Like Father Like Sons: A Family Graduates with MIS Master's Degrees

June 5, 2018

Williams Family

At the UA Commencement in May, three members of the Williams family stood together to receive master’s degrees in MIS

Kevin Williams loves learning. When he entered the U.S. Air Force as a young man he began the training that would continue throughout his military career, but that wasn’t enough. After work, and as he raised a family, he took courses near the base where he was stationed, ultimately attending 10 different colleges.

Following his military service, Kevin applied the technical training he had received in the Air Force to the private sector, then came to work at the University of Arizona’s College of Engineering. He evaluated all of his transfer credits, including credit for his military training, and found that the fastest path to a degree led to a Bachelor of General Studies, which he completed in 2014.

Even before he received his bachelor’s degree he knew he wanted a graduate degree. But his busy work schedule didn’t allow for full-time study. That’s where the MISonline program fit in—Eller’s Master of Science in Management Information Systems delivered in an online format.


Williams Family
Ryan Williams, Kevin Williams and Brandon Williams at the MIS graduation reception. Photo courtesy Sadie Randall.

When he earned his master’s degree this May—a pursuit for the love of learning rather than career advancement—the experience was all the sweeter because his twin sons stood beside him, also dressed in caps and gowns.

When Brandon and Ryan Williams entered the University of Arizona as freshmen, neither was set on a degree in information systems. Brandon was considering a degree in computer science. Ryan, who wanted a career in the FBI, explored law and criminal justice.

With different career paths in mind, the brothers applied for professional admission to the Eller College with a major in MIS. Ryan realized he wanted to work in the information technology field and saw an MIS degree with a minor in computer science as the right mix of technical and business education. Brandon also added a minor in computer science because he wanted to learn programming. He found his minor very useful, particularly in his upper-division MIS courses.

Their junior year at Eller they applied for the accelerated master’s program, which allowed them to take master’s courses during their senior year to apply toward the MS in MIS.

While some friction would be normal for three relatives studying and graduating together, their experiences were overwhelmingly positive. Kevin’s pride in his sons’ accomplishments is evident in his words of praise and the look on his face as he talks about Brandon and Ryan. The younger men couldn’t be happier to have graduated with their father.

Having an identical twin as a classmate can be complicated, but for Brandon there were no drawbacks to being in a graduate program with his brother. He suggests that the situation might have been most difficult for their professors, who spent most of each semester trying to tell them apart.

While graduation week was a time of triple celebration for the Williams family, it also began a separation for the three men who have lived, worked and studied so closely for the last two years.

Kevin will continue in his IT management role at the University. Still an enthusiastic learner, he has not ruled out the possibility of pursuing a PhD.

Brandon, who completed his degree requirements in December 2017, received a promotion at his full-time job. He works on campus as a senior applications systems analyst and developer with the UA BookStores.

Ryan will relocate to Washington, D.C., for a job with the MITRE Corporation—a nonprofit that operates multiple federally funded research and development centers that focus on defense and intelligence, cybersecurity, aviation, civil systems, homeland security, the judiciary and healthcare.

Can MIS faculty hope to see other members of the Williams family in future courses? Kevin says that’s unlikely. His youngest son Sean, currently a senior in high school, plans to pursue studies in theoretical physics. At least for now…