Shavindrie Cooray - Management


Technology is universally embedded into our world, but the relationships between human beings and technology tools and can often be difficult to fully grasp and even harder to benefit from.  

Dr. Shavindrie ("Shavi") Cooray, Assistant Professor of Management specializing in Management Information Systems (MIS), examines those relationships with her students by embracing technology and by looking at the bigger picture - something she has done extensively in her Ph.D. research and as a former analyst in the corporate world.

"My background is in systems thinking, and the skills it teaches is something that I think students should have when they leave Curry College," says Cooray. "It's the ability to see a situation as a whole. Technologies always change. What's in right now may be obsolete in the future .What's important is to have the systems thinking ability, the strategic thinking ability, to look at all the different technologies that are out there and pick the right one for your business and your needs."

Dr. Cooray's present research in participatory design is all about bridging the gap in understanding between non-technical end users and technical developers using soft systems thinking methods.

"Often they are experts in their own domains but know very little in each other's, which results in a gap in understanding," explains Cooray. "The business manager is often too willing to outsource all of the technology issues in a project to the IT specialist, who builds the system he thinks the business manager wants. The reality is that in many cases there is a big incompatibility."

"Most people would go at it from a mostly technology perspective. But it's much more than just hardware and software.  Data, the people, the procedures, they all come together to form that whole of the big picture...information systems, which is the big picture."

"I use soft systems thinking to enable the business manager to develop a series of steps that allows him to create and initiate a tech specification. It's a way for the business manager to express needs in a more technical format. Then the tech developer takes over to create a more informed technical specification."

Dr. Cooray's teaching style is to conduct her classes more "like a business meeting than a class." She incorporates open source software, peer-produced content and Wikis, and has her students send out weekly tweets linking to articles related to MIS with classroom hashtags. This use of Twitter hashtags allows the class to search for and find all in one place each other's' tweets and links, which provide a window into what people are finding interesting around the topics discussed in class.     

"My classes are very interactive. I want everyone to come together, ask questions and discuss ideas."

When she joined the Curry faculty in Fall 2012, Dr. Cooray helped to incorporate social media into the management curriculum.  While the phrase 'social media' may conjure up images of young people posting about their incredibly tasty lunch or other  personal activities, social media technologies have real-world practicalities, and when teaching management students Dr. Cooray uniquely illuminates them.

"Today, if you're going to get into business, you really need to understand social media; how to leverage it to grow your business, how to use it for marketing and market research for example.  So, when they leave my class they know it's not just social media, but social business. That's the reality."     

Dr. Cooray gives her students a balanced discussion about all of the technologies and their different benefits so that they can make up their own minds as to which will serve them best in their individual career fields/businesses.    

"In class we talk about using technology to launch and grow a business, using social media to have more cost-effective tactics, as well as cloud computing and how you can use technological trends such as open source software to reduce costs so that others can benefit." 

Why did Dr. Cooray leave the corporate world for the world of academia, ultimately landing at Curry College?

"I feel like I'm making a difference and I really wanted to make a difference," she says. "That's something that means a lot to me."

"I definitely like the fact that I can get to know my students at Curry on an individual level. I'm able to engage students in a way that I couldn't do with bigger classroom sizes. I feel like I know the students, I have the time to invest in each and every one."

"And if I help give them the ability to see the big picture, that's going to make that difference in the end."


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