UB’s School of Information Studies Receives $200,000 Curriculum Grant from AT&T

Release Date: March 20, 2001

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- AT&T has awarded the University at Buffalo's School of Information Studies (SIS) a two-year, $200,000 grant to support the curriculum for a 36-credit-hour interdisciplinary master's degree in information and communication that will prepare students to enter the information workforce by mixing theory with practical experience.

Representatives of AT&T today (March 20, 2001) presented a check for the first installment of the grant to UB President William R. Greiner and Provost Elizabeth D. Capaldi.

UB administrators also have announced that the School of Information Studies will change its name to the School of Informatics, effective July 1.

The name change better represents "the modernization of the field of librarianship, as well as the digital convergence of all forms of information circulation and mediated human communication," said Thomas L. Jacobson, associate professor and acting dean of the School of Information Studies.

"It signifies better than the school's current name precisely what we see as its major areas of growth and development, which include information-technology research, education and the kind fo workforce development with which AT&T is helping us."

An initial $50,000 planning grant from AT&T received last year enabled UB to conduct interviews and focus groups with businesses and government agencies to identify the information-technology skills needed to be successful in today's workplace. This process laid the groundwork for the current $200,000 grant for the development of a SIS curriculum that blends technical training with communication and strategy skills education.

"Developing a skilled workforce is critical to the survival of technology-dependent companies like AT&T," said Greg Douglas, AT&T sales center vice president for government markets. "It's these graduates that make it possible to deliver information-based services like the automated calling card services first introduced by AT&T here in Buffalo in 1980. All of us at AT&T appreciate the university's contribution to this important academic endeavor."

The grant will help build and refine the equipment and technical infrastructure, including collaboration software for organizing and building the new curriculum, in-class presentation of projects and high-speed Internet access. Some of the funds will be used for technical and administrative support, as well as for a speaker series on topics such as information-technology trends, products and services.

Greiner noted, "AT&T's generous gift will enable us to train a new generation of leaders in information technology, while also enhancing educational technology at the university.

"College campuses across the country," Greiner added, "are becoming increasingly interdisciplinary, breaking down the barriers between traditional disciplines in fruitful ways. This support will help keep UB at the forefront of these developments as we create exciting new programs to meet the needs of a rapidly transforming world.

"We are grateful to AT&T for its willingness to step forward and pursue this pioneering collaborative vision."

Capaldi said: "We are delighted that AT&T has recognized the leadership of our School of Information Studies in designing a curriculum where students learn not just about technology, but about how human beings interact with the technology and with each other in workable systems.

"We anticipate this will be a very popular program, and that graduates with these skills will have an easy time finding jobs in many industries."

Thomas L. Jacobson, associate professor and acting dean of the School of Information Studies, said, "This grant and the resulting new program will add a whole new dimension to the school, invigorating faculty members with a cross-disciplinary approach while broadening opportunities for students."

Targeted enrollment for the first year is 25 students, with a projected enrollment of 50-75 students at the end of five years. As an added component, SIS will collaborate with UB's Office of International Programs to recruit in Asia for the new master's degree program.

AT&T will play an active role in the SIS curriculum. The company will provide guest lecturers, share product development case studies, and a representative will sit on the SIS advisory council. The expanded alliance will also provide an opportunity for collaborative research projects between SIS and AT&T, as well as create a ready source of highly trained information technology graduates for recruiting purposes.

Today's announcement further exemplifies AT&T's commitment to Buffalo. Late last year, the company announced a $30 million expansion of its high-speed local data and voice network serving upstate New York businesses, and is one year into its eight-year contract to provide local telephone service to federal agencies in Buffalo and the surrounding metropolitan area.

SIS plans to have new courses available at the undergraduate, doctoral and continuing education levels by the fall of 2001. This will include active experimentation with distance-learning opportunities, with an emphasis on delivering portions of the library curriculum to New York State's Southern Tier and Rochester areas via fiber optic networks.

The grant is part of UB's $250 million campaign, the largest ever conducted by a public university in New York and New England. Although it's the fifth major fund-raising campaign conducted by UB, it's the first national/international campaign, the first university-wide campaign and the first to be alumni-driven with campaign volunteer leaders from all over the country. Funds raised will be used to enrich academic programs, support students ranging from undergraduates to post-doctoral students and to enhance university life.

AT&T (http://www.att.com) is among the world's premier voice, video and data communications companies. With annual revenues of more than $62 billion and 160,000 employees, AT&T provides services to customers worldwide. Backed by the research and development capabilities of AT&T Labs, the company runs the world's largest, most sophisticated communications network, is the largest cable operator in the U.S., and has one of the largest digital wireless networks in North America.

The company is a leading supplier of data and Internet services for businesses and offers outsourcing, consulting and networking-integration to large businesses. Through its recent cable acquisitions, AT&T delivers broadband video, voice and data services to customers throughout the United States. Internationally, Concert, the AT&T/BT Global Venture, serves the communications needs of multinational companies and international carriers worldwide.

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