2019 Open House Capstone Showcase a Success

Sandlin, Anu  |  May 31, 2019

News Image: 
Dean Meyer Experiments with VR during Open House Capstone Showcase
Image Caption: 
Dean Meyer Experiments with VR during Open House Capstone Showcase
Open House Capstone Showcase
Texas iSchool
Dean's Choice Award
Monica Cho
News Image: 
Dean's Choice Award, Dean Meyer and Monica Cho
Image Caption: 
Dean's Choice Award, Dean Meyer and Yeseul Monica Cho

The Texas School of Information 2019 Open House Capstone Showcase took place on Friday, May 10, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. at the School of Information. Graduating master’s students presented their culminating capstone projects and research findings in diverse areas of the information field –including digital archives, data analysis, library science, user experience design, user interface, data mining and technology.

The Open House Capstone Showcase was orchestrated by Career Development Director Kim Wood, Senior Administrative Associate Rachael Vans Middleworth, and iSchool staff members. 

Although 200+ visitors were expected, actual attendance scaled to 300 on the day of the event. Guests included employers, campus colleagues, field supervisors, faculty, staff, students, friends, families, and alumni. Wood noted that, “The Open House Capstone Showcase was a huge success. We were so pleased to see so many supporters of the iSchool! Thank you to everyone who attended!”

The 2019 Open House Capstone Showcase featured the posters of graduating master’s students. In total, 99 student posters were displayed. These included professional experience projects, master’s reports, thesis, and school library practicums.

The thing that stood out was how passionate they were, and how this experience really allows them to take ownership of a project.

The Open House Capstone Showcase concluded with an awards presentation in the Tocker Lounge for the Dean’s Choice Award, which comes with a commemorative plaque and an award of $500. Dean Meyer had the opportunity to review applicants’ submissions prior to the Open House Capstone Showcase on May 10, and selected the winner on the day based on meeting each finalist and discussing their poster and project. 

There were four finalists. The first was Lu Gan with her project, “UT Austin Faculty Diversity,” which built a diversity dashboard for UT which is now featured on the Provost’s website. The second was Xiaoyu (Edith) Zeng, for her project, “Predicting the Cognitive Skills for Automated Visual Question Answering,” which focused on blind users of information and how they can use automated tools to find answers to pressing questions. The third finalist was Allison Joffrion, project title, “For the Record: A Survey of Digital Repositories at UT,” during which she created a series of easy-to-follow recommendations for record-keepers at UT who struggle with determining if the materials they are working with are records that require archiving.  

Finalist Yeseul Monica Cho was the ultimate winner of the Dean’s Choice Award for her project on “Service Design Research for Austin Central Library.” Monica’s project focused on wayfinding at the new Austin Central Library, and created a comprehensive plan for improving informational signs and improving patron flow; she presented the work to the board of the library, who plan to use her recommendations to improve patron experience at the award-winning library.

“We heard from many guests throughout the event just how impressed they were with the high caliber of the projects and research,” explained Wood. Dean Meyer also expressed his appreciation for the enthusiasm and dedication of all the students and their mentors. “Determining the winner of the Dean’s Choice Award was a challenge because there were so many great projects,” he said. “I had the opportunity to speak to many of the students about their projects, and the thing that stood out was how passionate they were, and how this experience really allows them to take ownership of a project.”

“I look forward to seeing the path that students take beyond this semester. These students really reflect the ways that the iSchool is changing the future by engaging the present and preserving the past."

2019 Texas iSchool Graduates, Masters of Information Go Forth

Sandlin, Anu  |  May 30, 2019

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2019 Convocation Ceremony
Texas iSchool
2019 Convocation
Gary Hoover
Eric Meyer

On Saturday, May 25, The University of Texas at AustinSchool of Information graduate candidates and their guests filled the Grand Ballroom at the ATT Conference Center to celebrate a huge milestone. Anticipation filled the room as iSchool students eagerly waited for their names to be called signaling their turn to cross the commencement stage.

The 2019 Convocation Ceremony started at 4:00 p.m. with the music of the bagpiper and the procession of graduates and faculty. Graduate Advisor, Associate Dean, and Associate Professor Philip Doty welcomed the audience and introduced Dean Eric Meyer, who delivered the introductory remarks.

In his speech, Meyer acknowledged the significance of the ceremony and expressed his gratitude for the graduates’ contributions to the excellence of the iSchool. He spoke about the gift of diversity that the students brought with them –through their background, orientation, perspectives, and experiences. He also prided the iSchool on “seeking out people who enhance the School not despite their differences, but because of them.” 

Honoring the iSchool students and their achievements, Meyer stated that their impact on the world would continue beyond graduation. “The future is yet to be written, and you will contribute to the writing,” he said.

In addition to the Dean, iSchool Advisory Council Member, Serial Entrepreneur, and Commencement Speaker Gary Hoover praised the students for their accomplishment and offered timely advice for moving forward.  

You will change the ways we interact with information and technology, you will use information to make the world a better and fairer place, and you will change the ways we protect and preserve our collective memory.

