Dean's Annual Update

The School of Computing and Information (SCI) is resilient, pragmatic, and confident. The past year was filled with unprecedented challenge due to the COVID-19 pandemic, societal reckoning, and school change. Many individuals also faced personal challenge and loss during the year.

SCI and the broader Pitt community persevered, remaining optimistic not only in navigating through the year but also accomplishing so much along the way. Across students, faculty, staff, and alumni, SCI forged ahead, undertaking our work with energy and optimism as we came together to write our ongoing story.

Our achievements are compelling. The incoming undergraduate class is the school’s most diverse ever. The retention rate of students in their first year is phenomenal at 94.2%. Our 336 graduating undergraduates had an impressive 95% job placement rate during a period of economic uncertainty. SCI’s undergraduate programs are robust. For instance, the Digital Narrative and Interactive Design major, offered jointly with the Department of English, Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, increased from 19 students at the outset two years ago to nearly 100 today. New joint majors in Computational Social Science and Data Science are starting.

The Master of Library and Information Science is newly re-accredited by the American Library Association, continuing this designation since 1926. The new Applied Data-Driven Methods graduate certificate offers an entry into data methods for students whose background lies outside of computing and information but whose goals require expertise in this area. Across our Master’s programs, there is a 6% increase in enrollment compared to Fall 2020. Nonetheless, it is a trying period for international students who face particular hardship in pursuing their educational aspirations while the pandemic continues.

Our scholarship is growing: research expenditures and doctoral enrollment are at all-time highs. The Intelligent Systems Program had a 26% increase in PhD students. Four stellar faculty are joining the Departments of Computer Science, Informatics and Networked Systems, and Information Culture and Data Stewardship. Our faculty are leading and participating in new transdisciplinary initiatives such as SpectrumX, the Collaboratory Against Hate, and the Pitt Disinformation Lab.

To gather SCI’s collective story, we are listening to and learning from one another in establishing a strong foundation. We’ve made strides to enhance the Board of Visitors, created a new Alumni Board, and attended to our community’s well-being. We are striving to step across boundaries to connect between students, faculty, staff and alumni. Thanks to the generosity of our community, the number of individual donors to SCI during the Pitt Day of Giving increased by 255% for the most successful day yet. A new leadership role, Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, was created to champion inclusivity, equity, justice and diversity in everything and anything we do. Eight staff members joined SCI this year.

Though we’ve accomplished a lot over this past year, SCI’s story is far from over. As we work toward achieving our goals and taking on new challenges in the coming year, I look forward to continuing SCI’s story together with energy, optimism, and thoughtfulness.

Sincerely,

Bruce Childers
Interim Dean and Professor of Computer Science
School of Computing and Information