Hsinchun Chen, MBA ’85, has a lofty professional goal: to make the world a better place through the development of high-impact information systems and artificial intelligence programs.
As McClelland Professor of Management Information Systems at the University of Arizona, Chen has ample opportunity to share his passion with students and colleagues. His artificial intelligence laboratory houses more than 20 researchers and is where Chen has created cutting-edge computer programs that emulate human mental faculties and intelligence. The lab has received more than $25 million in federal and agency research funding and continues to make strides that were unheard of 10 years ago.
Chen chose the University at Buffalo School of Management for his master’s degree when he learned of its excellent reputation and representation amongst colleagues in his native Taiwan. While a student here, he met his future wife, Hsiao-Hui Chow, a student in the School of Pharmacy. Together, the couple established the Hsinchun Chen and Hsiao-Hui Chow Scholarship in 2010 to benefit students in the management information systems (MIS) program as a way to “give back.” One or two students will benefit from Chen’s scholarship each academic year.
“I have done the same thing in Taiwan. I feel blessed to be able to do this at a relatively young age and to help MIS students at the School of Management,” he adds.
Chen says that although he could have been a businessman, his fascination for learning, higher education and an insatiable intellectual curiosity took him down a different path. Not unlike other professors, Chen’s repertoire includes teaching, writing, research and developing programs and he enjoys each one. But it’s the students whose lives he impacts that he finds the most rewarding. His advice to current and future MIS students is to pursue the right training.
“It’s important to understand the merging of societal and business needs in a global sense,” he says. “Having the right mentality is key.”
The field of artificial intelligence is often misunderstood, Chen says. A common perception is that it is mundane.
“Artificial intelligence is used in the fields of medicine and is woven throughout the fabric of society,” Chen says. “People tend to have unrealistic expectations of it, likening it to the movie ‘I, Robot.’ Yes, it is a powerful discipline and weapon, but we are using it to make the world a better place.”
Four areas have largely captured Chen’s talents and commitment: health care, where creating electronic medical records leads to improved patient care; the use of knowledge and technology to alleviate concern over cybersecurity; countering terrorism through artificial intelligence; and analytics to understand companies and employer practices.
Chen says when it comes to the future of artificial intelligence and information systems, “the world is the oyster.”
(Billy Phitakoun is the recipient of the 2015-16 Hsinchun Chen and Hsaio-Hui Chow Scholarship.