The Bachelor of Information program was conceived to appeal to and welcome students from a wide variety of academic backgrounds, a feat it has accomplished in the first two years of its existence. A so-called “second entry” program, the BI, as it is known, admits students who have completed their first two years of university in any field.
Students then earn their Bachelor’s degree by completing their final two years at the Faculty of Information, taking courses in Computational Reasoning, Information Policy and Design among others. They also complete a practicum, which gives them hands-on experience in the workplace and the chance to develop professional competencies.
This June, the first 11 Bachelor of Information students will receive their degrees. One of those grads is Lena Klassen (shown at right in photo with classmates), who originally came to UofT to study computer science, but found she didn’t really enjoy it. An advisor suggested she might be interested in the BI program.
“It sounded like a perfect fit for me because of its variety, how it touches on information systems and programming, but also things which I hadn’t explored before like design and policy,” said Klassen, who completed an Associate degree in information technology in the US and worked in IT before coming to UofT.
She especially enjoyed her design courses and said the BI program really does a good job of communicating and teaching the value of the social sciences, which she hadn’t really appreciated before.
Erxun Ta, an international student from China, settled on the BI after trying out majors in linguistics, economics and statistics, and feeling nothing quite clicked. After attending an information session, she realized the BI reflected her many interests.
When she started at the Faculty of Information in the fall of 2019, she especially appreciated the small class sizes, the sense of camaraderie among students and the attention professors and staff paid to feedback from its inaugural class. “Whenever we had problems we could reach out to the student services team,” said Ta. “The professors were really caring and thoughtful. The courses were tailored to students.”
While both Ta and Klassen said there were details to be ironed out with the BI – the order of required courses, for example – they also like that the program was flexible enough to respond to individual students’ personal interests.
Ta discovered a love of research while completing her BI and will return to the Faculty of Information in the fall to complete a Master of Information in user experience design (UXD). She’s looking forward to getting back on campus and misses the informal chats and connection-making that happen in person.
For example, after taking a course with Professor Tony Tang, Ta would sometimes run into him in the Bissell Building, leading him to invite her to a reading group with graduate students and to recommend her as a research assistant to one of his doctoral students doing research on how communications technology in China changed lives during the pandemic.
Ta, who had originally looked forward to a career in industry, is now planning on doing the thesis option for her Master’s and contemplating a future in academia.
Klassen, whose main interest is currently cybersecurity, sees the BI as good preparation for the certificate she is planning to get in that field after spending the summer with family in Manitoba. “I think it layers really well,” she said, adding that she sees the program as a good way to explore “for people who want to work in tech and don’t want to be one specific thing.”