Archives / Archived News - April 2001  
University Times
The faculty and staff newspaper
of the University of Pittsburgh
Volume 33 Number 15
April 5, 2001

Carbo to step down as SIS dean

  Toni Carbo plans to re- sign as dean of the School of Information Sciences (SIS), effective June 30, 2002. She will return to teaching and research as a professor in SIS and the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.
"I've been a manager for the last 30 years and I've been working full-time since I was 19 years old. It's time for a little bit of a break," Carbo said, with a laugh.

A search committee will be formed in the near future, with the goal of identifying Carbo's successor by spring 2002, said Provost James Maher.

In a March 26 memo announcing her resignation, Maher said he accepted Carbo's resignation "with deep regret." Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg, in a written statement, said Carbo's "contribution and dedication to [SIS] are deeply appreciated, and it is reassuring to know that she will continue to be an active and contributing member of our University community."

Carbo, 58, said she has mixed feelings about stepping down after 16 years as SIS dean. "I'm sad that a big chapter of my life is coming to an end next year, but I'm also very excited about the opportunities to return to teaching and to get back into information policy research," she said.

"The policy field is changing so quickly, I don't want to get left behind," said Carbo, who is past-president of the American Society for Information Science and Technology and the Association for Library and Information Science Education. She was a member of the U.S. Advisory Council on the National Information Infrastructure and served as a U.S. representative to the G-7 Round Table of Business Leaders, reporting to the G-7 Information Society Conference in 1995 in Brussels.

In June, Carbo will co-chair a Pitt European Union Center conference on "e-government" -- the interaction, through the Internet and other electronic means, between government and the governed.

Carbo chaired the U.S. delegation to the general council meeting of the UNESCO general information programme in 1984, and was a member of the 1982 delegation. She also served on the planning committee for the first UNESCO infoethics conference in Monaco, in 1997. She co-chaired the U.S. National Committee for the International Federation for Information and Documentation (FID), served on the FID Council, and chaired FID's infostructures and policies committee, which oversaw FID's role in the Global Information Alliance.

During Carbo's deanship, SIS developed the first academic program in information ethics. She will return to the classroom next fall to teach an information ethics course. "When I first came to Pitt, I used to teach at least one course a year," she said. "But I haven't had any time to teach during the last couple of years, and I hate that."

Carbo said her planned resignation date of June 30, 2002 is flexible, depending on how long it takes to recruit her successor. She initially wanted to quit as dean in June 2001, she said, but was talked into staying another year so her resignation announcement wouldn't conflict with last fall's public kickoff of Pitt's $500 million capital campaign.

"I said, 'One more year? Sure, I'm a tough Italian.' It made perfect sense -- you don't want to have a dean leaving when you're announcing a capital campaign kickoff. Recently, though, I went to the provost and said, 'Please, Jim, it's time.'"

The death from cancer of an older sister last December strengthened Carbo's resolve to begin a new phase of her own life. "It reminded me of how valuable our time is," Carbo said. "Not that faculty necessarily work any fewer hours than deans, but it's less structured. Deans carry schedules telling us where we have to be and when, every day and evening, every weekday and most weekends.

"I want to have a little more time to spend with my three remaining sisters and my half-sister, and with my daughter, who is graduating from college and planning to get married and move back to Pittsburgh at the end of June."

When Carbo relocated from Washington, D.C., in September 1986 to become dean of what Pitt then called the Graduate School of Library and Information Science, she moved into a sprawling Squirrel Hill house with her then-husband, their daughter, her mother and a student boarder. Today -- following her divorce, her mother's death and her daughter's departure for college -- Carbo lives alone in a two-bedroom house in Edgewood.

"One of the things I'm looking forward to is taking a bit of a breather next summer, to tidy up my house and look after my garden. I'm also looking forward to getting back into community and volunteer work, which is hard to do when so much of your life is scheduled."

SIS has raised $4.6 million toward its $6 million goal in Pitt's capital campaign. "One of my objectives is to reach that goal before I step down next summer," Carbo said.

A longer-term goal is to some day be considered for a Chancellor's Award of Excellence in Teaching. "That," she said, "would be a tremendous thing to do."

The Provost's office released a "selected list of accomplishments" of SIS under Carbo's leadership. Among the 25 items were:

* Building a master of science in telecommunications program and a telecommunications track in the Ph.D. program, "now widely recognized as one of the top two in the United States."

* Twice receiving re-accreditation of the master of library and information science program, ranked third in the country.

* Increasing the school's enrollment to nearly 900 students (exceeding targets set by the provost) and the faculty to 31 "excellent scholars, teachers and professional leaders" who attract more than $2.5 million annually in external research funding.

* Obtaining Buhl Foundation funding for SIS's first endowed chair, the Doreen E. Boyce Chair of Library and Information Science, and hiring Jose-Marie Griffiths (formerly of the University of Michigan) for the position.

* Building a strong SIS summer program, "one of the University's few net revenue-producing summer programs."

Provost Maher also thanked Carbo for what he called her "insightful participation" on Pitt's University Planning and Budgeting Committee and Information Technology Steering Committee.

Asked to cite accomplishments of which she is proudest, Carbo replied: "One of the reasons I took this job, and every job I've ever had, is that I love to help build organizations. You find out what people want to accomplish, and then work with them to realize those dreams.

" It's very gratifying to see the incredibly bright, hard-working people at this school -- faculty and staff -- and how much they contribute, not just to their own discipline and profession, but also to the rest of the community."

Carbo said she's proud to leave behind a "fair and useful" system for evaluating faculty and staff job performances. "I cannot tell you how many hours we spend on that each year!" she said.

In 1996, SIS personnel turned the tables by judging Carbo's performance as dean, under the system that Pitt then employed for evaluating academic administrators. Unlike other deans who underwent evaluations, Carbo asked that results be announced at a meeting open to faculty, staff, students and the public.

"That was a little scary," Carbo recalled. "I had said, 'Whatever the results, I want them to be shared with everyone.' But when the provost actually came to our school to give his report, I thought, 'Was I crazy to do this?' because I didn't know what he was going to say. I'm very glad it came out as positively as it did."

At the Dec. 15, 1996, meeting, Provost Maher told SIS personnel: "The bottom line is that the faculty of the school are very supportive of the dean and very impressed with the job she's doing." Then he praised Carbo's job performance in detail.

Carbo said she regrets not having done more to improve SIS's physical space. She thanked the offices of the Provost and Facilities Management for working with school personnel on a feasibility study to upgrade the Information Sciences Building, but noted: "Space in this building is terribly inadequate."

Built as a research facility for about 90 people, the building has been expanded and overhauled to accommodate the comings and goings of the school's 31 faculty members and nearly 900 students. Besides being crowded it is, arguably, the Pittsburgh campus's ugliest building.

"When you enter, you're confronted by a wall, followed by people crowding to get on the elevators," Carbo said. "In surveys of our students, they regularly complain" about the building.

"I wish there were funds and space for a whole new information sciences building, but there aren't, so we will do whatever we can to improve the space we have.

"So, that's one remaining challenge," Carbo concluded. "But heck, I've got 15 months left. There's lots I can do yet."

-- Bruce Steele n