Life changes have a way of putting one in a reflective mood.
As I approach the end of my tenure as dean of the iSchool, I’ve been thinking a lot about the School’s sense of community, and just how precious and important that is.
Every single individual in our community is vital, and we saw an illustration of that last fall when we lost a member of our iSchool family. After one of our instructors, James Farricker, passed away tragically and unexpectedly, the School pulled together in countless ways. Faculty rallied to teach the remainder of his cybersecurity course, and staff ensured that every student’s needs were met. Not a single student dropped the class, and many of them attended his memorial service. It was a remarkable tribute to not only the instructor and the students, but to our entire community.
This sense of community hasn’t formed by accident. It has blossomed steadily through the years, based on a firm commitment to a core set of values. The iSchool is an open, ethical, collaborative community built on trust, transparency and mutual respect. We value inclusion and diversity in all its forms, and this enables us to take an active role in both local and global conversations. These values have allowed our school to thrive and become a role model for iSchools around the world.
While recent events on the national political arena have brought to light some disturbing points of view that run contrary to our values, we will press ahead with rock-solid dedication to them. Regardless of politics, we remain firmly committed to inclusion, and to diversifying our faculty, staff and students. The focus of our work with information is to make the world a better place by improving the lives of all people, no matter whether their country of origin happens to fall on some official list.
Inclusion isn’t just a word at the iSchool – it’s a mindset. We welcome students, faculty, staff and friends from all parts of the world, all cultures, all races, all religions, all gender and sexual identities. We are dedicated to making the iSchool an outstanding place to work and to learn; and to be truly outstanding means that the community has an open heart and the capacity to hear and respect all voices. By being in a community that is diverse, we all learn more about ourselves. As we move through our lives, we are enriched by the beauty of difference.
We can only achieve our goals by making people of all kinds feel that the University is open to them, yet there are powerful social and cultural forces working in opposition. Young people from minority backgrounds continue to face substantial barriers against entry into a university environment. It is our job to remove those barriers.
When students look at our community, they should see the potential for themselves to be part of it, no matter who they are or where they come from. A diverse faculty, staff and student body at the iSchool shows prospective students that there are people like them here, and that they belong. It’s not just words, but a powerful positive message: We love you, and you’ve arrived.
In these times, it is more essential than ever that the iSchool provide a safe, welcoming community for all people to call home. I know first-hand how wonderful this is. I’ve been proud to call the iSchool my home for 19 years.
Professor and Dean
The UW Information School