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Eastern Students Research Project Published Nationally

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Eastern Connecticut State University students Jacob Rusconi '14 of Manchester and Dylan Ross '14 of Hampton, recently had their research findings published in the journal on the proceedings of the 2013 conference of the National Council on Undergraduate Research (NCUR). Rusconi and Ross both are majoring in Business Information Systems (BIS). They originally conducted their research in fall 2011; their findings were presented at the NCUR Conference in La Crosse, WI, in April 2013.

Ross and Rusconi's research was a systems analysis of a certified commercial environmental and water monitoring laboratory, Premier Laboratory, Inc., based in eastern Connecticut. The goal of the research was to identify opportunities for improvement in the lab's existing water monitoring systems and procedures. 
In conducting their research, Rusconi and Ross treated the laboratory as a socio-technical system, in which the technical aspects of the operations were seen as being interdependent with cultural and political factors found in the laboratory, its client's organizations and communities.

To capture the many dimensions of the problem, Rusconi and Ross applied the Work System Method (WSM) developed by Steven Alter, professor of information systems at the University of San Francisco. The WSM approach allows analysts to better formulate the problem at hand; analyze multi-dimensional possibilities for improvement; provide recommendations for change; and justify them. Eastern was among the pioneering universities to introduce this methodology in its BIS program.

"Using this method, we gathered data from the laboratory through interviews with key stakeholders at the organization," said Rusconi. "We also observed the work system being utilized. We then proceeded to extract additional data from the existing Laboratory Information Management System, analyzed it and summarized it, following the WSM template."

As a starting point, Rusconi and Ross documented the essential characteristics of the system such as customers, products, work processes, stakeholders, information flows and technology. They were able to identify the important parameters of the system and current critical problems and issues; evaluate the diverse needs of the organization; and discern opportunities for improvement.

"As a result of our findings, we produced recommendations on how to better the laboratory's systems and procedures for water monitoring," said Ross. "We found that the laboratory needed to automate and streamline manual tasks and repetitive procedures; create preconditions for better system performance; and eliminate possibilities for monitoring and reporting violations. Following these recommendations, the lab can anticipate reductions in the penalties received by the public water systems served by the laboratory."

Rusconi and Ross first teamed up in the BIS program's Systems Analysis and Design course where their project initiated.   They presented the project at the 2012 Eastern Annual Student Excellence Expo, where it placed second in its category.   Later, with Professor Doncho Petkov's guidance, they prepared their research paper for submission to the 2013 conference. 

The paper was accepted and Rusconi presented it at the national NCUR conference this past April.  Ross was unable to attend the conference, as he was presenting Eastern's Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP) Student Chapter's database-driven website project at the AITP National Conference in St. Louis, MO. Ross was the project manager of the Eastern team, whose project was selected as one of the top 10 in North America.  

"The Systems Analysis and Design course taught by Dr. Petkov has been an excellent learning experience," said Ross. "Working with Jacob and learning from his work experiences has taught me a lot about teamwork and about what is required in a real-world system analysis. I have taken my experience from this research project and will apply what I have learned into my education and my future employment."

While working full time as the informatics and operations manager at Premier Laboratory Rusconi returned to school in fall 2010 to pursue a Bachelor of General Studies (BGS), with a concentration in Business Management.  He switched to the Business Information Systems (BIS) major, finding it was more in line with his career goals, and became a member of the Eastern Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP) Student Chapter. 

"The classes Dr. Petkov and Dr. Citurs teach are current, practical and relevant," said Rusconi. "They develop and enhance the use of strong analytical skills and critical thinking, as well as teach students strong methodology and knowledge within the BIS discipline and industry." 

Rusconi has been inducted into the Upsilon Pi Epsilon International Honor Society for Computer and Information Disciplines. "This was an especially great day because my 9-year-old twin sons attended the ceremony and told me they were proud of me, and couldn't wait to go to college. My education at Eastern has confirmed my abilities and skills by providing me a framework and structure to practically apply them effectively."

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