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A Better World Through Design: Info Sci Hosts Summer Workshop

The cohort of students invited to Info Sci's Designing for Social Impact Class, held summer 2018.

Computing & Information Science’s (CIS) commitment to diversity continued this summer with two workshops aimed at encouraging minorities in STEM to consider careers in academia. One of the programs – Information Science’s Designing for Social Impact – welcomed to Cornell’s Ithaca campus 20 rising undergraduate and graduate students from around the U.S. and Mexico. The goal of the five-day program – led by Info Sci Associate Professor Phoebe Sengers, Info Sci PhD Vera Khovanskaya, and GroupLens Postdoctoral Research Jasmine Jones – was to build a diverse cohort of new researchers in the field. 

Interest in design for social impact is not only rising in industry and research, but also appealing to many students, who are motivated to make the world a better place and want to develop concrete ways to do so. This field of study works across information science by integrating social-scientific understanding of how technology interfaces with human life through design and engineering strategies that can concretely improve it. The format of the summer school included lectures, working groups led by a range of faculty from information science, and invited talks. Guest lecturers were: Sheena Erete, an assistant professor in the College of Computing and Digital Media at DePaul University; Max Liboiron, a feminist environmental scientist, scholar and activist; Tonya Smith-Jackson, program director for the Computer & Information Science and Engineering Directorate’s Division of Information and Intelligent Systems at the National Science Foundation, and Kaiton Williams (Info Sci PhD, ’17), a product developer and researcher at Promise, a decarceration startup.

Designing for Social Impact was one of two summer programs hosted by Cornell CIS. SoNIC continued its seventh summer success in Ithaca by inviting 25 students to Ithaca all-expenses-paid. This week-long workshop targets increasing participation of under-represented minorities at the PhD level in computer science. Participants take away an appreciation for cloud computing and network research at a top research university like Cornell. 

“It’s super cool,” said Kevin Sun, a junior computer science major at the University of Washington. “We’ve been learning about cloud computing. We get the high-level ideas and then dive deep to the point where we are actually coding how servers work. It’s not only three-hour research sessions; we get to hear from faculty about their careers and hear their stories, too.”