Planning for a new academic initiative in the information sciences was introduced in 1997, and the School of Information Sciences and Technology was approved by Penn State's Board of Trustees soon after on September 11, 1998.
The school opened its doors at Penn State's University Park campus on August 25, 1999, to 105 students and five full-time faculty members, who led 43 new courses. In total, 428 students enrolled in IST programs at 19 Penn State campuses across the state.
Today, the college is recognized as a leader in interdisciplinary education and research at the intersection of information, technology, and society.
The Creation of a Discipline
The school was created based on a need perceived by the University and advisers from government and industry to educate students in the emerging field of information sciences and technology. The goal was to extend beyond classic computer science, management information systems, and library science—programs that existed in various formats across higher education.
This new multidisciplinary approach would prepare students to meet challenges in the use of computers, networked systems, and other technologies for applications in fields such as business, health care, homeland security, finance, energy, environmental monitoring, and entertainment.
The school was charged with producing graduates who would have the technical knowledge of information technologies—such as computer programming, discrete mathematics, and database concepts—and an understanding of information system concepts. An emphasis was also placed on building strong communication skills and a collaborative, solutions-oriented approach. Ultimately, these graduates would understand how information technologies could be applied to real applications involving individuals, organizations, and national and global enterprises.
The Growth of a College
In 2000, IST offered its first online course and built a robust offering of online programs and courses in the following years. In the spring of 2003, IST awarded its first bachelor’s degrees to 300 graduates from across the state. That first group of alumni quickly formed the IST Alumni Society, ensuring that IST graduates would always remain connected to each other and to the school. Recognizing its impact on the University and leadership in the information school community, the school was renamed as the College of Information Sciences and Technology in 2006.
Since those early years, the college has stayed true to its founding mission while evolving to meet the rapidly changing needs of students and industry. Today, IST educates thousands of students in a variety of undergraduate and graduate degree programs, both in residence and online. Faculty, graduate students, and visiting scholars conduct millions of dollars of externally funded research, collaborating across traditional disciplines to uncover new insights, trends, and experiences.