While this may not be news to everyone who reads the blog, today it was made official. I have a new administrative position in the School: I am the Graduate Director of Informatics. In practice, I’ll still be teaching and doing research, but I will also be in charge of the Masters in Informatics program. I have plans for this program, some of them small, and some of them a bit more grand. I’m planning on moving fairly slowly — at first. But in the not-so-long run, I hope that when people think of informatics in the US, they think of the University at Buffalo, and when they think of the University at Buffalo, they think of the School of Informatics.
I am hoping that my role in this new position will be as transparent as possible. There is always risk in such an approach: it lets the world see not only our strengths but the problems that we are working on. That said, I think such transparency can only help an organization, and while there are certainly times when discretion will limit my blogging on a topic, I hope to be as open as possible in describing what we are trying to do and how we are trying to do it.
In broad strokes, I am hoping that over the next year, we will:
* Become more entrepreneurial. Part of that means importing the spirit of “demo or die” from the MIT Media Lab. I want to create an environment that encourages risk, especially of the intellectual variety, and that unites thought with practice.
* Solve problems. That is, I want our curriculum and our students to be making a practical differences for the community and for businesses. I want businesses and other organizations that share our entrepreneurial spirit to partner with us and to provide a space in which shared resources yield shared benefits.
* Tell our story. Buffalo is off the beaten track; not everyone comes to visit us up in the “silicon tundra.” The diminution of distance that technology allows is not automatic. We need to pursue the networks and connections that new technologies provide. We need to do a far better job of telling people what we are doing, and paying attention to how this might lead to new connections, partnerships, and exchanges. At the very least, we need to make sure likeminded institutions in Western New York and our neighbors to the north see value in exchanging ideas, particularly when it comes to the social impact and use of communication technologies.
It’s busy at the beginning of the semester, and I have enough projects in full swing that my time is short. Over the fall semester, I hope that we can regroup as a faculty, and decide how to make our masters program a model for other universities to learn from.