Building a strong community

By Judy Lawson

Fall 2014 marks my 15th fall at the School of Information (UMSI). It was 2000, and the first cohort since the school was re-chartered in 1996 had just graduated. These trailblazers took an unknown degree out into the world. They and graduates who followed have lived through and led the amazing evolution of Information careers. During this time, the pace of change at UMSI has been exhilarating: growing enrollments, new faculty and staff members, new courses and curricula, new student groups, and new events and programs, including our exciting new entrepreneurship program.

Judy Lawson

Judy Lawson is assistant dean of academic and student affairs at the School of Information.

Today we have a top-notch, in-house career development office and an expanded set of service engagement offerings we call the Initiative for Information Impact, or I3. I3 is advancing UMSI’s mission to make a difference, from unpaid internship grants to Peace Corps partnerships to service engagement courses down the road in Jackson, Michigan and around the globe in India. And with the largest doctoral cohort ever (20!) entering this fall, our PhD program is advancing its impact on future Information faculty. A set of new doctoral research seminars is rolling out this year along with a redesigned plan for students’ professional development.

UMSI is still a very young school, when you consider that business schools began to appear early in the 20th century and that law schools have been in existence much longer than that. Each new UMSI student cohort brings fresh energy to the still emerging study of Information and continues to blaze new paths both in the curriculum and in careers. This fall, we welcome our first cohort of undergraduate students! The students joining the Bachelor of Science in Information will no doubt remind us that new academic ventures offer exciting new ways to learn and to make a difference in the world. Our Master of Health Informatics students and first batch of graduates lend further evidence that this is, simply, the UMSI way.

Yes, our community is strong, but with everyone’s effort, it can become stronger. Two important ways we aim to advance are in our diversity efforts and in our teaching and learning environment. As the co-chair (with Professor Yan Chen) of the UMSI Diversity Committee, I invite your ideas and involvement in forwarding the realization of our diversity statement and goals.

Diversity is about each one of us and about all of us. It’s about building an inclusive environment where we seek to understand and value others and benefit from multiple viewpoints. Advancing diversity directly connects with improving our teaching and learning environment. Last year, the faculty engaged in a workshop on multicultural teaching and learning. This year, faculty member Eric Cook and I are leading an initiative to further the active and multicultural teaching skills of GSIs and lecturers. Students, faculty and staff all play a role — each day — in building an inclusive, innovative, and intellectually invigorating learning community. What will be your contribution to this effort? Welcome to the new academic year at UMSI!

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