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New student group unites IST undergraduates
New student group unites IST undergraduatesNovember 27, 2006Margaret Costello Spillettmcostell@syr.edu
When senior Eric Hansen transferred to Syracuse University as a junior dual major in information management and technology at the School of Information Studies (IST), and public relations at the Newhouse School of Public Communications, he remembers feeling a disconnect from his peers in IST. He took his information studies courses in four different buildings while the school’s new home in Hinds Hall was being renovated. “I wanted to create a community of IST undergraduates who could start to build connections with each other through activities of mutual interest,” says Hansen, a native of Petaluma, Calif. “I talked to a bunch of people who thought it was a great idea.”
From those conversations emerged the School of Information Studies Undergraduate Alliance (IST-UA). Open to all University undergraduates, the student organization officially formed this fall and already attracted a crowd of more than 20 students at its first event — an insider’s tour of the Carrier Dome, including stops in the locker room, media boxes and VIP rooms. Jeffrey Rubin, senior instructor in IST, whose consulting business provides technical support at Dome events for SU Athletics, described the wireless features of the press box and the closed circuit system within the Dome. Other events this semester have included movie nights and a behind-the-scenes look at AirOrange, the University’s wireless network.
“I decided to get involved because I felt that the group would have an exceedingly positive influence on the undergraduate community in the school,” says IST junior Alana Edmunds, who helped the organization receive formal recognition from the University. “IST-UA is a collaborative effort of an eclectic mix of IST students, each with different strengths and abilities who come together for the benefit of all.”
Hansen developed the group to have a “flat” organizational structure so that every member would have leadership opportunities and an equal say in the brainstorming and planning of group activities and events. “We try to create an atmosphere of shared leadership and responsibilities so each of us feels a personal stake in the group’s success,” he says. His hope in building such a structure is to empower first and second-year students so that the organization will continue strong after the juniors and seniors graduate.
“We have a lot of really motivated, bright and energetic students in this school, and this organization is a great outlet for them,” says Susan Bonzi, associate professor and director of the undergraduate degree program. “Grassroots organizations do much better than ones imposed upon students. This group gives students a stronger sense of community, allows them to organize events that are of interest to them and lets them come to the faculty with a larger voice.”
Elaine Morgan, the school’s undergraduate academic counselor, says when she met with Hansen to discuss starting IST-UA, his enthusiasm was contagious. “He is a very motivated student with remarkable leadership skills,” she says. “He has enlisted some of the brightest IST undergraduates to join the group. Many of our future leaders are members, and my expectation is that the organization will remain strong after Eric graduates this spring.”
After a successful first semester, the group already has big ideas for spring. Among the brainstorming suggestions are “IST for Dummies” workshops, which will teach students and other University community members the basics about some important information technology and software applications; Disability and Technology, which will examine how the two areas overlap and how IT can be utilized to improve access to services for people of all abilities; movie nights, featuring such cult classics as “Hackers” and “Office Space;” and a flag football event, which will offer an interactive way to learn about information security.
“We have tons of ideas,” Hansen says. “We’re looking for feedback from students to see which ones they’re most interested in and then we’ll focus in on those activities. We try to use a lot of the technology that we learn about in our classes, and we use the discipline of project management in carrying out our ideas. We will always work to get as many students involved as possible.”