News / Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Grant to the School of Information Sciences supports efforts to diversify faculty and students in iSchools
The University of Pittsburgh is pleased to announce that the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded a $600,000 grant to the School of Information Sciences to support the creation of the iSchool Inclusion Institutes (i3). The Institutes are designed to address a critical shortfall of faculty and students from underrepresented populations within the Information Science disciplines and professions by increasing the number of students from those groups in graduate programs at US-based Information Schools (iSchools), and encouraging them to consider academic career opportunities in the discipline.
The iSchool Inclusion Initiative is based on the premise that a faculty that represents the diversity of the overall population will draw students into the information professions that, likewise, will reflect the diversity of the overall population. Students will thus have role models to whom they can personally relate, and who will provide concrete evidence that the information professions are not only open to all, but that diversity in the workforce is essential.
The three-year grant, announced in June 2010, will underwrite the expenses involved in hosting a four-week introductory institute for undergraduate students at the University of Pittsburgh, providing them with an immersive introduction to the theoretical foundations and professional/academic opportunities available to students who undertake graduate study in the Information Sciences. The i3 sessions will also provide practical guidance regarding applying to graduate schools, financial aid options, and successfully completing a graduate program in the discipline. Teams of students, under the guidance of iSchool faculty and mentors, will also participate in a year-long research project using social networking technology, video conferencing tools, and related tools that enable participants to gain first-hand experience in using the tools of the information trade. Then, the students will return to the University of Pittsburgh in the second year, to further explore how information and the Information Sciences impact learning, business, governments, and society in general. The School of Information Sciences intends to host 60 students at the Institutes, helping them to discover the benefits and challenging nature of academic and professional careers within the Information field. For more information about the i3 program, please visit www.ischool-inclusion.org.
The project is managed by the University of Pittsburgh School of Information Sciences under the supervision of the Principal Investigators, Dean Ronald L. Larsen and Assistant Professor James “Kip” Currier. This pilot project will be implemented in conjunction with two partner iSchools – Drexel University’s College of Information Science and Technology and the College of Information Science and Technology at the Pennsylvania State University. In addition, the project will also draw upon and incorporate the significant experiential information and relevant knowledge of a variety of academics and Information Professionals. Other US-based iSchools will contribute to the program as recruiters, teachers, and mentors, participating in select phases of the Summer Institutes and during the year-long research/development project. At the end of the second Institute for each cohort, all participating iSchools will recruit students for their graduate programs from among the Institute’s students.
“This program is an effort to address a lack of diversity in the faculty and student body, which most academic disciplines are experiencing,” notes Ronald L. Larsen, Dean and Professor, School of Information Sciences. “We need to proactively encourage students from underrepresented groups to join the Information professions and the faculty of iSchools. A dearth of faculty members and students from underrepresented groups limits the perspectives and creativity that are needed to address the complex and multifaceted issues confronting society in its management and use of information.”
In 2009, the School was awarded a planning grant by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to study the need for – and appropriate elements of – such a residential and immersive program. The first Institutes will be offered in June 2011. Details about the i3 program are available at www.ischool-inclusion.org.