Creating thoughtful leaders
By Courtney M Jackson | Student Writer
Senior Lecturer Carolyn Tang Kmet is driven to create innovative courses that encourage her students to think about ethics and data beyond traditional pedagogy.
Two examples are INFS 795: Ethics and Data Analytics and ISSCM 596: Data-Driven Decision Making, which are both highly hands-on and relevant for students.
Below, Kmet talks about the courses and what students learn.
Identifying bias in data
The graduate-level INFS 795: Ethics and Data Analytics is an information systems course, but it does not focus on data collection or analysis like many other information systems courses. Instead, Kmet encourages students to understand how personal and systemic bias can impact how data is collected and interpreted.
“In this generation, we have the technology to capture every single piece of data that exists,” Kmet says. “What we need to do now, is to think about how our individual contexts can influence how and where we collect data, and how we interpret our findings.”
One bias that Kmet explores in her class is gathering data from a certain segment of the population and then using it to inform decisions for everybody else. This introduces bias into decision making. “While this is often an unintentional exclusion,” Kmet says, “It can still have negative ramifications.”
Ethics in technical education
Students in ISSCM 596: Data-Driven Decision Making analyze data from MAPSCorps, a nonprofit organization that trains youth to produce high-quality data about community assets. Quinlan students are grouped into teams and tasked with analyzing and identifying asset distribution in different neighborhoods. Students try to understand why there is inequitable asset distribution in the Chicago area.
Kmet says the unique aspect of this course is that it enables students to wed technical learnings with ethical deliberations.
“In business school, most courses focus on profitability, as defined by revenue. The more money it makes, the more profitable it is,” Kmet says. “But what we also need to do, is to measure profitability based on the impact that an investment has on the community. This is profitability that extends beyond the entity.”
She also challenges students to explore their personal beliefs and sense of business ethics.
“What I want our students to do is to develop their own scale of right and wrong so that when they go into corporate, they have a considered and defined foundation of what they themselves believe in,” says Kmet.
Adam Shafer (MBA `21) and Florence Yun (MSISM `22) found Kmet’s courses invaluable to their careers.
“Professor Kmet instilled the power of data to inform and enact decisions,” Shafer says. “Her teachings and mentoring helped us understand the ways data can be mismanaged, misinterpreted, or used equitability.”
Yun adds, “I learned so much about the moral issues that exist with data collection and privacy. I now use a checklist at work to ask questions about the integrity of the data before making decisions or recommendations.”
Kmet says that one student said that Kmet’s course opened her eyes to other ways of thinking.
“That’s what I want for all of us, myself included, is to continually have that reminder that the way that I’m thinking isn’t the only way to think of something,” Kmet says. “I hope that students gain a desire to have a social impact and define their successes beyond themselves.”