Dr. Deborah S. Carstens is an associate professor of information systems in the Nathan M. Bisk College of Business. Dr. Carstens is also the academic chair for the online MBA specialization in project management. She has a BS in Business Administration from the University of Central Florida, an MBA from Florida Institute of Technology, and a PhD in Industrial Engineering from the University of Central Florida. Dr. Carstens holds a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.
Dr. Carstens instructs undergraduate and graduate courses in information systems, human-computer interaction, usability, IT project management and system design and development. She conducts research in task analysis, human error, patient safety, usability, learning effectiveness and government accountability.
Currently, Dr. Carstens is working on a Small Business Administration funded research project as Principal Investigator and Director over the Activity Based Total Accountability (ABTA) Institute. She serves as the Chair of the University Academic Information Technology Committee (ACITC), which is an advisory committee to the Information Technology Executive Committee (ITEC).
We asked Dr. Carstens to share information on her background and to provide some advice for students.
Could you share with us your background and what inspired you to pursue a doctoral degree in industrial engineering?
During my time as an employee for NASA at KSC, I was fortunate enough to have many mentors. One of my mentors used to call me a “closet engineer” as I like efficiency. Industrial Engineering is commonly thought of as the business side to engineering since utilizing Industrial Engineering tools and techniques to enhance efficiency results in time saving which directly contributes to dollar savings for organizations.
I’ve always been intrigued with how to optimize efficiency through reducing unnecessary process steps and better product/system/website designs to enhance human performance when interacting with these devices or interfaces. Therefore, I couldn’t help but to gravitate towards the human factors engineering aspect of Industrial Engineering and ended up doing my doctoral dissertation in this area.
The area of project management also falls under Industrial Engineering and Business academic departments, which is also of strong interest to me since good project management results in organizations enhancing their efficiency. Regardless of which route is taken to optimize efficiency, dollar savings will occur as the less time that employees spend on inefficient tasks, the more an organization will enhance their bottom line.
My research falls under this category as I enjoy performing task and error analysis to enhance efficiency while also increasing safety within an organization. I also perform many usability studies to target specific areas of improvement for websites. Government accountability is also another area of research which contributes to government organizations being more efficient with displaying their transparency data and therefore being more efficient.
Tell us a little about yourself. What brings you to academia and to Florida Tech?
My third year as a Ph.D. student, I was on a NASA KSC Fellowship which gave me the opportunity to just focus on my studies for a one-year period. During this time, my advisor asked me to volunteer in covering classes and serving as a lab teacher. I absolutely loved the time spent with the undergraduate and graduate students and knew that academia was meant for me!
I was born and raised in Cocoa Beach, Florida so it is a true pleasure to work near my many family and friends I’ve had since elementary school.
You are highly engaged in online learning initiatives. Could you tell us, from your perspective, what are the benefits to online learning particularly for working professionals?
Working professionals often have busy schedules balancing careers and/or families. In an online environment, the professor is willing and able to provide students with as much or as little assistance as they need without a working professional having to leave their home.
What course(s) or subject matter is your favorite to teach?
I don’t necessarily have one favorite course but I do have favorite topics within each course I teach. In Project Management, I enjoy students beginning the course with little knowledge on how to manage a project to being able to conduct risk assessments, communication plans and organize work flow. In Human-Computer Interaction, it is amazing to see their research study be conducted and analyzed properly so they can actually carry out a usability study all on their own. In Management Information Systems, it is interesting to learn of new technology that exists through class discussions!
What advice would you give a student in choosing a career path in information systems?
My general career advice for a student is that careers are not a small part of life since most career paths require a five day a week commitment. Therefore, choose wisely your career as it must be something you are passionate about doing for the rest of your life! Life is too short to spend the bulk of your time doing something that you do not absolutely love. If you are excited by a field that is constantly changing and enjoy technology, then a field in information systems may be of great appeal to you.
I have two favorite aspects of information systems. First, it is very exciting to see a system or website enhanced due to results of a usability study that aims at enhancing the user interface so it is more efficient (does the job right) and effective (does the right job). Secondly, incorporating technology in different fields to see improvements such as healthcare resulting in better care for patients is very rewarding.
For more information about Dr. Carstens, visit her faculty profile page at: http://www.fit.edu/faculty/profiles/profile.php?tracks=carstens .
For more information about the ABTA Institute, visit http://abta.fit.edu/ .