By Thomas Finholt, Interim Dean

The 2015-16 school year at UMSI is off to an energetic start, with several new faces joining our faculty, several high profile speakers and plans for an expanded homecoming weekend.

Thomas Finholt

Thomas Finholt, interim dean of the School of Information

On September 9, we held our annual convocation, the traditional start to our school year, and the one occasion on which the entire school — faculty, students and staff — convene to hear of plans for the upcoming year, highlight our accomplishments of the previous and celebrate the fellowship that characterizes UMSI.

Here are highlights of the events we’re looking forward to this fall.

On Thursday, October 1, we welcome gaming journalist Leigh Alexander as the featured guest speaker at the annual John Seely Brown Symposium on Technology and Society. Alexander is the former editor of Gamasutra and current editor-in-chief of the website Offworld. She will be speaking on emerging alternative games culture and trends that show video games are coming into their own as an expressive cultural form.

Speaking of JSB, a former JSB speaker, social media researcher danah boyd, had an overflow crowd for a talk she delivered here on September 15, on big data and systemic discrimination. boyd is a member of our external advisory board and spent a few days with us conducting workshops and meeting with our faculty and doctoral students.

Homecoming is the second weekend in October and we have a number of activities planned. Alumni are invited to attend guest lectures by alumnus Tom Hyry, Florence Fearrington Librarian of Harvard’s Houghton Library, on October 9 and Jason Blessing, CEO of PlexSystems Inc. on October 7.

If you’re not able to attend in person, be sure to tune in for the premiere of an online lecture by our WK Kellogg Professor of Community Information, Kentaro Toyama, who will be expanding on ideas in his recently published book, Geek Heresy. Kentaro’s position is that technology amplifies human capacity but is no substitute for it. The lecture will be available to view on October 8; our events calendar will have information on where to see it.

A highlight of the homecoming weekend is the alumni awards presentation. Please read the feature on the recipients of this year’s alumni awards: Paul Poon, Sameer Halai and Stuart Feldman.

Later that month, we welcome another high-profile speaker, Sendhil Mullainathan, a Harvard professor of economics and the author of Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much. Mullainathan has been honored with a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” and is the founder of ideas42, a non-profit that uses behavioral science to help solve social problems. He will be discussing his recent research on machine learning at noon on October 21, here at UMSI.

A full fall indeed, and only the start of what promises to be an exceptional year for our students, our school and the entire university. We look forward to sharing more news with you in the months ahead.