The School of Information Sciences has reorganized itself to better represent the modern information professions. For more than 100 years, SIS has been educating students for the information professions, including library, information science, and telecommunications disciplines. The distinctions among these disciplines that were so clear in the 20th century have blurred in the 21st century –librarians, for example, now need to master information technology, while systems designers need to understand how to organize information for efficient access and retrieval.
As of July 2006, the School of Information Sciences has undergone a change in governance style – how the School and the various degree programs will be administered -- in order to reflect these changes and to foster a more dynamic, fluid organization. Instead of discipline-centric departments, the School is now organized around the degree programs offered by the School and the research interests of our faculty. This reorganization reflects the ever-increasing integration of the disciplines. As a result, certain aspects of the School – the faculty, research activities, and support efforts are being elevated to the School level.
“The ongoing educational programs of the School will, in essence, remain the same,” explains Ronald Larsen, Dean of the School. “Classes, degrees, and registration will operate largely as they have in the past. The difference is in the way the School is administered. Instead of departments implicitly constrained by disciplinary boundaries, rules and processes, we are moving to a governance structure based on the degree programs that encourages collaboration across the disciplines.”
In the past, faculty and research were affiliated with departments and departments offered the degree programs. Now, faculty are more clearly associated with the School and the breadth of its degree programs – the School offers a BSIS degree; MSIS, MLIS, and MST degrees; and Ph.D. degrees in Library and Information Science as well as in Information Science. Faculty are encouraged to form Research Interest Groups that engage members from other degree programs. Such cross-pollination of expertise will increase opportunities for multi-disciplinary research projects and courses of study. The newly-introduced Digital Libraries specialization offers such an example. Even though the specialization is offered in the Library and Information Science program, the courses and faculty reflect expertise from information science, library science, and telecommunications disciplines.
A newly-formed SIS Council is the principal forum for shared governance. It will assume oversight of traditional academic responsibilities such as the maintenance of appropriate academic standards in instruction, the development of educational programs and degree requirements, and the recommendation of policies in such areas as resource allocation, faculty and staff development, student affairs, research and service programs, and the School of Information Sciences’ relations with local, regional, national, and international communities. The Council’s membership is representative of the School: it includes faculty members, staff, and students from across the degree programs. The Council will meet on a regular basis to ensure that the School functions effectively and efficiently.
The School undertook this new governance structure in order to better align the degree programs with the evolving demands of our fields – a melding of traditional principles of information organization, management and utilization with advances in networking and information technology. It is increasingly rare that an information professional can succeed with a limited set of skills. They need the combination of disciplinary skills and experiences that a school like SIS provides to advance in today’s ever-more complex and challenging society.
So, what does this mean for the students at SIS?
1. Degrees offered at SIS will remain the same. Diplomas/certificates will continue to reflect the degree program – BSIS, MLIS, MSIS, MST, or PhD in Information Science or Library and Information Science.
2. Courses will evolve as they have in the past, but will increasingly involve inter-disciplinary content. Courses will continue to be associated with a specific degree program (i.e. BSIS or MSIS). It is likely that over time, courses will increasingly be blended across the programs.
3. Registration will operate as it has. As in the past, students will meet with their advisor and register for their classes here at the School of Information Sciences.
4. How can I participate in the new governance structure? Students will be invited to elect representatives to the SIS Council after the beginning of the Fall 2006 semester. Two student representatives will serve on the Council, with full voting rights, for a year. If you’re interested in serving on the Council, please contact Molly Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. How will I know what’s going on? All matters addressed at the SIS Council will be posted on a website, www.sis.pitt.edu/~scouncil/. Minutes, actions, discussions will all be posted on this site.
6. Will I notice any differences? In your day-to-day life here at the School, you will notice very few changes. Classes will be offered, research will be done, etc. However, you will see some differences in the way the School functions on the macro level. The intent of this reorganization is to permit the School to be more responsive to changes in the disciplines and industry. It is intended to create a more effective environment for teaching, research, and learning. Students should find the School to be a more accessible and multi-disciplinary organization that benefits them both during their time here and in their subsequent careers.