He encouraged the new graduates to be mindful about “technological enthusiasm” and to always consider the impact of technology on human life. “The highest calling in life is to serve others,” he said, “and to serve through understanding and empathy.”

Similar to Dean Meyer’s appreciation for diversity, Hoover encouraged the graduates to embrace diversity around them. In addition, he advised them to celebrate their eccentricities and be willing to stand alone. 

On the brink of leaving iSchool to pursue their future paths, Hoover reminded the graduates that their education journey had just begun and he hoped that they would adopt a growth mindset so that they were always, “changing, growing, and evolving.” “The best people are learning something new every day,” he said. 

He ended his speech by commenting on the students’ mission and life work. “The two greatest days of your life are the day that you were born and the day that you find out why. If you can find a mission in life, where your passion and intellect come together, so that when you leave this earth you would have left the world a better place than you found it, that’s worth pursuing.”

Doty acknowledged the MSIS graduates and PhD graduates, while the Director of the Center for Identity, Suzanne Barber, acknowledged the MSIMS graduates. The iSchool awarded one Doctor of Philosophy degree in Information Studies, four degrees for Master of Science in Identity Management and Security (MSIMS), and 124 degrees for Master of Science in Information Studies (MSIS). Summer 2018, fall 2018, and spring 2019 graduates were recognized. In total, 129 students walked across the commencement stage. 

May 25, 2019 marked a celebratory day for many. For Dean Meyer, it was his first convocation ceremony as Dean of the Texas iSchool. For the graduates, it represented a culmination of their dedication, diligence, and perseverance. They were not only graduating from one of the top 5 School of Information programs nationally, but as Meyer noted, they had earned a degree “from a top program in one of the world’s great universities.”

Referring to the graduates as “masters of information,” Meyer expressed his confidence in the soon-to-be Texas iSchool alumni. “You will change the ways we interact with information and technology, you will use information to make the world a better and fairer place, and you will change the ways we protect and preserve our collective memory,” he said. “At the School of Information, we are changing the future by engaging the present and preserving the past –and you are all part of this future.”

Advancing Curiosity Award to Support Interdisciplinary Research on Tackling Misinformation

Sandlin, Anu  |  May 29, 2019

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Advancing Curiosity Award
artificial intelligence
online misinformation
fake news
Micron Foundation
Texas iSchool

The University of Texas at Austin School of Information Associate Professors Matthew Lease and Kenneth R. Fleischmann have been awarded a $150,000 grant from the Micron Foundation for a two-year project, “Tackling Misinformation through Socially-Responsible AI". In addition to Lease and Fleischmann, the project team includes Associate Professor Samuel Baker (English), Associate Professor Natalie Stroud (Communication Studies), and Professor Sharon Strover (Radio-TV-Film).

Socially-responsible artificial intelligence (AI) involves designing AI technologies to create positive societal impacts. “Emerging AI technologies create tremendous potential for both good or harm,” wrote the research team. “We cannot simply assume benign use, nor can we develop AI technologies in a vacuum ignoring their societal implications.” However, how does an abstract goal like socially-responsible AI get implemented in practice to solve real societal problems? “We argue that grounding the pursuit of responsible AI technology in the context of a real societal challenge is critical to achieving progress on responsible AI,” the team writes, “because it forces us to translate abstract research questions into real, practical problems to be solved.”

Grounding the pursuit of responsible AI technology in the context of a real societal challenge is critical to achieving progress on responsible AI.

In particular, the team will pursue socially-responsible AI to tackle the contemporary challenge of combatting misinformation online. While recent AI research has sought to develop automatic AI systems to predict whether online news stories are real or fake, “why should anyone trust a black-box AI model telling them what to believe”, the team asks, “when many people distrust even well-known news outlets and fact-checking organizations? How do people decide ― if it is a conscious and rational choice ― to believe or even circulate what is actually misinformation? How can AI systems be designed for effective human interaction to help people better decide for themselves what to believe?”

The project team brings diverse, relevant expertise and prior work experience on socially-responsible AI and online misinformation. In fact, team members are already collaborating as part of the campus-wide Good Systems Initiative, a UT Bridging Barriers Grand Challenge to design the future of socially-responsible AI. Good Systems has become a major catalyst at UT in promoting projects on socially-responsible AI, and Micron Foundation support for this project will enable the research team to tackle the specific challenges of designing socially-responsible AI to combat misinformation.

“Our project will develop real use cases, interface designs, prototype applications, and user-centered evaluations,” said Lease. “By grounding AI research in the context of specific social problems, designers can directly consider and confront the societal context of use as AI models are conceived and refined.”The team members explain that this will aid the discovery of new insights into how good AI systems can be developed in general to maximize societal benefit.

The Micron Foundation sought proposals from multi-disciplinary research groups and non-profit organizations investigating how artificial intelligence, machine leaning, and deep learning can improve life while also addressing ethical issues, security, and privacy. Established in 1999 as a private, nonprofit organization with a gift from Micron Technology, the Micron Foundation’s grants, programs, and volunteers focus on promoting science and engineering education and addressing basic human needs.


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