My Adventure to Arkansas: The Association for Information Systems Student Chapter Conference and Competition

AIS Competition 2nd prize!

Near the end of last semester, I received an email from Professor Heikki Topi, my CS 350 professor at that time, about the intention to start a student-run organization on campus to represent the small but vibrant community of students here at Bentley preparing for careers in information systems. Upon reading this email, I thought to myself: “you know, there are like half a dozen accounting clubs; Bentley could use a technology club,” and so began my intent to help build the foundations for an organization for CIS, ISAC, and IDCC majors to interact with each other, network, and help further their knowledge and involvement of the broad field of information systems. Seeing firsthand the sluggishness of student organizational growth and the amount of work it takes to really establish something notable, I saw my involvement as a long-term investment to benefit the students of future classes, to give them an organization that I wish I had coming in as a Freshman three years ago. Little did I know, our early efforts started to pay off a lot earlier than expected.

In mid January, the small bunch of us working to get the Bentley chapter of AIS off the ground discovered that the international parent organization hosts an annual conference and competition that student chapters can participate and compete in. As a means of getting to know the parent organization and thinking it could be a good way to market our under construction organization to the student body, we decided to give it a shot and enter ourselves as a team to compete for Bentley under the Systems Analysis and Design track.

For a few weeks, we sped through the process of analyzing the case materials given to us and extracting out the software requirements. From that, we put the skills from CS 360 into full gear and produced UML diagrams for the entire system, which were the main deliverables for the competition. A month or so later, we were pleasantly surprised to hear that we were selected as one of 20 teams, taken from a pool of around 90 entrants, to enter the final round of the competition and attend the 2013 AIS Student Leadership Conference in Rogers, Arkansas. After given a chance to make some tweaks and resubmit our diagrams, we set out early Thursday morning on April 18 for Logan to take a flight to the northwest corner of rural Arkansas.

At the conference, we were able to network with IS students from renowned universities around the country (e.g. Indiana University, Brigham Young University, University of Alabama, University of Arkansas) and learn more about the kinds of events different AIS student chapters put on for their members. We also got a chance to participate in the Walmart IT Summit, in which we were able to visit Walmart’s headquarters in nearby Bentonville, sit in on one of the company’s Saturday Morning Meetings, and meet with Walmart IT department recruiters and managers.

When it came down to the competition, we read up on all our materials, put on our game faces, and responded to a 15 minute Q&A session with the judges. The judges gave us extremely valuable feedback, mostly positive with some constructively negative, which in of itself made the whole trip worth it to me as a future business systems analyst. Ultimately, as we finished our “light hors d’oeuvres” of chicken fingers and fried spinach balls, a surprising delight compared to the crackers and cheese here up north, the awards ceremony began. As the plaque above shows, we placed second, just behind a team from BYU (for reference, BYU is #12 on BusinessWeek’s Undergraduate Business School rankings, and Bentley is #20), delightful news to an already delightful experience.

AIS Competition Awards Ceremony

I would like to take this time to thank our president, fellow senior Eric Ohlson, Professor Topi and Professor Xu for all the guidance and support they have given to our team. I am graduating this semester, but my three other competition team colleagues and fellow Bentley AIS e-board members Brendan Colford, Mac Segura-Cook, and Alina Usmanov will be carrying the torch next semester, and they will without a doubt be preparing to send Bentley to even greater success at the competition next year. If any of you are interested in competing in the AIS case competition next year, definitely feel free to send me an email at and I will happily forward you on to the Bentley AIS mailing list!

I hope you all found my reporting of my time at the conference and competition in Arkansas interesting, and I hope you all really consider participating in the competition next year. As a soon-to-be Bentley CIS alum, it’ll be great to come back to the Sandbox in a few years and see some first place plaques on the wall near the green chairs. 🙂