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Introducing the New Chair of ISTAC (Information Systems and Technology Accreditation Council): Bill Paterson

Bill Paterson
Chair, Information Systems and Technology Accreditation Council


CIPS is pleased to introduce Bill Paterson as the New Chair of ISTAC (Information Systems and Technology Accreditation Council). Bill is an Associate Professor, Computer Science and Information Systems, at Mount Royal University. CIPS is lucky to have Bill as our new ISTAC chair and we look forward to Bill's future contributions in this role.


Tell us about your vision and objectives as the Chair of ISTAC? What are some of the initiatives that ISTAC will be dealing with in the coming year?

Bill: I think it is important to raise the level of professionalism in IT and all Computer Science related fields. A major part of this endeavor is to ensure our post-secondary IT related programs are of high quality. Accreditation through ISTAC provides a strong mechanism to make that happen. To extend the reach of ISTAC we need to work on accreditation criteria and processes that recognize that IT is “embedded” in many different types of activities. I hope to work towards this goal during my term.


Similar to Gerald Caissy (the outgoing Chair of ISTAC), you have served on numerous ISTAC evaluation teams for computing programs over the  years. Can you describe how these experiences have helped you in your ongoing professional development and how it has benefited your school?

Bill: I love doing site visits to other institutions. Although the body of knowledge we teach is basically the same, the role of the IT program in the local community and economy varies. Seeing how IT is taught in other situations allows one to think about new ways of teaching IT in your own situation. As my colleagues and I do curriculum renewal at MRU, I am able to add to the discussion ideas that I saw implemented at other places. This allows my program to “learn” from the successes and challenges of other programs.


What do you see in the future of accreditation? How is the Canadian educational landscape changing and what impact may this have on ISTAC?

Bill: This is a tough question. To some extent the answer is what I’m hoping to discover during my term. As I implied in the answer to the first question, IT is critical to every human endeavor that touches technology. Increasingly it becomes harder to separate IT from the “domain” endeavor. Is a scientist who is configuring devices to analyze DNA doing computer science, IT or biology?

As these various “IT plus X” disciplines (apologies to Ken Barker) become increasing important to the economy and society, the need to ensure that practitioners are being trained in high quality programs increases. This leads to a need to accredit these blended programs. How do we do that if we have a myriad of bodies attending to the accreditation criteria of segmented disciplines?