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Information Sciences to Launch Undergraduate Major This Fall

New Information Sciences ProgramUT will launch the state’s first bachelor’s degree program in information sciences in the fall, Provost David Manderscheid announced today.

The program, approved by UT’s Board of Trustees in March, received final approval from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission in May.

“Launching this program offers an exciting opportunity to build on our highly regarded graduate program, while positioning UT to recruit top students and prepare them to compete in a growing job sector,” Manderscheid said.

Faculty and administrators from the School of Information Sciences (SIS) in the College of Communication and Information (CCI) have worked for more than four years to make the new major a reality.

“We believe strongly that an undergraduate major in information sciences will allow us to increase the impact we make on the university, the state, and information professions,” SIS Director Diane Kelly said.

The major will have two areas of concentration: user experience design and data, information management, and analytics. Jobs requiring these concentrations are projected to grow by more than 36 percent in Tennessee by 2024, according to Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development estimates. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 27 percent job growth rate for data analysts and a 15 percent job growth rate for user experience designers.

Kelly said the undergraduate program will teach students to approach information problems from humanist, scientific, social, and computational perspectives. The curriculum will include courses on data management, analytics, and visualization; human-computer interaction and usability; web development and programming; and information literacy and ethics. She said the undergraduate program should create a natural path for more students to enter the existing information sciences graduate program.

“One of the most exciting things about starting an undergraduate major in information sciences is that it allows our field to have a much greater reach. Library and information scientists have been on the cutting edge of information management and services for decades,” Kelly said. “Educating people about the information sciences at the undergraduate level not only honors decades of scholars and practitioners who have worked to establish and define the field, it also helps elevate and make visible information professions.”

CCI Dean Mike Wirth said the new program will benefit the college and the university as a whole.

“It will attract new students to CCI and provide complementary courses to other college majors, allowing our students to develop skills and expertise that make them more competitive in their communication fields,” he said.

SIS and its master’s program—now ranked in the Top 20—was established in 1971. The school’s enrollment has quickly accelerated in recent years, which Kelly said is another indicator of growing interest in a field with expanding applications and possibilities.