iSchool sponsors visit from Lamar University web design studentsFerguson, John  | Oct 06, 2017
As students at Lamar University in Beaumont continue to rebuild following Hurricane Harvey, the Texas iSchool welcomed 16 of them for two days of shared learning on Oct. 5-6.
An estimated two-thirds of Lamar’s students were affected by the hurricane, which ravaged much of Southeast Texas in late August and early September. According to Texas iSchool Interim Dean Randolph Bias, the School of Information sponsored the event in order to provide a break from the students’ recovery efforts while also affording them a “glimpse of what a graduate education at the largest single-campus university in the nation might look like.”
The Lamar students in Assistant Professor Natacha Poggio's web design class participated in a shared classroom exercise with Dr. Bias’s undergraduate UX Design class and received a tour of the Information eXperience (IX) Lab by iSchool faculty members Dr. Jacek Gwizdka and Eric Nordquist, in addition to a subsequent tour of the IBM-Austin Design Center.
“Lamar students received lots of feedback from the ‘fresh set of eyes’ of their UT iSchool peers,” said Poggio, who is a UT Austin MFA graduate as well as a former usability student of Dr. Bias’s. “It was also very good to see how empowered my students felt when explaining the concepts, and at the same time, receiving critiques from UT helped them improve their works in progress.”
Lamar students said the experience with the iSchool would help as they build on ideas for the apps they’re designing as class projects. “Their suggestions to improve my wireframes really changed the way I perceive the use and functionality of my app,” said one student. “They had ideas that I have never considered and introduced a way for it to stand out against other apps.”
UT Austin Dean of Graduate Studies Mark Smith also spoke to the Lamar students about their option to pursue a graduate degree at UT. Praising their undergraduate efforts, he invited those who were considering a graduate education to apply to UT.
Poggio's students felt empowered to share the knowledge they had received in her web design class with the students in Dr. Bias’s class, she said. “Every student I asked today said that it was an experience that gave them confidence—that what they are learning at Lamar University can be put to good use in the industry,” Poggio said, also reporting that one student was “glowing by the fact that one of the UT students said her wireframes were as professional quality as the ones she had seen in an internship over the summer.”
Dr. Bias noted that he had asked the iSchool staff, students, and faculty if they’d help give their East Texas higher-education colleagues an experience. “Every single person I asked jumped in selflessly, creatively, contributing their time and talent,” he said. “We all learned. It’s not a ‘zero-sum game’; we made the pie bigger.”
Dr. Bias named interim dean of Texas iSchoolFerguson, John  | Aug 31, 2017
On Sept. 1, Texas iSchool Professor Randolph Bias assumed the role of interim dean of The University of Texas at Austin School of Information.
A pioneer of the user experience field, Dean Bias spent two decades in private industry before joining the School of Information in 2003. This summer, the international User Experience Professionals Association (UXPA) honored him with its lifetime achievement award.
Dean Bias has determined three "interleaved, high-level goals" for the iSchool:
- to help maintain the vibrant, creative, collaborative, safe, inclusive, open-minded, learning and research environment that is the iSchool;
- to help facilitate a smooth transition to “that lucky new dean, whoever that shall be;”
- to sustain and grow the school’s reputation as a leader in the iSchool movement in particular, and in information studies research and pedagogy in general.
The iSchool is in the process of searching for a permanent dean. In the meantime, the continued success of the school will require a shared vision, good communication and a certain amount of compromise, he said.
“I welcome your input, your creative ideas and your mid-course corrections as we all work together to help our students toward inspired and inspiring careers, help our staff engage in rewarding work, help our faculty excel at research and teaching, help our alumni be proud of what they’ve left behind, and help understand and steer the greater world of interplay between humans and information,” Dean Bias told members of the iSchool community.
He succeeds Dr. Andrew Dillon, who served the iSchool as dean for 15 years.
“I thank Andrew, and Provost McInnis, for having the faith in me, and I will hold Andrew’s unmistakable dedication to the iSchool, and his leadership style and verve, as my explicit guides,” Dean Bias said. “Plus he knows that I shall keep him on speed-dial.”
“I assume this new post with almost equal parts humility and pride, enthusiasm and tremulousness,” he continued. “It stays at the front of my mind, that I have the (shared!) responsibility for sustaining the fifth-ranked iSchool in the nation. I’m like the lumbering lineman who, having thrown one of many blocks, is running alongside the star quarterback as he is about to complete a stunning run. And then, with just 10 yards to go, I am handed to ball to get to make the score myself. Wouldn’t it be a shame to trip, now?! Of course, 2018, and the hiring of a new iSchool dean, is not 'the goal line'–it is just the next major landmark in the 70-year evolution of our school. But as I am handed this 'ball' I receive it with all the attention, energy, and talent I can possibly muster, to keep it, and us, moving forward.”
Dean Dillon said he is delighted that Dr. Bias has agreed to take on the interim role, and he knows the school is in safe hands. Following a year of sabbatical, Dean Dillon has announced he will return to the faculty of the School of Information in Fall 2018.
Nearly 130 new students join Texas iSchoolFerguson, John  | Aug 28, 2017
The Texas iSchool is welcoming a class of 125 new master’s students and three new doctoral students in the Fall 2017 semester.
During an orientation session one week before the first day of class, the iSchool’s incoming interim dean, Professor Randolph Bias, encouraged new students to focus on acquiring the skills they need to get a job in two years, but to also focus on the theory that undergirds those skills “so that in 20 years you can get a job that doesn’t exist yet.”
Dr. Bias also recommended that new students quickly build a plan for their education while remaining flexible as that plan evolves. “Two years is not a long time,” he said. “Get involved early. Don’t be shy.”
In 2017, applications to the School of Information increased 54 percent from the previous year, according to a recent report from UT’s Graduate and International Admissions Center. The iSchool’s newest enrollees were chosen from a wide pool of applicants who were drawn to a rich environment in which to study the intersection of people, information and technology, said Associate Dean Philip Doty.
Dr. Doty told the iSchool’s new students the faculty and staff would support them as they expand their focus and change not just what they know but who they are in the world.
“There’s a real sense of community here,” he said. “You are one of us.”