By Danny Robles (2016 i3 Alum, 2018 Communications Assistant)
Our 8th year of i3 is off to an exciting start. Twenty-seven scholars from 16 different states and territories, representing 22 colleges and universities began the week with a tour of iconic buildings across campus. While visiting Heinz chapel, we learned some of the history behind how and why the chapel, as well as the Cathedral of Learning, were built. The students were delighted with the aesthetic the University of Pittsburgh has to offer. Over 80% of our 2018 cohort had never visited Pittsburgh prior to this week. The tour was a great way to kick off the program and welcome our i3 Scholars to Pittsburgh.
As the day continued, Dr. Joe Sanchez (Queens College) and Dr. Don Hamerly (Dominican University) gave us an introduction to iSchools and the information sciences. They gave students a feel for how information and computing connects to all kinds of majors, highlighting the potential and importance of the information sciences to explore and address complex problems. Director of Student Services, Wes Lipschultz (University of Pittsburgh), led a second workshop providing an overview of current IS domains of application, including education, enhancing diagnostic tools, and self-driving cars. i3 Director, Michael Depew, wrapped up the day by leading a workshop on building resumes in preparation for mock interviews later in the week.
Our second day of i3 started with some action (literally). We began with an interactive workshop on game design led by Professor of Practice Dimitry Babichenko and Dr. Lorin Grieve (both at the University of Pittsburgh). They discussed how gaming and information sciences overlap, especially when creating serious games, or games created for a primary purpose other than pure entertainment. i3 Scholars then play-tested several games-in-progress that current University of Pittsburgh undergraduate students are developing. Game developers and i3 Scholars discussed game attributes and provided feedback for the next stage of development.
The day concluded with our Opening Ceremony where University of Pittsburgh faculty and staff, i3 alumni, and other guests were invited to officially welcome the new cohort and learn more about the program over dinner. The opening reception concluded with a talk from our special guest and keynote speaker, Dr. Andrea Tapia (Associate Professor of Information Sciences and Technology at Penn State University). Dr. Tapia spoke about her experiences watching IS grow as a field, how the iSchools have evolved, and the opportunities to help change the world and “become superheroes” by leveraging the relationships between people, information, and technology for “good instead of evil.”
Dr. Andrea Tapia (left) with our 2018 i3 scholars
We kicked off the day with a talk from our very own Dr. Kip Currier (University of Pittsburgh) on Copyright in the Digital Technology Age. He discussed the details and complexity of copyright laws, citing issues pertaining to music mash-ups, file sharing, digital media creation, use of material for educational purposes, as well as a variety of other challenging cases. i3 Scholars were stunned to learn about copyright infringement cases in which YouTube content creators were taken to court for including short samples of copyrighted songs in the background of videos.
The day also included professional development sessions, which covered goal setting, how to build personal capital, resumes, and cover letters. We welcomed Dr. Lynette Yarger (Penn State University) back to i3, who has been a long-time supporter of the program. Dr. Yarger’s workshop “Do IT artifacts have politics?” challenged students to consider the role of intentional (and unintentional) design and how those decisions can impact marginalized communities.
Day 4 began with mock interviews. i3 scholars suited up and met with professionals who volunteered to serve as interviewers for the day. Each student was able to practice their interview and communication skills, as well as receive individualized feedback regarding their resumes. i3 Scholars arrived with resumes tailored to job descriptions that align with their interests. A huge THANK YOU to our 14 volunteer interviewers who joined us for the day and shared their words of wisdom.
After mock interviews and lunch, Brian D’Souza (Software Engineer at Cisco) led a workshop discussion information security and assurance. Brian is an alumnae of the Master of Telecommunications program at Pitt’s iSchool and skillfully highlighted issues of representation and inclusion in the software industry.
To end the day, i3 Scholars toured the Carnegie Museums of Natural History and Art. The cohort enjoyed the many exhibits, and even had the opportunity to pet a baby alligator as part of the temporary living animal exhibit.
To wrap up week 1, we welcomed three faculty members from the School of Computing and Information (SCI) at the University of Pittsburgh to participate in a “Hot Topics” panel. Moderated by SCI faculty member and i3 Assistant Director Dr. Kayla Booth, panelists Dr. Rosta Farzan, Dr. Adam Lee, and Dr. Alison Langmead discussed their journeys through graduate school and their perspectives on the future directions of social computing, security and privacy, and digital humanities. Our panel members also shared some of their own experiences and offered advice to our scholars in finding your area of interest and sticking to your passions within the field.