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Dr. Manju Ahuja Named a 2021 AIS Fellow Award Recipient

January 1, 2022 Jim Warner
Dr. Manju Ahuja standing against the windows on the third floor of the Frazier Hall

Dr. Manju Ahuja, Frazier Family Chair of Computer Information Systems, has been named a Fellow of the Association of Information Systems (AIS) in recognition of her significant global contributions to the information systems discipline. 

Being named a Fellow is one of the highest academic honors faculty members can receive, as it is recognition by their peers of extraordinary contributions to the discipline in research, teaching, and service. Manju was formally recognized on December 13 at AIS’s International Conference on Information Systems in Austin, Texas.

Dr. Ahuja joined the University of Louisville faculty in 2007 and held the appointment of University Scholar from 2012 to 2019. She has built a career of true distinction at the College of Business. Dr. Ahuja is an internationally renowned scholar—with expertise in technology-enabled collaborations, the impact of technology on work-life balance, and gender issues in IT.

We had an opportunity to talk with Dr. Ahuja about the AIS announcement.

What does it mean to you to be named a 2021 AIS Fellow Award recipient?

It feels wonderful and humbling to be recognized by my peers in this way. I have always been passionate about this profession and the related research and scholarship on their own merits but when such recognition comes, it naturally feels good. 

But what makes this particularly special to me is that the Association for Information Systems (AIS) was established in 1994 at the initiative of one of the faculty members at the University of Pittsburgh when I was getting my doctorate. Not only that, the inaugural conference (AMCIS or Americas Conference on Information Systemswas held at our university in my final year and I got to be a proceedings editor and gofer at this conference. So to be recognized by them 25 years later is really meaningful.

The AIS Fellow Award recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to information systems in the areas of research, teaching, and service—which of these areas do you personally identify with the most and why?

In some ways, this is like having to choose among your children; but if I really had to choose, I would say research. That said, each has its own rewards. Research is personal to me because I have always chosen to work on issues that matter to me personally. For example, as a working mother, I deeply care about work-life balance challenges, and so it felt incredibly rewarding to conduct research on these issues. I also immensely enjoy serving and working with my professional community–many of these colleagues are like family to me. However, both bring distant rewards and delayed gratification. Teaching and interactions with students are sources of immediate satisfaction. This is where we truly make a difference in people’s lives.

AIS Fellows are seen as ambassadors for the information systems discipline and are expected to be role models for both colleagues and students. Who were your role models in information systems, and how did their work inspire you? 

I have been very fortunate to have found many role models in this profession. My colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh, where I received my doctorate, instilled in me the values of high quality and impact research, hard work, and perseverance. Laurie Kirsch, the only female faculty member in our department, took me under her wings and always encouraged me to aspire at the highest levels. She told me, there are A publications and then there is everything else – so always aim for the A journals! She believed in me and that made me believe in myself. She also encouraged me to resist past gender stereotypes. 

Robert Zmud of Florida State University, where I got my first job, inspired me to write every day, by his own example. FSU had some of the heavy hitters in the field at the time and they helped me get plugged into academic networks. Further, I learned a lot from the folks at FSU because they were high achievers, but also sought a work-life balance. 

I particularly looked up to other women who succeeded in the field of Information Systems that tends to be male-dominated. And of course, there have been many others along the way who have supported me and provided guidance. 

Beyond the field, whose insights and contributions did you look to fuel your work in research, teaching, and service? 

Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s work on gender, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s work on flow, and Daniel Kahnman’s work on thinking fast and slow have strongly influenced my thinking and my research.

In all these areas, and in life, I follow Tara Brach for her teaching on mindfulness, compassion, and sincerity. Her books such as Radical Acceptance and Trusting the Gold have been guiding lights for me. I go to bed with one of her meditations every night.

What advice do you have to your colleagues and students as they build their professional career—in information systems and beyond? 

Follow your passions and live with integrity – the rest will naturally follow! This can seem like a grueling profession in that the rewards are not immediate, except in teaching. Passion helps us get through the hurdles, which are bound to come from time to time. 

Second, we have much autonomy in our work but that can also mean that we are never away from our work, and it can come at a cost to our health. So, my advice is to consciously work towards looking after your body through movement and good nutrition and prioritizing a work-life balance. Without these, not only can success be meaningless, but it cannot be sustained over the long term.

Are they any additional comments you would like to add that were not covered by these questions?

We are fortunate to be in a profession where we are paid to think, and I am immensely grateful for this privilege. I honestly cannot think of a more rewarding profession!

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