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New iSchool and New Dean at University of Pittsburgh


The University of Pittsburgh has formally launched its new iSchool. The new School of Computing and Information (SCI) is comprised of faculty drawn from the former School of Information Sciences and Department of Computer Science. According to a news story on the SCI website, the new school will host an array of academic programs that integrate computing and information with core disciplinary strengths across the University of Pittsburgh.

Planning for the new school began two years ago, when faculties of the School of Information Sciences and the Department of Computer Science were asked to consider how best to structure computing and information at the University of Pittsburgh. The new school was announced last October, and officially launched in July. It will enroll its first cohort of students in fall 2017.

After an extensive search, Dr. Paul Cohen has been named founding dean of the new school. Cohen is a highly-regarded scholar and administrator who was the founding director of the University of Arizona’s School of Information: Science, Technology and Arts. He has been on loan from that school to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for the past several years.

In his welcome message on the new SCI website, Dean Cohen encourages breaking beyond disciplinary boundaries in favor of polymathy—the ability to work in multiple disciplines. “Humanity depends on complicated, interacting systems that we understand poorly … None of these systems — much less their interactions — belongs to a single academic department,” says Cohen. “I want to promote systems-oriented research, technology and education at Pitt, because the world’s systems are increasingly stressed, and we need new methods to model and manage them.”

Cohen succeeds outgoing Pitt SIS Dean Ron Larsen. Larsen is chair of the iSchools Caucus, a position he will retain until March of 2018, when he hands the organizational reins to chair-elect Sam Oh of Sungkyunkwan University.

“This is truly a remarkable opportunity,” said Larsen of the new school. “This will take the research and scholarship of the School of Information Sciences to a new level and provide Pitt an exciting new opportunity to shape society’s use of information and computing resources.”