Message from the Dean (September 2019)

Professor Wendy Duff

The Faculty of Information is one of the world's most important information and knowledge management schools. Our programs are led by leading researchers and faculty across multiple disciplines and result in exceptional research and career opportunities.

wendy-duffAs I write this annual Dean’s letter for the last time, the feeling of change is very much in the air at the Faculty of Information.The search for our new Dean is ongoing, we’re welcoming new professors and staff , and more students than ever are choosing to study at our Faculty.

This fall, we are joined by our first cohort of Bachelor of Information students who arrive at the Faculty after completing their first two years of university study in their chosen disciplines. In their last two years with us, they will complete the specialized curriculum needed to earn the BI, the first degree of its kind.

This year also marks the introduction of a new Master of Information concentration in Human-Centred Data Science. One of the things we pride ourselves on here at the Faculty is our role in supporting the humane, progressive stewardship of society’s knowledge and information fabric. Librarians,archivists and museum professionals have long led the way in this area, teaching us that while facts and knowledge may be neutral, their management often is not.

As technology transforms both our working and our non-working lives, we are committed to ensuring that the human side of things is not overlooked and that we recognize our biases. Or to put it another way, to researching what we can do to make sure that Artificial Intelligence and algorithms don’t end up controlling our lives.

Our efforts in this area have not gone unnoticed. Last year, the Silicon Valley entrepreneur and philanthropist
Reid Hoffman made a $2.45 million donation to the Faculty, our biggest gift ever, to fund a chair in Artificial
Intelligence and the Human, which is held by Professor and former Dean, Brian Cantwell Smith.

Our grads are taking on jobs in private industry, government and the non-profit sector, where the expertise of information professionals, who understand the social and ethical implications of data-driven technologies like AI and machine learning, is needed more than ever. Our alumni are designing information systems at all levels of government, they’re keeping users in mind while creating products for both giant tech companies and start-ups, and they’re helping make books more accessible to the visually impaired at the United Nations.

They’re also prominent in the cultural sector. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of our Museum Studies program this year, we’re remembering our past. This year’s Informed magazine includes a special section on what those alumni are up to and how the program has evolved. Over the past year leading up to the actual September anniversary, when the first class of museology students enrolled at the ROM back in 1969, we’ve been discussing the theme of risk. Fittingly, we’ll continue that discussion at the ROM on September 27th, with a keynote speech by Dr.Katherine Ott of the Smithsonian, who was invited toToronto as part of the anniversary celebrations.

Finally, I am confident that when I step down as Dean on December 31, the Faculty of Information will be in the very best of hands. Our professors, staff, students and alumni are all formidable at what they do. I know we can count on them to never forget the human element as they go about shaping our information and cultural fields.

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