Dean Bruce: Eight new faculty among the top minds in the information field, worldwide

I’m delighted to inform you that the iSchool has enjoyed a recent growth spurt, with eight noteworthy additions to our faculty. These hires were mapped out some time ago as part of our strategic plan “iSchool 2015” and demonstrates our ongoing commitment of fulfilling that vision.

Many have heard me speak of iSchool “magic,” the positive synergy that arises when individuals embrace their commitment to the school, step up and apply their unique talents as situations call for it, and take joy from working together. This magic is instrumental to an effective professional and intellectual community, and speaks to the overall vitality our school.

I expect our new faculty hires to have a transformative effect on our community, further contributing to this magic. They are among the top minds in the information field, worldwide. Each brings their own network of collaborators, unique approaches to how we serve people, and energy and expertise that will impact all of our academic and research programs. The following is a brief summary of these new members of the iSchool community, and more information can be found here .

Helene Williams joins us with more than 25 years experience in academic and public libraries, and will now concentrate on teaching the up-and-coming generation of information professionals. Negin Dahya and Jason Yip represent an expansion of our school’s leadership in the area of Digital Youth. Dahya’s research is grounded in anti-oppressive education for ethno-racial minority groups, with a focus on girls and women using technology. Yip is a researcher examining the intersections between the learning sciences, child-computer interaction, and STEM education.

Megan Finn and Michelle Carter bring expertise in information management that will augment what has become our most popular program—we received more than 800 applications to our day Information Management program last year. Finn’s work contributes to three key areas of research: public information infrastructures, crisis informatics, and the history of information. Meanwhile, Carter’s experiences as an information-systems professional catalyze her research interests in information management, technology assimilation and online consumer decision-making.

We also made two hires in the area of data visualization and analytics. Jessica Hullman's research focuses on the broad use of information visualizations for communication and analysis. Her work has contributed tools and understanding around visualization design in the context of online data storytelling. Jaime Snyder focuses on social aspects of visualization practices, visual materiality, and ethics and values in the design of visualizations.

A big story for our school and for the university as a whole is the hiring of Carole Palmer. The Director of the Center for Informatics Research in Science and Scholarship (CIRSS) and Professor in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Palmer’s contributions in the area of Data Curation are recognized worldwide. At a time when data-driven discussions are happening in schools across this university, the hiring of Hullman, Snyder and Palmer solidifies our school’s profile. The arrival of Palmer, in particular, underscores that the curation aspect of this equation happens here, in the iSchool.

I can’t overstate what an enormous undertaking it was to recruit and hire eight new outstanding faculty. We had roughly 100 applicants per position, which is indicative of our school’s status within the information field. Each application was carefully reviewed and four or five final candidates were invited to campus for an extended visit.

Because we needed to have confidence these individuals would be an excellent academic fit for years to come, each potential hire met with faculty and students, made a research presentation, taught a class, and participated in an extended closing interview. 

In the end, we were successfully able to hire all eight of our top choices. As alumni, you can take pride in what this says about your school—it truly has become the destination for the finest minds focused on information education and research around the world. Each of these individuals was highly sought elsewhere, and yet they chose to come here.

We are not quite done. Our plan calls for the hiring of three additional professors of practice or lecturers in the coming year. Very soon, the iSchool will boast more than 50 faculty members, and more than 1,000 students. It is amazing to think how far we’ve come, solidifying our position as part of the bedrock of this University.

On a somber note, I cannot speak about these exciting additions to our faculty without also reflecting on the recent passing of Dr. Eliza Dresang, holder of the Beverly Cleary Professorship in Children’s and Youth Services. A champion of children’s literature and digital resources, Dr. Dresang worked with local and national libraries to promote and meet the needs of computer-savvy children. She lost her battle with cancer in April.