The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Merrill Warkentin: Educator, researcher, daredevil

Environmental+portrait+of+Merrill+Warkentin.+%28photo+by+Russ+Houston%2F+%26%23169%3B+Mississippi+State+University%29
Submitted Photo

Environmental portrait of Merrill Warkentin. (photo by Russ Houston/ © Mississippi State University)

The Association for Computer Machinery named one of Mississippi State University’s own as a Distinguished Member for his Outstanding Scientific Contributions to Computing. Merrill Warkentin, who joined the MSU faculty in 2001, is the first individual in the state of Mississippi to receive this prestigious honor.
Sharon Oswald, the Dean of the College of Business, called Warkentin “very deserving of this great honor” he received on Nov. 7.
“Being the first in Mississippi is a tribute to his hard work and dedication to his field” Oswald said.
Hard work and dedication have defined Warkentin for decades. During his undergraduate years at the University of Nebraska, he dropped out of college. This was not due to a lack of interest, but a lack of finances as he did not come from a wealthy family and needed to earn some money to continue his education. After working for a couple of years, he renewed his studies, and eventually ended up with a PhD in Management Information Systems in 1986.
Since then, he has taught at several other universities and travelled across the world countless times, but said he is more than content to call Starkville home.
Warkentin said he acknowledges that neither his alma mater nor his current employer is considered to be a “top” school by some critics.
“I’m proud of being from Nebraska, and I’m proud of working at Mississippi State all these years, but we do face some occasional perceptions from others that aren’t really grounded in reality… I’ve had people look down at my name tag and go, ‘Oh, Mississippi?’ I feel like I want to prove that we can be great too,” Warkentin said.
Warkentin’s career covers a variety of fields within his specialty of information systems. He cited the research he was most proud of was his work with fear appeals in regards to cybersecurity. Like a crash test dummy can demonstrate the dangers of driving a car without a seat belt, these fear appeals can illustrate how thoughtless computer use can lead to devastating effects. Warkentin has published over 20 articles on this topic alone—but according to Google Scholar, that is not even of a tenth of his publications, which have been cited almost 14,000 times.
Allen Johnston, a professor at the University of Alabama and a Starkville native, said he has worked with Warkentin in this field for over a decade.
Besides his long paper trail, Warkentin’s list of awards is lengthy, including a vote by the International Federation for Information Processing (a United Nations organization) naming him as one of five individuals globally to receive the 2017 Outstanding Service Award. For Warkentin, service and education take priority over prestige.
“I want to give back,” Warkentin said. “I’ve been fortunate in life. I’ve had a lot of opportunity that’s been given to me; I feel like I should work hard. I don’t need to work to prove anything, and I don’t need the money anymore. I’m doing it because I have a passion for what I do.”
Warkentin continues to work with former and current doctoral students, and he even hosted a Fulbright Scholar from Scotland.
Ali Vedadi, a professor at Middle Tennessee State University and a former doctoral student of Warkentin, is one of many who have been mentored by him. Per his own admission, Vedadi will be “forever indebted” to Warkentin.
“He is one of the most prominent scholars in the history of our field, and I’m proud to call him my academic father,” Vedadi said.
Although Warkentin is most recognized for his contributions to academia, he freely admits he has always liked adrenaline. He has been white-water rafting, bungee jumping and skydiving. After being introduced to flying during his time in Massachusetts, Warkentin said he got hooked, and he is now an FAA licensed private pilot. He co-owns a Piper Cherokee, and he delights in flying his fellow faculty over Starkville.
“People think adrenaline, and they think taking chances. These things are actually much safer (than they think),” Warkentin said. “Flying is much safer than driving, doing these kinds of things are much safer than things people do every day, like eating fried food… I do a lot of research on risk, and people have a lot of misconceptions about risk… I’ve jumped off the tallest building in New Zealand (the Sky Tower in Auckland). It’s very safe. It’s got multiple backups and brakes and everything else… That was 610 feet in 11 seconds. It’s pretty fun… I try to do something exciting every year.”
Warkentin’s passion for new thrills, his intense devotion to education and his immense range of research all derive his “biting” curiosity. He claims it has never stagnated—and looking at his career, it’s easy to see why. With over a dozen articles currently in the process of being published and more on the way, no one can claim he is content to do anything but forge ahead into new frontiers in all aspects of his life.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Reflector Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Activate Search
The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University
Merrill Warkentin: Educator, researcher, daredevil