At its simplest, a journey is getting from point A to point B. Yet the word suggests more to me: great memories, going somewhere with friends, discovering something new, the excitement of the unknown. It also suggests continuing evolution.
The University of Pittsburgh School of Computing and Information (SCI) has been on a journey in librarianship, computer science, information science, and intelligent systems for more than 120 years. In its current form, SCI engages with education and research at the intersections of computing and information with the social, natural, and built worlds. Underpinning these disparate efforts is the goal of positively transforming the lives of our students, fostering an equitable society, and advancing our disciplines for the common good.
This year is a journey waypoint: It is SCI’s fifth anniversary. The anniversary falls at a transformative moment in the ways that artificial intelligence, information, and data permeate and affect—whether for good or harm—nearly every facet of life. It’s a chance to find new ways to encourage students with many lived experiences to be equipped to navigate, influence, and lead as citizens in a data-fueled democracy. It also is a chance to reflect on how our research may inform interdisciplinary approaches to grand challenges in education, health care, economic stability, social issues, and transportation and the built environment.
As we consider what lies ahead for SCI, there is much to celebrate. Research productivity increased 37% in two years and is at an all-time high. Multiple collaborative initiatives started, such as a National Science Foundation Innovation Center dedicated to “strategic research and workforce development projects to transform spectrum management”; a project to design a content moderation system for social media to foster positive dialogue; and a new effort to use sports data to increase data fluency, data literacy and data science competency. Twenty-five doctoral students graduated with placements in both academia and industry. We opened a new technology-filled facility at 130 N. Bellefield Ave. to inspire collaboration.
In fall 2022, SCI had 1,096 students pursuing undergraduate majors in computer science, computational biology, computational social science, data science, digital narrative and interactive design, and information science. The undergraduate computer science program rose six spots in the U.S. News & World Report ranking. An innovative undergraduate major is beginning at the forefront of quantum computing. Taking the next step in their career journeys, 95% of the SCI graduating class started a job, a service program, a new business, or graduate school. The median salary of graduating students was the highest ever.
At the graduate level, the Graduate Certificate in Applied Data-driven Methods (ADDM) was launched for individuals without a computing or data background to gain and apply data skills in a variety of work areas and disciplinary settings. Starting in fall 2023, SCI is poised to offer nearly 200 tuition scholarships to learners from Southwestern Pennsylvania, supported by multiple funders, to pursue the ADDM certificate to prepare for data-centric occupations. Students in the Master of Library and Information Science program may take ADDM courses to gain a powerful mix of data and librarian skills. With the easing of the pandemic, more international students started their educational journey at SCI this year than last year. Master's student enrollment is up by 22% for fall 2022.
We also forged new alumni relations with leadership from the SCI Board of Visitors and SCI Alumni Board. The mentorship program created by the alumni board aims to connect current students and alumni to network, pursue their career paths, and find professional opportunities. These boards act as advocates for and ambassadors of the school, advancing philanthropic efforts and supporting the school’s journey and mission to continually invent the future.
As SCI’s journey unfolds, we are learning from one another. Our efforts to connect students, faculty, staff, and alumni have not gone unnoticed. During the 2022 Pitt Day of Giving, SCI reached new heights thanks to more than 170 supporters who raised more than $43,000. SCI saw a 51.3% increase in donors from 2021 and secured third place on the Raise the Bar challenge leaderboard. These contributions benefit SCI in many ways and directly impact our students.
SCI also was busy recruiting and developing staff and faculty. Critical to SCI’s accomplishments are staff members who galvanized student outcomes, learning opportunities, business operations, research administration, and operational agility. SCI recruited 12 new staff members in undergraduate programs, student advising, records management, and administration. With guidance from SCI’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, active recruitment practices were adopted that led to the hiring of seven faculty members in 2021-22 in areas like artificial intelligence, networks, digital preservation, and educational technology.
SCI accomplished much in 2021-22, and we take bigger steps every year. As we celebrate the school’s fifth anniversary in 2022-23, achieving our goals and undoubtedly facing new challenges with characteristic pragmatism and optimism, I am excited to forge ahead together.
Dean and Professor