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A task force will be researching the possibility of combining several CU departments into a single “school of information.”
In particular, the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the ATLAS Institute, the Department of Computer Science and the Interdisciplinary Telecommunications Program could be combined into a single unit, according to a background essay prepared on the subject. Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Stein Sture created the task force, with CU ATLAS Institute Director John Bennett and CU School of Journalism and Mass Communication Dean Paul Voakes appointed co-chairs. All three worked to prepare the essay, obtained by the CU Independent.
The essay cited the increasing interconnectivity and need for stronger ties between schools that are concerned with Information and Communication Technology.
“This synergy calls for stronger ties between those who study ICT, those who study social systems, and those who apply these studies to professional practice,” the essay stated. It added that “faculty members and students must be able to readily interact across traditional disciplinary boundaries in the conduct of their teaching and scholarly work, so that students benefit from education and research in these new areas.”
According to the essay, “These units encompass research and educational endeavors that explore the creation, manipulation, storage, presentation, distribution and delivery of information, as well as the technologies and theoretical foundations that underlie these processes.”
Advances in ICT have already sparked a trend of convergence in schools with similar goals nationwide, according to the essay. More than 25 “schools of information”—under varying names—have been created, including the “iSchool” at Drexel University and other schools at UC Berkley and Penn State.
Sture said that CU was among “the last ones” to form such a school. But he also said that “to form a new school doesn’t happen overnight. It’s like a big ship at sea: it doesn’t turn abruptly.”
“The task force’s main duty is to study how merging or bringing these entities together might happen and how the assembled group or new school might operate and so forth,” Sture said. “The plan is also to arrange a campus-wide town hall meeting in early spring, in other words to engage the Boulder university community and get their input.”
According to the essay, the task force will submit its final report and recommendations by April 15, 2010, after a period of open meetings and public review.
Voakes said the task force is focused on creating new learning and research opportunities.
“The idea is to see if the ATLAS Institute, the Department of Computer Science and the School of Journalism and Mass Communication could be combined in a way that would create new learning opportunities and research ops that would be focused around digital media and information technology,” Voakes said. “Our task is to come up with a report and a recommendation as to whether this is even a good idea.”
Associate Professor Tom Yulsman of CU’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication expressed both enthusiasm and uncertainty toward the idea of a school of information, noting that certain precautions must be taken.
“There could be great potential in putting together specialists in media content, both from a professional practice and media studies perspective, with specialists in technology,” Yulsman said in an e-mail. “The challenge will be to make sure this new school doesn’t become driven mostly by technology. There has to be a positive synergy between content, technology, and scholarly understanding of the two. With that, exciting things probably can happen.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Ben Vallier at Ben.firstname.lastname@example.org.