Congratulations to the 2020 Dean’s Choice Award and Diversity & Inclusion Award winners!
The School of Information’s annual spring Open House event traditionally showcases graduating student’s capstone projects and invites members of the community to explore the research and scholarship at the iSchool, tour lab facilities, and view demonstrations of innovative approaches and applications of information technologies. Unfortunately, this year’s event was cancelled due to the COVID-19 global health pandemic, which prompted the university to transition to remote learning and close a majority of on-campus operations in the interest of public safety. Despite the Open House cancellation, the iSchool recognizes the hard work of our graduating students who persevered in the face of inordinate challenges over the past few months.
Dean’s Choice Award Winner: Lucy Flamm
Dean Eric T. Meyer is pleased to present the Dean’s Choice award to Lucy Flamm!
“We had an impressive set of projects submitted for consideration this year, so making up my mind wasn’t easy,” Dean Meyer said. “The three finalists all did outstanding work.”
Finalist Kai Horan’s capstone explored how to better leverage information about the impacts of fast fashion to help both brands and consumers make more sustainable choices. “Her work really shows how UX can move beyond the interface level,” Dean Meyer said.
For her project, finalist Chonghan Chen used novel methods to leverage external knowledge, like that which is freely available on the internet, to improve the ability of visually impaired people to get questions that have a visual component answered.
Lucy Flamm’s capstone project stood out to Dean Meyer in particular for a couple of reasons. Flamm worked with UT Libraries to digitize a newly acquired collection of an early 20th century Egyptian cultural journal, Jaridat al-Balagh al-Usbu’i. Dean Meyer said, “Flamm brought her knowledge of the Arabic language to the task, and was able to go far beyond what might have been a relatively simple scanning project.”
Flamm worked with a commercial company to improve their software’s ability to do optical character recognition (OCR) on Arabic script, created a new resource for the UT libraries that will be a feature exhibit in the Perry-Castañeda Library’s Scholars Commons, and also created a proposal on integrating this resource into UT's advanced Arabic curriculum.
Flamm said, "I chose this project because it embodies my belief that academic libraries function as sites of cross-cultural exchange. In making these Arabic-language materials more accessible to scholars both local and global, I hope to provide a lens for engaging with the past while demonstrating methods for highlighting acquisitions and special collections."
“Her work shows the initiative and impact that I look for,” Dean Meyer said, “and I am delighted to name her this year’s winner.” Congratulations, Lucy!
Diversity & Inclusion Award Winner: Isha Kanani
The iSchool’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee is pleased to present the Diversity & Inclusion award to Isha Kanani!
For her capstone project, Kanani researched the needs of an employment platform specifically designed for low-wage workers. “In studying small business job opportunities,” she said, “I realized that current employment platforms restrict opportunities with their standard application process and that my technical skills could help draw insights to this gap.”
Kanani found that people seeking low-wage or hourly jobs at small businesses like restaurants, salons, or automotive body shops might not have a resume, which is typically a requirement on applications, or even a computer to create one. Kanani envisioned a mobile-friendly platform with a profile builder (thus eliminating the need for a resume) and highlights employment opportunities for job-seekers with a criminal record or special needs, such as autism.
"The project taught me that I can do far beyond developing prediction algorithms, and I hope small businesses get an employment platform that also caters to disadvantaged populations," she said.
D&I Committee co-chair Dr. Loriene Roy said, “Isha’s innovative research on a new employment platform for low-wage earners has broad appeal and potential application. It is an ideal means through which those in the information professions can demonstrate their skills and aptitude for making a difference in the communities we serve, including those who are differently-abled, have low literacy skills, or need a second chance in their lives. This work is most worthy of recognition and the iSchool Diversity & Inclusion Committee is honored to award Isha’s capstone project with the 2020 Diversity & Inclusion award.” Congratulations, Isha!