Texas iSchool Welcomes New Student Cohort

Sandlin, Anu  |  Aug 31, 2019

News Image: 
Gone to Information!
Image Caption: 
Gone to Information! 2019
new student orientation
Texas iSchool
new cohort
Gone to Information
Eric T. Meyer

The University of Texas at Austin School of Information is welcoming a class of 74 new master’s students and two new doctoral students for the fall 2019 semester.

Director of Master’s Studies Dr. Pat Galloway led a new student orientation on August 22, 2019 in the Prothro Theatre of the Harry Ransom Center. Orientation included a session led by Director of Career Development, Kim Wood, who stressed to students the need to start thinking about their career development throughout their studies. An informal luncheon was held in the Tocker Foundation Student Lounge at the iSchool to welcome the new cohort, where faculty, staff, and student leaders mingled with the new cohort. The Student Association of the School of Information (SASI) also held sessions sharing tips for all students, and a special International Student Discussion Panel and Career Development presenting “Job Seeking Strategies for International Students.” 

Every year, a highlight of the first week at Texas is the School-wide Gone to Information! and university-wide Gone to Texas! evening. The vast majority of new students attended the Gone to Information! Event held at El Mercado restaurant, where they got a chance to know each other in a casual setting and to meet more iSchool regulars. They were greeted by members of the Advisory Council led by chair and vice chair Michael Redding and Leticia Kinuthia.

Our variety and diversity are one of our greatest strengths, and I urge all our students to take advantage of that.

In the spirit of new student orientation and the start of classes, we asked Dean Eric T. Meyer what advice and recommendations he would give to the new Texas iSchool cohort. 

Dean Meyer urged the new iSchool students to take advantage of the diversity offered at the Texas School of Information.  “The start of a new academic year always brings a new burst of energy to the iSchool, as students from a huge variety of disciplinary backgrounds and interests come together to develop and hone their expertise in the field of information,” he said.

“Our variety and diversity are one of our greatest strengths, and I urge all our students to take advantage of that. Take a class or two outside your comfort zone – you might discover a previously unknown passion. Partner on a project with a classmate from a different educational background, cultural background, or area of expertise – your combined efforts will be better for the dialogue. Look for peers and faculty members who challenge your existing ideas – engaging with them will allow you to understand your own views and strengthen your arguments for them or alternatively come around to a new view. Either way, you are better prepared because of the interaction.” 

Dean Meyer’s final comments involved the growth of Texas iSchool and the value of the new cohort in this process. “This is an exciting time at the School of Information – we are hiring additional faculty, designing new educational programs and polishing existing offerings, and starting new scholarly projects,” he said. 

“All of these efforts will enhance your experience as students and ensure that the value of your degree here will continue to increase in the future. We look forward to seeing the mark you will all make, as you become part of changing the future by engaging the present and preserving the past.”

Good Systems Grand Challenge Initiative Funds Seven iSchool Professors, Four Projects

Sandlin, Anu  |  Jul 29, 2019

News Image: 
Pennybacker Bridge
Image Caption: 
Pennybacker Bridge
The Good Systems Grand Challenge Initiative
Bridging Barriers
AI challenges
Texas iSchool

Seven University of TexasSchool of Information faculty members were recently notified that they would receive approximately $100,000 in funding from Good Systems through The Good Systems Grand Challenge Initiative to support the first year of new projects. 

Assistant Professor Amelia Acker, Assistant Professor Jakki Bailey, Associate Professor Kenneth Fleischmann, Assistant Professor Danna Gurari, Associate Professor Jacek Gwizdka, Associate Professor Matthew Lease, and Professor Bo Xie are among the Texas iSchool faculty involved in projects to be funded by Good Systems.

The Good Systems Grand Challenge Initiative funds research projects that align artificial intelligence (AI) technologies with the needs and values of society. Good Systems funding is meant to inspire interdisciplinary research collaborations that define, evaluate, and measure good systems, and seed efforts for securing external funding.  

The projects that will receive Good Systems funding for one year include interdisciplinary collaboration from scholars in the School of Information and other campus units. In addition, they address a major challenge or concern(s) with the use of AI technologies, propose plans involving mixed methodologies to tackle these problems, and promise a more inclusive world with more responsible AI.

For instance, “Design of Fair AI Systems via Human-Centric Detection and Mitigation of Biases” with project team members Amelia Acker (iSchool), Joydeep Ghosh (ECE), and Matthew Lease (iSchool), proposes to alleviate the problem of data bias by engaging a diverse, human-centered approach to identify and assess bias and fairness.

Another project, “Designing Human-AI Partnerships for Information Search and Evaluation” with project team members Jacek Gwizdka (iSchool), Matthew Lease (iSchool), and Talia Stroud (Communication Studies), aims to design socially-responsible human-AI partnerships to curb the digital spread of misinformation. 

Our faculty members are changing the ways we will interact with AI, and are leading the way to change the future by engaging with the challenges of today.

