School of Information Sciences

SIS’ Dean Larsen to step down from leadership role in 2017


Ron Larsen, dean of the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Information Sciences (SIS), has announced his intention to step down from his position and return to teaching and research in the summer of 2017.

Larsen, who spent 15 years as an administrator, earned his PhD in computer science from the University of Maryland, College Park, in 1981, his master’s degree in applied physics at The Catholic University of America in 1971, and a bachelor’s degree in engineering sciences from Purdue University in 1968.

His early career was spent at NASA working in several capacities, including positions as a mathematician, an aerospace technologist, and a program manager. Among his achievements was the launching of NASA’s computer science research program in the early 1980s. Soon after earning his PhD, he joined the faculty at his alma mater, the University of Maryland, College Park, where he assumed several administrative and leadership roles including assistant vice chancellor for computing for the university system, associate director for information technology for the university libraries, as well as deputy director of the Maryland Information and Network Dynamics Lab and executive director of the Maryland Applied Information Technology Initiative, a consortium of 50 departments in nine universities working to expand the pipeline of graduates in information technology.

During his tenure at Maryland, Larsen also worked for nearly four years at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as assistant director of the Information Technology Office. The University recruited Larsen as dean in 2002.

“Ron has served as dean during a time of immense change in the field of information sciences, and Ron’s visionary leadership of SIS during this time has been an essential component of the school’s success,” said Patricia E. Beeson, provost and senior vice chancellor. “Under his leadership, SIS has been transformed from a departmentalized faculty to a unified information school. The reorganized school creates an environment conducive to collaborative research and education among SIS faculty and between SIS faculty and scholars outside the school. Under his leadership, the school’s programs have grown and their reputation expanded, with several program specializations ranked among the very best in the country, and external funding to the school’s faculty has tripled during his tenure as dean.”

Larsen is currently coordinating the next major reorganization of the University’s data, information, and computing programs in collaboration with the chair of the Department of Computer Science (CS), Taieb Znati. Under his shared leadership with Znati, SIS and CS faculty are developing a proposal for a new academic unit that will incorporate both faculties into a single academic and administrative unit, consolidating academic programs, capitalizing on existing strengths, enhancing collaborations, and creating an intellectual hub for computing and information sciences at Pitt.

During his tenure as dean of SIS, Larsen joined four other deans of major information schools (Syracuse University, Drexel University, the University of Washington, and the University of Michigan) in 2003 to meet regularly to share experiences in shaping the evolution of their schools. By 2005, that fledgling organization had grown to include ten North American universities. At that point, Larsen helped found the iSchools consortium, which has since grown to include 65 universities on five continents and which hosts an annual international conference.

“It has been a pleasure to work with Ron, both in his role as director of SIS and as a member of the Council of Deans,” Beeson said. “His vision, leadership, and commitment to the University’s broader goals have been an indispensable part of Pitt’s recent progress over the last fifteen years, and he will be deeply missed.”

A search committee will be formed this summer to identify Larsen’s successor.


Contact: Joe Miksch, University of Pittsburgh News Services
[412-624-4356 (office); 412-997-0314 (cell);]


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