Q&A With School of Information Studies Dean Andrew Sears … – Syracuse University News

In the rapidly changing world of technology, School of Information Studies Dean Andrew Sears knows it’s hard to predict how technology and the iSchool will evolve if you look too far into the future. But, he knows if you pay careful attention to what is happening in the field you can identify opportunities early enough to respond appropriately.
Andrew Sears
Sears has done this in the past, demonstrating the foresight to create the first undergraduate degree in the field of human-computer interaction and the first academic department focused on cybersecurity, and pushing for undergraduate education focused on artificial intelligence nearly four years ago. As a result, he sees plenty of opportunities in a school with a proud history, a great foundation and tremendous potential.
“One of the most exciting things about being the dean of the iSchool is that there are countless opportunities,” says Sears, who served as dean of the College of Information and Sciences and Technology at The Pennsylvania State University before beginning in his new role at Syracuse Aug. 1. “The topics we address have never been more important, and the importance of these topics continues to grow every year.”
In this Syracuse University News Q&A, Sears talks about his academic career, what he’s most excited about in his new role and an unexpected designation from a previous leadership post.
As a first-generation college student, I started college thinking it was all about getting a job. College led to graduate school, because it seemed like the path to a different set of jobs, and graduate school led to becoming faculty. Eventually, I came to understand the real purpose of higher education: to transform the lives of our students and their families and to make the world a better place through our teaching, research and outreach.
I never thought I would pursue administrative roles, and my administrative career really started more from necessity than choice. That’s when I ended up as a department chair at University of Maryland, Baltimore County. For various reasons, as a department chair I had an opportunity for a lot of one-on-one conversations with Freeman Hrabowski, the president of the university. Freeman is an amazing and impactful leader, and my time as chair and conversations with him helped me see the university from a new perspective and gain an appreciation for the impact I could have through leadership. This is what led to my becoming a dean, and I’ve now been dean at three universities.
At Penn State, I would regularly receive emails about other administrative opportunities. I ignored most, scanned some and investigated a few. When the notice for this position arrived, I knew the University and the iSchool; I had lived in the region, and I decided to explore. The more I read, the more intriguing the opportunity became. As I went through the process, I developed a sense of a strong and impactful university. I saw a school with a long and proud history, a great foundation and tremendous potential. I sensed an environment where others also saw and believed in this potential, and a place where I could have a real impact.
Personally, my goal is to make the school a great place for faculty and staff to work, a great place for our students to study and a great place for others to come when they have challenging questions that we can help them answer.
For me, being a dean means that I’m here to facilitate the success of others—the faculty, staff and students of the school as well as the University as a whole. With that in mind, I’m really excited to meet with everyone, to learn their stories and to begin working to make the iSchool the best school of its kind.
I’m looking forward to working with everyone in the school to identify those areas that we can develop, including areas where we are already strong, areas where we have a foundation we could build on and areas where we may not have much of a presence yet but, for one reason or another, we have a strategic opportunity to develop world-class strength.
One thing I’ve learned is that it is hard to predict where a school like the iSchool will be in five years. The discipline evolves rapidly, technology evolves even faster and we must be prepared to adapt. With that said, I would like to see the iSchool become a destination for students, faculty and staff.
Students should seek to come to Syracuse to pursue the degrees we offer due to the careers they enable; the co-curricular experiences we provide; and the impact students can have with an iSchool education. Faculty should seek to come to Syracuse due to the strength of our students, the impact of our research, the expertise of the University’s faculty and the support we provide all faculty as they progress in their careers. Staff should seek opportunities with the iSchool because they can see how we change lives, how we make the world a better place, how they can be part of that process and how we support the professional development and progress of our staff.
Get engaged! The iSchool and Syracuse University provide tremendous resources to support our students. This is not limited to supporting students in classes—it includes supporting co-curricular activities that enrich the University experience, helping students expand their network and connecting them to future employers.
I’d also encourage every one of our students to pursue internships—whether required by their degree program or not. Internships are a great way to learn what you like and don’t like about a work environment; they help you expand your network and many students end up with full-time job offers from companies where they did an internship.
Kindle/e-reader or old-school books? Old-school books.
Movies or series? Series.
Take out or dine in? Favorite cuisine? Dine in, Thai.
Museums or theater? Theater.
Ocean, lake or mountains? Domestic or abroad? R&R or adventure? Ocean (but mountains lately due to family), abroad (but domestic lately due to family), R&R.
Night owl or early riser? Night owl.
Favorite season? Fall.
Something about you no one would expect? At a university with an agricultural sciences college, I was once referred to as the most zoologically interesting dean.
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