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IST History

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The Creation of a Discipline

The School of Information Sciences and Technology was founded in 1997 and approved by the Board of Trustees in 1998 based on a need perceived by the University and advisors from government and industry for educating students in the emerging field of information science and technology.

The goal was to extend beyond classic computer science, management information systems, and library science to prepare students to meet challenges in the use of computers and networked systems for applications such as medicine, business, homeland security, environmental monitoring, and control of complex systems.

The School was charged with producing graduates who would have basic knowledge of information technologies (e.g., computer programming, discrete mathematics, database concepts, and understanding of information system concepts) as well as the capability to work in teams to understand how information technologies can be utilized in real applications involving individuals, organizations, and ultimately national or global enterprises.

The School was renamed as a College (upon approval of the Board of Trustees) in 2006.  We hosted the first conference of the i-School community in September 2005.

The IST Building

IST BuildingFormally opened in 2004, the Information Sciences and Technology (IST) Building at Penn State University Park is a striking 199,000 square-foot structure whose sweeping lines stir the imagination of passersby. Its creators–Rafael Vinoly Architects, New York, and Perfido Weiskopf Architects, Pittsburgh—were inspired by the Ponte Vecchio in Florence.

Classroom spaces utilize a state-of-the-art telecommunications and multimedia infrastructure to meet the unique needs of today’s digital students. Each of our eight classrooms has been individually configured to impact different types of learning experiences. Among our classrooms, the principal location is the Cybertorium, which seats 150 people and employs the latest technology to facilitate group learning and discussion. Innovative technology also is instrumental in our research facilities, such as in the new three-dimensional, full-immersion, visualization laboratory, where researchers are studying new ways to view and conceptualize data and information.

To encourage collaboration, there are a number of open gathering spaces designed for faculty, staff, and students to meet. The entire building features wireless capabilities that encourage groups to move freely within the space while being connected to the Internet and other Web-based services.

IST Milestones

  • 9/97: In his annual State-of-the-University Address, President Graham Spanier introduces "information science" as one of four new Penn State initiatives.
  • 5/98: A University strategic planning group calls for the creation of a new, University-wide School of Information Sciences and Technology.
  • 9/98: The Board of Trustees approves creation of the School of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) with the first class of students to be admitted fall 1999.
  • 5/99: James B. Thomas, senior associate dean of business, is named dean of IST.
  • 9/99: With 43 new courses and five faculty members, IST opens its doors to105 students at University Park and 428 total students at nineteen Penn State campuses across Pennsylvania.
  • 4/00: IST becomes part of the Research Collection of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History and the 2000 Computerworld Smithsonian Collection.
  • 6/00: The first online course, IST 110, goes live.
  • 5/01: The first full class of associate degree students graduates.
  • 8/01: The first twelve IST Ph.D. students begin classes.
  • 5/03: IST's first full baccalaureate-degree class graduates—300 seniors from across the state, 117 at University Park.
  • 9/03: The IST Alumni Society becomes official.
  • 9/28-30/05: IST hosts the first Conference of the i–School Community at University Park.
  • 1/06: IST becomes the College of Information Sciences and Technology by decision of the Penn State Board of Trustees.
  • 6/06: James Thomas steps down as IST dean to lead Penn State's Smeal College of Business.
  • 7/06: Henry C. “Hank” Foley, Penn State associate vice president for research and director of strategic initiatives, becomes interim dean of IST.
  • 7/06: The new Security and Risk Analysis (SRA) program is approved by the University's Board of Trustees.
  • 11/06: Henry Foley is appointed dean of IST.
  • 6/08: IST is designated a National Center of Academic Excellence for Information Assurance by the U.S. National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security.
  • 12/08: IST's first degrees in Security and Risk Analysis (SRA) are awarded.
  • 7/09: IST launches a new B.A. degree in information sciences and technology and a new master of professional studies degree in information sciences.
  • 9/09: IST launches its online master of professional studies (MPS) degree program through World Campus.
  • 11/09: David Hall is named the college's interim dean, replacing Henry C. "Hank" Foley, who is appointed Penn State's vice president for research and dean of the graduate school.
  • 4/10: David Rusenko (IST '07), CEO and co-founder of Weebly, receives the Alumni Achievement Award from the Penn State Alumni Association, becoming the youngest recipient of that award and the first recipient from IST. 
  • 9/10: David Hall appointed dean of the College of IST.
  • 4/12: IST receives a $400,000 gift -- the largest from a graduate in its 13-year history -- from alum David Rusenko (IST '07), CEO and co-founder of Weebly, to create the David Rusenko Scholarship for Entrepreneurship to help IST students launch their own companies while they are still in school.
  • 1/13: John M. (Jack) Carroll named as the first distinguished professor for the College of IST at Penn State.
  • 6/13: Nick Berardi (IST '03) recognized by IST as the first recipient of the Penn State Outstanding IST Alumni Award.
  • 5/14: David Hall steps down as IST dean to return to the faculty ranks.
  • 7/14: IST's Security and Risk Analysis (SRA) program receives National Security Agency (NSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) designation as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cyber Defense Education for academic years 2014-2021.
  • 9/14: Mary Beth Rosson, professor and associate dean for undergraduate studies, named interim dean of the College of IST.
  • 7/15: Andrew Sears, dean of the B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences at the Rochester Insititue of Technology, begins his tenure as IST's 4th dean.