William Aspray Awarded $125,000 by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

William Aspray, the Bill and Lewis Suit Professor of Information Technologies at the School of Information, has been awarded $125,000 by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to study the history of IT Education and its relation to broadening the IT workforce in the United States. The award is the first of its kind for the UT School of Information.

The purpose of this study is to provide an historical account of the rise of IT education in the United States, from just after the Second World War until the recent past. The project will consider all kinds of computing-related education (including information studies), both formal and informal, at all levels. While the main focus is on the evolving development of educational offerings, consideration is also given to the roles of government agencies and nonprofit organizations in these developments and to efforts to broaden and diversify the information workforce for both economic and social justice reasons.

This project is part of a larger effort by the Sloan Foundation to identify the underlying causes and possible solutions to the persistent under-representation of women and minorities in most areas of the computing-related workforce. This study will be informed by research from the history of science and technology, the social study of information work, and the social study of education in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.

The project will involve taping at least 200 hours of oral history interviews, which will be deposited at the Charles Babbage Institute, the leading archival and historical research center for the study of information technology, located at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. The project will result in a short book, which MIT Press has expressed an interest in publishing.

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation believes that a carefully reasoned and systematic understanding of the forces of nature and society, when applied inventively and wisely, can lead to a better world for all. The Foundation makes grants to support original research and broad-based education related to science, technology, and economic performance; and to improve the quality of American life.