School of Information Sciences

Collaboration between SIS and the City of Pittsburgh results in impactful student projects

Professors of practice from the University of Pittsburgh School of Information Sciences (SIS), Leona Mitchell and Dmitriy Babichenko, have fostered an exciting collaboration between SIS and the City of Pittsburgh’s Department of Innovation and Performance in order to work on special projects that will benefit both the City and SIS’ students in impactful ways.

The collaboration was prompted by the City of Pittsburgh’s Chief Innovation and Performance Officer Debra Lam, who reached out to SIS for a fresh outsider perspective on projects in the spring of 2015. Mitchell saw the opportunity to not only build a relationship with the City but to offer undergraduate students at SIS valuable real-world experience that would challenge their perception of what an information scientist does.

Mitchell, Babichenko, and four undergraduate students moved forward with a project that focused on an evaluation of the City’s help desk. The project incorporated elements of business analysis, problem solving, and research along side the more obvious technical requirements a student at SIS would be familiar with. “I felt it was a good undergraduate project, and took into account all the things that an information professional would need to know” said Mitchell.

The students began the project by benchmarking the City of Pittsburgh’s help desk against other quality help desk-like services to see where they succeeded and where they could improve. After analyzing and assessing their procedures and tools, the students presented their findings both in person and through final written recommendations to the City. Overall, the City compared very well, closing out more tickets faster than the industry average. The student team also addressed areas where the City could enhance their services, recommending improvements in training, documentation, and how to move to 24/7 assistance without dramatically increasing the City’s need for incremental resources.

“It was a good working project with [the City],” said Mitchell, who shared that SIS students will be collaborating with the City on an even bigger project this term: a third-generation redesign of the City of Pittsburgh’s website []. This is a highly visible project that will tap SIS’ undergraduate and graduate Information Science & Technology and Library & Information Science graduate students, as well as students from Pitt’s College of Business Administration. The cross-disciplinary nature of the project will give students the opportunity to see how each skillset fits and supports larger collaborative projects, effectively breaking down silos and encouraging students to look beyond traditional paradigms. The website is projected to be completed by the end of the spring term 2016.

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