Faculty Spotlight: Jim Burleson

20150430-IMG_5352 smallJim Burleson, assistant professor of management
Specialties: information systems and social media

What attracted you to Cal Poly?
Cal Poly offers a unique environment that promotes excellence in both teaching and research. I wanted to find a university that places a priority on education while offering the resources necessary to explore new ideas.

What industry positions have you held?
I worked as a business analyst for the global consulting firm CapGemini. My primary responsibility was to work with organizations to identify how technology could solve their business problems.

How has your subject changed in the last five years?
Information systems used to exist solely for the “nerds.” But today, we’re all nerds. Everyone uses technology. Facebook counts its users by the billions. It is no longer necessary to discuss why technology is valuable. Our goal is to show students how technology can be used to impact the world.

What are your favorite parts about teaching at Cal Poly?
My favorite part of teaching at Cal Poly is walking into a classroom full of students that sincerely want to learn. The students here are highly motivated and always up to a new challenge. The palm tree outside of my window isn’t bad, either.

How have you Learned by Doing personally?
One of my primary research interests is how organizations use social media to interact with the outside world. Through this research, I have had the opportunity to speak with managers from a variety of organizations and work with interesting software tools, which enable new forms of data analytics.

How have you challenged your students?
BUS 394: Systems Analysis & Design teaches students how to analyze and design the solution to a business problem using technology. This often involves a high degree of interpersonal interaction. To promote learning in this area, I have students work with local organizations to identify a business problem and gather the information needed to design a solution. The project forces students to step outside the comforts of the classroom and gain some real world, hands-on experience.

What’s been the biggest challenge in your career?
Because our field is constantly evolving, most of the teaching materials we create and examples we offer in class become outdated very rapidly. The challenge for the faculty is to stay current on new trends in technology and how it is being used in organizations. The “new” technologies of today will be ancient history in about five minutes.

Who is your go-to for faculty collaboration at Cal Poly?
I work closely with most of the information systems faculty. Dr. Leida Chen and I started at Cal Poly together, and we share an interest in data analytics. Though I only recently began working here at Cal Poly, I have already had the opportunity to interact with a wide assortment of outstanding faculty members.  It’s an honor to be part of this group.

How have your students changed in the last five years?
Students today seem more motivated than ever to plan for life after graduation. I have more conversations about internships and potential occupations than ever before.

What has been your favorite moment from this last year of teaching?
A local alumnus working for a software company asked for some ideas related to the re-design of one of its mobile apps. He tasked the Systems Analysis & Design class to identify opportunities to improve the user interface of the application. It was so much fun watching the students solve a real-world business problem and seek to improve a tangible product in a meaningful way.

What is your hidden talent or hobby?
I have a not-so-secret love of dancing, specifically swing dancing and contra dancing. I moved to California from South Carolina, where I learned most everything I know. It has been a blast to find opportunities to dance out here on the West Coast.

What’s your favorite thing about San Luis Obispo?
Driving anywhere in the area when the sun begins to set. It really is breathtaking here.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
One of the easiest traps to fall into is second-guessing your decisions. My father has the best advice for eliminating the temptation to second-guess yourself: “Make the best decision you can with the information at your disposal, and never look back.”