In 2012 and 2013, UMSI held the first-ever competition of its kind among its faculty: inviting them to compete for funding to create a project that would have an immediate impact on a local area. The winner was Cliff Lampe, who walked away with an award from our donor-created Founders Fund and a plan: create a project that would link the citizens of Jackson, Michigan, and their government in ways they had never been before.
The Citizen Interaction Design project officially launched early in 2013 as a partnership with the City of Jackson. The city launched its first Facebook page – and removed the restrictions that prevented city workers from using social media on the job – within weeks of the start. Now the project team is working with the city to identify priorities, such as a blight status system that would allow residents to let the city know about properties that are run down or in need of attention.
In winter 2013, UMSI is offering Citizen Interaction Design as a course for the first time, with students completing a wide variety of projects with the city, allowing residents to communicate with city officials and vice versa in every medium you can imagine. This project would literally not have happened without the help of UMSI donors.
And this is just one example of UMSI’s commitment to putting its research and teaching to use in the world. Every year, nearly 150 students volunteer over spring break to solve information-related problems for non-profit organizations in four cities: Detroit, Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. Our students floor us every year with their commitment to the program and their sheer numbers: we have the highest participation rate of any voluntary alternative spring break program on campus.
Also launching in 2013 is the Global Information Engagement Program, a project funded in part by the U-M Office of the Provost and in part by our corporate partners, which takes cutting-edge information research and students and puts them on the ground in countries where they can put their expertise to work. The program begins in summer 2013 with months of work by faculty and students at locations in India.
All of these programs are part of our new Initiative for Information Impact. This program represents all of UMSI’s many commitments to putting information research and teaching right in the community, ranging from the A2DataDive (where students help local non-profits complete massive projects in a single weekend while learning the best data-handling techniques) to the larger projects mentioned above. And it’s all funded in part by supporters like you.