June 4, 1998......Volume 27, Issue 32

Moving toward reality

School of Information Sciences and Technology
taking shape with input from industry, faculty

By Barbara Hale
Public Information

President Graham B. Spanier's vision of a fresh Penn State approach to addressing the compelling societal needs in information sciences and technology took a giant step toward realization in May and is now moving through the stage of faculty consultation and Faculty Senate review.

In May, the Information Sciences and Technology Strategic Planning Group submitted its report. The group recommended the creation of a new School of Information Sciences and Technology with 30 core faculty members and 15 with joint appointments at University Park, plus 25 new faculty members at other Penn State locations. The report can be found on the Web at http://www.psu.edu/ufs/IST/IST.html

Spanier distributed the report to the Board of Trustees at its May meeting and said that the new school will be one of the most significant developments in the University's history. The board will consider a formal proposal on the new school at its September meeting.

The new school is being designed, with industry participation, to meet America's needs for new workers to address the explosion in information sciences and technology professions. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that, according to a survey conducted by the Information Technology Association of America, at least 346,000 "core" U.S. information technology jobs are vacant. In addition, demand for programmers, systems analysts and computer engineers is going up, while the number of undergraduates earning U.S. computer science degrees has declined 43 percent since 1986.

On May 7, in a question-and-answer session offered by the Strategic Planning Group via satellite to faculty members at most campuses, David Wormley, dean of the College of Engineering and a member of the Strategic Planning Group, said many industries, not just computer manufacturers, will want to recruit program graduates. He said the situation represented an excellent opportunity for philanthropic activity.

The Strategic Planning Group estimated that permanent general funds in the new school would need to grow to $7 million at University Park in five years. There also is a need for a centrally located, state-of-the-art building to showcase the range of interests at the school and to serve as a place for industry partners to gather and share ideas.

Wormley estimated that over a five-year period, beginning in August 1999, the new school would draw an additional 1,000 students to University Park, plus another thousand to other Penn State locations, providing new tuition revenue. Tuition differentials also are being considered because of the higher cost of educating students in technology fields. The Strategic Planning Group estimated that tuition and fees from increased student enrollment could cover part of the permanent operation costs after the second year.

The group stressed in its report that the school be a "University-wide initiative." The report recommends creating a coordinating council, chaired by the dean of the new school, to facilitate collaboration and coordination of curricular offerings at the various Penn State locations. Other major report recommendations are:

* New educational opportunities leading to associate, baccalaureate and graduate degrees, as well as minors and certificates;

* Interdisciplinary approaches that capitalize on Penn State strengths at all locations;

* A fundamental academic core that stresses analytical and problem-solving abilities, and builds strong communications, teamwork and project management skills;

* Leading-edge research and outreach programs, including distance education and the World Campus;

* Strategic partnerships with industry and government; and

* Positive impacts on economic and workforce development.

"Penn State's faculty and other resources at multiple campuses across the Commonwealth provide a unique opportunity to address teaching, research and outreach needs in a highly integrated manner covering a wide range of educational programs in the information sciences and technology," said Rodney A. Erickson, vice president for research and dean of the graduate school who chaired the Strategic Planning Group.

In the question-and-answer session, John Harwood, director of education technology services in the Center for Academic Computing and a member of the Strategic Planning Group, emphasized that work on the concept for the new school was just beginning and much remains to be done. He said neither all of the courses nor all of the new faculty members could be expected to be in place by next fall, the proposed opening date. Input and participation from current faculty will be vital to getting the school off to a good start.

Faculty input on the information sciences and technology unit concept was sought through a story in Intercom on April 23, soon after the Strategic Planning Group was formed. The Strategic Planning Group held two open meetings at University Park, in addition to the meeting broadcast to the campuses, after its report was completed.

Currently, the proposal for the new school is making its way through reviews by 10 Faculty Senate committees including admissions, records, scheduling and student aid; curriculum affairs; computer and information systems; faculty affairs; intra-University relations; libraries; outreach activities; research; undergraduate education; and University planning. The committees are scheduled to send their reports to the Faculty Senate Council by June 30. The council will vote on the recommendation for the new school at a special meeting on July 15.

Members of the Strategic Planning Group included Gary Augustson, vice provost of Information Technology; Terri Brooks, dean, College of Communications; Nancy Eaton, dean, University Libraries; Erickson; David Goldenberg, campus executive officer, Penn State Mont Alto; Barbara Grabowski, professor-in-charge, Instructional Systems Program; Harwood; Elizabeth Hawthorne, associate dean, academic affairs, Penn State Berks-Lehigh Valley; Mary Jane Irwin, professor of computer science; Dale Miller, professor and head, Department of Computer Science; David Russell, head of the Division of Engineering, Penn State Great Valley; Susan Shuman, administrative fellow, Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost; James Thomas, senior associate dean, The Smeal College of Business Administration; and Wormley.

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