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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

  • 9/12/97: 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.
  • 9/11/98: 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.
  • 5/14/99: James B. Thomas, senior associate dean of business, is named dean of IST.
  • 9/22/99: 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.
  • 1/20/00: First meeting of the IST Advisory Board is held.
  • 4/3/00: IST becomes part of the Research Collection of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History and the 2000 Computerworld Smithsonian Collection.
  • 6/26/00: The first online course, IST 110, goes live.
  • 5/15/01: The first full class of associate degree students graduates.
  • 8/21/01: The first twelve IST Ph.D. students begin classes.
  • 5/17/03: IST's first full baccalaureate-degree class graduates—300 seniors from across the state, 117 at University Park.
  • 9/2/03: IST continues to grow: Seven new faculty members join the ranks at University Park, the Ph.D. program numbers forty students, and eight students enroll in the new M.S. program.
  • 9/14/03: The IST Alumni Society becomes official.
  • 9/23/04: The first IST Future Forum draws more than 500 students, alumni, faculty members, and industry representatives.
  • 5/15/04: 85 percent of this year's graduating class at University Park already have full-time jobs at an average salary of $53,500.
  • 9/3/04: Dell founder and CEO Michael Dell takes part in IST's "Year of Celebration" at University Park.
  • 9/28-30/05: IST hosts the first Conference of the i–School Community at University Park.
  • 1/20/06: IST becomes the College of Information Sciences and Technology by decision of the Penn State Board of Trustees.
  • 6/30/06: James Thomas steps down as IST dean to lead Penn State's Smeal College of Business.
  • 7/1/06: Henry C. “Hank” Foley, Penn State associate vice president for research and director of strategic initiatives, becomes interim dean of IST.
  • 11/2/06: Henry Foley is appointed dean of IST.
  • 1/08: The IST-based research initiative in network-centric cognition and information fusion is granted "center" status by Penn State.
  • 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.
  • 6/09: IST professors Dave Hall and Peng Liu are awarded Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative grants from the Army Research Office for $1.2 million and $6.25 million, respectively.
  • 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.
  • 1/10: 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.