Dean's Message

The triumphant story of the iSchool

harry-bruce-headshot2.jpgWhen you’re immersed in a good book, you might imagine how the story will eventually play out. What you can’t predict are the twists and turns and the heroic efforts of the characters you’ll meet in every chapter. The joy of the story is in the journey.

This will be my final academic year as dean of the Information School, and I can’t help but look back on the journey we’ve all taken together. The story of the iSchool is one of persistence, loyalty, trust, and heart. It’s a story of tremendous creativity, determination, and ultimately of triumph.

I arrived in 1998 as an associate professor and associate dean for research to work with Michael Eisenberg on transforming the Graduate School of Library and Information Science into the modern iSchool. He envisioned a school that embraced technology and the internet, that collaborated with colleagues in computer science and engineering but carved out its own niche in organizing information and making it usable and accessible to people.

The scale of what we’ve accomplished since is nothing short of extraordinary. We’ve created the 16th independent school of the University of Washington, and an example for more than 70 schools around the world that have branded themselves as iSchools. We’ve become a high-impact, high-quality academic and research unit of international renown. And we’ve grown to serve more than 1,100 students who will become the next generation of leaders in the information professions.

Everyone reading these words should take pride in the success of the iSchool because it’s a story that includes every member of our community. The magic that happens here is only possible thanks to our faculty, staff, students, alumni and supporters who so often demonstrate their commitment to the School and their determination to succeed.

And there’s so much more story to tell.

In the coming years, the School’s research will take a leading role in defining the future of libraries, in harnessing the power of data for social good, in fostering human-computer interaction that benefits society, and in understanding the role of technology in the lives of our youth. It will establish a new discipline exploring the nexus of native North American indigenous knowledge and technology.

The School will continue to grow both in influence and in number, allowing our highly competitive programs to serve more students. This fall, our faculty welcomed its first Distinguished Practitioner in Residence, Susan Hildreth, a leading thinker on the future of libraries. We’re also thrilled to welcome Bill Howe, an expert in databases and data management; Clarita Lefthand-Begay, a key figure in our indigenous knowledge initiative; Michelle Martin, our new Beverly Cleary professor in children and youth services; and Nic Weber, a data curation expert. Eight more new faces will join the faculty in just the coming year, adding another infusion of talent in areas such as data ethics and human-computer interaction for the social good.

In 2018, the School will move to a highly visible place on the UW campus – Schmitz Hall, just across from Red Square. The move will raise the iSchool’s profile by placing it at a bustling location at the center of campus. It will give us room to grow, and the opportunity to design additional learning spaces, better shared spaces and open spaces for students to call their own. The move to Schmitz Hall will be a dramatic milestone in the story of the iSchool.

And the School will play a role in the University’s $5 billion philanthropic campaign, the most ambitious ever for a public university. The campaign, which was announced in October, will shape the UW and solidify its world-class status for the next decade and beyond. Thanks to the generosity of our supporters and alumni, the iSchool is well on its way to reaching its $35 million goal as part of the campaign. Your commitment is a fundamental part of the iSchool’s success story, and this philanthropic effort sends a signal about what we, as a community, believe in.

I know these major initiatives are in capable hands, as is the search that is already under way for my successor. The next dean will inherit a school that has never been stronger, more influential or more highly respected. Its graduate programs in Library and Information Science and Information Management are flourishing; its Ph.D. program has more promising scholars than ever before; and its Informatics major attracts the best and brightest students the UW has to offer. With the School in a position of such strength, the time is right for me to step aside next summer and allow someone new to lead it on the next part of its journey.

Like you, I will always be a part of the iSchool. The story is only getting better, and I can’t wait to see what the next chapter brings.