh worldwide), we have more than 95 percent employment of our undergraduates at graduation, and our undergraduate student association has received multiple awards.