Privacy Preferences and Values for Computer Vision Applications” with team members Danna Gurari (iSchool), Bo Xie (iSchool and Nursing), and Kenneth Fleishmann (iSchool), addresses the conflict between convenience and privacy inherent to computer vision with the goal of developing computer vision technologies that support diverse users, especially those who are traditionally technologically underserved.   

And “Defining, Evaluating, and Building Good Systems for All Children” with team members Jakki Bailey (iSchool), Craig Watkins (RTF), and Kenneth Fleischmann (iSchool), aims to evaluate AI systems and identity factors related to diversity, ethics, and child development for creating age-appropriate AI technologies for children in early to late adolescence (10 - 14 years of age).

All four project teams demonstrated one or more of the three focus areas: how to define good systems, how to evaluate good systems, and how to build good systems, and they each met the evaluation criteria of feasibility, significance, interdisciplinarity, and use of seed funding.

The Texas iSchool is heavily involved in the Good Systems Grand Challenge. In addition to being recipients of Year 1 internal funding, Kenneth Fleischmann and Matthew Lease currently serve on the Bridging Barriers Organizing Committee team, while Amelia Acker and Yan Zhang are members of the Bridging Barriers Activity Leaders team.

Dean Meyer commented on the iSchool professors’ involvement in the Good Systems Grand Challenge. “Our faculty members here at the iSchool are showing their leadership, passion, and determination to solve the AI challenges facing all of us in the modern world,” he said. “They are changing the ways we will interact with AI, and are leading the way to change the future by engaging with the challenges of today.”

In the words of President Fenves, “the toughest questions facing humanity and the world cross the boundaries of existing knowledge, and we must take an interdisciplinary approach to address them. Breakthroughs happen when we break down silos of knowledge. And we are doing that now.”


Tony Grubesic Named Texas iSchool’s New Associate Dean for Research

Sandlin, Anu  |  Jul 27, 2019

News Image: 
Tony Grubesic
Image Caption: 
Dr. Tony Grubesic
Texas iSchool
Tony Grubesic
Associate Dean for Research

The University of Texas School of Information is delighted to announce that Dr. Tony Grubesic will join the faculty as Professor and Associate Dean for Research beginning August 12, 2019.

Grubesic will be the Texas iSchool’s first Associate Dean for Research – a new senior leadership position created by Dean Eric T. Meyer.

"Tony is an extraordinary scholar and researcher with a proven track record in attracting research funding and using it to make significant contributions to knowledge and policy; I am looking forward to having him on my leadership team," said Dean Meyer announcing Grubesic’s appointment.

Grubesic is currently Director of the Center for Spatial Reasoning & Policy Analytics at Arizona State University. He is also Professor of Policy Analytics in the College of Public Service and Community Solutions, Professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Professor and Fellow in the School of Public Affairs, and Professor in the School of Geographical Science and Urban Planning at Arizona State University. 

His topical research and teaching interests include geographic information science, social informatics, spatial analytics, regional development, and public policy evaluation. As a geographic information scientist, Grubesic’s broader research interests includetechnology, policy and society; urban and environmental planning; public health; transport systems and policy; human environmental interaction; remote sensing, data quality; and error and uncertainty.

It’s not every day that an FAA certified commercial drone pilot becomes an iSchool’s Associate Dean.

His work utilizes a range of methodological approaches including geographic information systems, location modeling, remote sensing, spatial statistics, mathematical optimization, network analysis and machine learning.  

Grubesic has taught a range of courses from introductory, intermediate, and advanced GIScience and spatial analytical methods, to spatial statistics, pattern detection, and multiple courses on technology policy. 

He is currently Editor-in-Chief of Computers, Environment and Urban Systems, and Telematics and Informatics, and author of over 160 research publications. His latest book, UAVs and Urban Spatial Analysis - An Introduction will be published by Springer in early 2020. 

His most recent work focuses on community vulnerability, environmental risk, and regional infrastructure systems. Grubesic is currently leading a team of six interdisciplinary researchers from three different universities – including UT Austin – on a project that received a multi-million dollar grant from the Department of Defense to improve national security by tracking the movement of pollen.

"It is an honor to be selected as the first Associate Dean for Research at the University of Texas iSchool,” said Grubesic. “I look forward to helping the iSchool become the most engaged and collaborative unit on the UT campus, and together with the senior leadership and our amazing students, faculty, and staff, I am committed to diversifying and expanding the iSchool’s research portfolio." 

“It’s not every day that an FAA certified commercial drone pilot becomes an iSchool’s Associate Dean,” said Dean Meyer. “I think I speak for everyone when I say that we look forward to working with Tony to enhance the impacts of research at the School of Information and UT Austin.”

Grubesic obtained a B.A. in Political Science from Willamette University, a B.S. in Geography from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, a M.A. in Geography and Planning from the University of Akron, and a Ph.D. in Geographic Information Science from Ohio State University. To learn more about his teaching, research, and service, visit his webpage.


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