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News Highlights for 2018: An eventful year

Submitted on Monday, December 17, 2018

Silicon Valley philanthropist makes record-breaking gift for chair in AI and the Human

LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman’s donated $2.45 million to the Faculty of Information to establish a chair to study how the new era of artificial intelligence (AI) will affect our lives. The new chair was taken up by Professor Brian Cantwell Smith in the fall of 2018 and will operate through the spring semester of 2024.

“I could not be more thrilled that someone with Reid Hoffman’s tremendous vision and influence has chosen the Faculty of Information as a natural home for answering broad questions about life in the age of AI,” says the faculty’s dean, Professor Wendy Duff.

 

New Bachelor of Information set to enroll students in fall 2019

Due to the change of government, the Faculty is still waiting for the province of Ontario to sign off on its new Bachelor of Information, the final necessary stamp of approval before the first cohort of BI students arrive at the Bissell Building next year. The BI was conceived to meet the growing demand for information experts. It is a professional undergraduate program to which students can apply once they are in their second year of undergraduate studies.

 

New concentration in Human-Centred Data Science

Starting in the fall of 2019, the Faculty of Information will offer a new Master of Information concentration in Human-Centred Data Science. While UofT’s other data science programs focus on providing computational and statistical education, the Faculty of Information will integrate a human-centred and societal focus throughout its data science concentration. The HCDS concentration will build on the Faculty’s existing strengths and give graduates the skills and knowledge to deal with complex, large-scale data sets and information systems as well as expertise in user centred visualization, ethics and policy.

 

Bissell Building due for a makeover

A feasibility study by the superkül architectural firm has charted a possible course for renovations to the Bissell Building, home of the Faculty of Information. It’s the latest step in what will be a multi-year process that began with the transformation of the Inforum in 2016, the subsequent drawing-up of a master plan for revitalization of the building, and the feasibility study.

 

Advanced Data Science Alliance presents to expert panel

In the spring, the Canadian government’s Network of Centres of Excellence Program announced that the Data Science Research & Innovation Network—which has since been renamed the Advanced Data Science Alliance or ADA—had made it to the next stage. Out of 69 Letters of Intent received for the competition, ADA was one of 11 invited to submit a full application. Led by Associate professor and Acting Dean Kelly Lyons, ADA developed an extensive proposal. Its three scientific directors, UofT VP Research, Dr. Vivek Goel, and ADA industry partners traveled to Ottawa to present their proposal to an expert panel in August. An announcement of the proposals selected for funding is expected in the spring of 2019.

 

Museum Studies prepares for 50th anniversary

The Master of Museum Studies program will turn 50 in the autumn of 2019. Things kicked off in October with a special lecture by Constance Classen entitled Collecting Our Senses: Seeing, Hearing and Touching in the Museum. Classen challenged the prevailing view of museums and art galleries as places of visual engagement, showing how sensations of touch, of sound, of movement—even of scent and taste—have played a role in the collection experience historically. (That’s the MMSt50 planning committee on the left.)

 

Faculty scores high in QS World University Subject Rankings

The University of Toronto continues to rise in international rankings, taking top 10 spots in eight subject areas in the 2018 QS World University Rankings by Subject. The subject rankings, which were released early in the year, include two new categories, with UofT scoring 11th globally in library and information management, a field that has seen the university make headlines around the world for its efforts to preserve U.S. environmental data under the Trump administration. “Technology is embedded in everything we do,” says Faculty of Information Dean Wendy Duff, adding that the faculty has been on the cutting edge of important trends in its field.