‘A Jewel in Our Midst’

Vladimir Zwass

He’s characterized by colleagues as “a jewel in our midst.” When the Encyclopedia Britannica needed the definitive expert to author the article on computer science, it turned to Vladimir Zwass. When the time came to include e-commerce in that venerable publication, Zwass was invited to write the article. His international reputation garners speaking invitations from around the world — so many that he must decline more than he can accept. Presentations take him throughout the world, to places like Hong Kong, Russia and Taiwan.

Reaching beyond borders is nothing new for this renowned scholar. Zwass grew up in Warsaw, Poland, and studied in Russia with diplomatic status, as his father was representing Poland in the Comecon (the common-market organization of the region).

After completing his master’s degree in electrical engineering from a leading technological university in Moscow, Zwass left Poland in 1969 to join the professional staff of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria. A year later, he arrived in New York City to begin work on a PhD in computer science at Columbia University.

Since joining the FDU faculty in 1975, he has amassed an enviable record of achievement and service. The Journal of Management Information Systems, which he founded in 1984 and has served as editor-in-chief since, is recognized as one of the three highest-ranked journals in the field. Zwass followed this success with the establishment of the graduate program in management information systems at FDU.

The Journal of Management Information Systems, which he founded in 1984 and has served as editor-in-chief since, is recognized as one of the three highest-ranked journals in the field.

In his spare time, he has written Introduction to Computer Science, a best-seller in the field, and Management Information Systems, which has been adopted at Harvard University, Cornell University, Rutgers University and more than 100 other institutions. According to one review, Management Information Systems “sets a new standard for such textbooks.” He followed this with the equally authoritative text, Foundations of Information Systems.

As e-commerce emerged, Zwass was in the forefront of an early network of scholars. “Like the character of Molière who did not know he was speaking prose, we did not know for a while that we were doing e-commerce,” he says. “Actually, the explicit network emerged contemporaneously with the International Journal of Electronic Commerce (IJEC). Zwass established this journal, the first in the field, in 1996.

Zwass decided to launch an e-commerce journal because “the field is interdisciplinary, and I have a great interest in such fields. My doctoral work at Columbia University involved not only computer science, but also economics (under the guidance of the late Nobel Prize winner for economics William Vickrey). It was obvious to me that e-commerce needed an integrated and deeper analysis in a journal of its own. The reputation of the Journal of Management Information Systems helped.”

In the inaugural issue, Zwass contributed a paper offering the structural analysis and research program for e-commerce. It met with acclaim and is constantly cited in publications and on the Web.

According to Zwass, “IJEC is still the only scholarly journal fully devoted to e-commerce. Its editorial board includes the top scholars and leading practitioners in the field. I am now working on the first issue of the fifth volume — and many strong papers are pouring in.”

His research on organizational memory and e-commerce and his writing feed his teaching in a variety of ways. This fall, FDU began offering a master of science program in electronic commerce, which was developed by Zwass. “The e-commerce courses I teach will benefit from what I learn every day in this work, and my work as the journal’s editor-in-chief profits by thinking on my feet in front of students,” he says.

For 30 years, Vladimir Zwass has been at the cutting edge of technologies that transform the way knowledge and information is managed. While he has received international recognition, he takes pride in honors bestowed close to home. In 1996, he was awarded the FDU Distinguished Faculty Award for Research and Scholarship, and at commencement ceremonies in 1999, the University conferred upon him the title distinguished professor of computer science.

“The wish ‘May you live in interesting times!’ is considered a curse,” he says. “Reflecting on the recent decade, I don’t think so.”

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