Mark Salisbury, director of UNM’s Organizational Learning and Information Technology (OLIT) Program is excited because he sees the move of OLIT from the College of Education to University Libraries as a chance to focus and expand the largest graduate degree program at UNM.
Dean of University Libraries Martha Bedard agrees the move makes sense. “University Libraries works with academic units across campus and we have a great deal of experience in organizing data, “says Bedard. “In many ways this is a very natural fit.”
OLIT students are frequently adults returning to school specifically at the request of the companies where they work. The companies frequently pay tuition as the student completes a Master or Ph.D. program with the goal of helping the company teach employees new skills more effectively. Salisbury says OLIT currently has around 50 students in the Ph.D. program, 150 in the M.A. program and around 40 undergraduates.
The program has traditionally been housed in the College of Education, but an external audit recommended moving the program to bring in more resources for adult learning students. Last semester, the UNM Faculty Senate approved the transfer of the OLIT degree programs from the College of Education to the University Libraries. It was a long process involving discussion at many levels within University Libraries, the College of Education, Faculty Senate, the Provost Office and other units. This gives University Libraries a strong existing program to further build and enhance the information management and data sciences curriculum.
University Libraries has welcomed the program because the mechanisms used for adult learning fit closely with ways knowledge is organized in the increasingly digital UNM Library System.
This isn’t a completely novel idea. North Texas State, the University Michigan and the University of Missouri are all organized this way. Salisbury says OLIT explores ways to base research around learning and the association with UNM Libraries should help them take the curriculum outside the university.
Bedard is thinking about how to use the move to break new ground in the organization of data. There is no university program in the nation that specifically teaches how to organize digital data, especially large data sets. But technology now allows anyone from small business to individuals to store tremendous amounts of digital data.
An employee with a degree in organizing data would be useful to everyone from law firms seeking to organize enormous client files to small businesses that archive sales information. Bedard believes there will be tremendous demand for students with this skill set, and University Libraries is now organized in a way that will allow them to begin building a degree in data management.
They won’t be starting from scratch. The National Science Foundation has already funded a grant that has one library researcher organizing orphan data sets from biology researchers across the country, and University libraries currently offers individual courses in ways to organize environmental data. This reorganization gives University Libraries a mechanism to grant degrees. So the combined resources of University Libraries and OLIT may give UNM a way to offer cutting edge degrees in a field that is just now coming into existence.
Patrick Keller, a student in the Ph.D. program in OLIT says students are trying to understand how the change will affect them. He says the option offered current students to choose whether their degrees will be granted by the College of Education or University Libraries has been helpful in easing concerns. Students who enroll in the fall will receive their degree from University Libraries.
Keller says the move into UNM Libraries should create a seamless degree program for organizational learning because it will allow students to explore ways to handle large data sets, and it is likely to open more career options.
The physical move for OLIT faculty is most likely to occur in early July. Faculty members with the program will be housed on the second floor of Zimmerman Library.
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