Penn State College of Information Sciences and Technology

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College of Information Sciences and Technology
Established 1999
Dean Andrew Sears
Location University Park, Pennsylvania, United States
Campus University Park

The Penn State College of Information Sciences and Technology, also known as the College of IST, opened in 1999 as the information school of The Pennsylvania State University. Headquartered at the University Park campus in University Park, Pennsylvania, the college’s programs are offered at 18 Penn State campus locations. Dr. Andrew Sears currently serves as the college’s dean.

The college focuses on the study of issues that exist at the intersection of information, technology, and people, and aims to educate students who can lead in the information age. Work in the college currently focuses on four major trends in education, research, and outreach: the internet of things; mobile computing and sensing; big data; and new forms of risk involving cyber insecurity and information privacy.

The College of IST is part of a group of i-Schools dedicated to advancing the information field. It currently offers four Bachelor of Science degrees; master’s and doctoral degrees; and several undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificates through Penn State World Campus, the University’s online campus.


The School of Information Sciences and Technology was founded in 1997 and approved by the Penn State Board of Trustees in 1998 based on a need perceived by the University and advisors from government and industry for educating students in the emerging field of information science and technology.[1]

The goal was to extend beyond classic computer science, management information systems, and library science to prepare students to meet challenges in the use of computers and networked systems for applications such as medicine, business, homeland security, environmental monitoring, and control of complex systems.

The School was charged with producing graduates who would have basic knowledge of information technologies such as computer programming, discrete mathematics, database concepts, and understanding of information system concepts, as well as the capability to work in teams to understand how information technologies can be utilized in real applications involving individuals, organizations, and ultimately national or global enterprises.

When it opened in September 1999, the School admitted 105 students, operated 43 courses, and hosted five faculty members. In June 2000, the School offered its first online course.[1]

The first class of associate degree students graduated in June 2001, with the first class of doctoral students enrolling in August 2001. The School awarded its first bachelor’s degrees to 117 students at the University Park campus in May 2003. The School hosted the first conference of the i-School community in September 2005.

The School was renamed as the College of Information Sciences and Technology in 2006 – a designation that signified IST’s importance within both the Penn State system and the Commonwealth.

Westgate Building (was: IST Building)[edit]

The Westgate Building, formerly known as the Information Sciences and Technology Building is located on the west campus of The Pennsylvania State University’s University Park campus. The building was formally opened in 2004 as the IST Building and became the home to the College of Information Sciences and Technology and the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

The 199,000-square-foot (18,500 m2) building was designed by Rafael Vinoly Architects in New York, New York and Perfido Weiskopf Architects in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The architecture was inspired by the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy. The construction of the building is 199,000-square-foot (18,500 m2) and cost $58.8 million to complete. The building serves as a pedestrian bridge which permits pedestrian and bicycle traffic over Atherton Street.

The building houses several classrooms and research laboratories, and collaborative spaces. The largest classroom in the building is the Cybertorium. The Cybertorium seats up to 150 people with stadium seating which faces a large projection screen and a sound system for use by presenters.

The IST Building was re-named Westgate Building in 2017[2].

Undergraduate Education[edit]

The College of IST offers Bachelor of Science programs in four majors. Those include:

  • Cybersecurity Analytics and Operations[3] – This program prepares students for a career that focuses on protecting digital information from attack through cyberdefense strategies.
  • Data Sciences (Applied)[4] – The Data Sciences program at Penn State is part of an intercollege initiative to develop professionals who can make sense of big data. Students can select from one of three options to focus their studies from within the Data Sciences major: Applied Data Sciences, which is offered by the College of Information Sciences and Technology; Computational Data Sciences, which is offered by the College of Engineering; and Statistical Modeling Data Sciences, which is offered by the Eberly College of Science.
  • Information Sciences and Technology[5] – This program prepares students to create, use, and understand the impact of information and technology in everyday life. Students can select from one of three options to focus their studies from within the IST major: Design and Development, which focuses on the design and development of software and web applications; Integration and Application, which focuses on developing technology-based solutions for businesses and organizations; and People, Organizations and Society[2], which studies how technology can be used to better structure organizations so they can excel.
  • Security and Risk Analysis[6] – This program prepares students for careers that focus on protecting information, people, and other assets from threats by applying the principles of risk management.

Many Penn State commonwealth campuses offer associate degrees in these programs.

Graduate Education[edit]

The College of Information Sciences and Technology offers graduate degrees at both the master's and doctoral levels.

  • Ph.D. in Informatics[7] - A 38-credit program that takes five years to complete on a full-time basis. The program was renamed from a doctorate in Information Sciences and Technology in March 2018. It is designed to provide multidisciplinary training to address complex challenges at the intersection of information, technology, and people that require approaches that transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries.
  • Master of Science in Information Sciences and Technology[8] - A 30-credit program which takes two years to complete on full-time basis. The program engages students in research and science, and prepares them for advanced career opportunities and additional graduate work.

Both programs attract graduate students from a variety of backgrounds, including computer science, engineering, psychology, sociology, economics, philosophy, visual arts, and mathematics.

Online Education[edit]

The College of Information Sciences and Technology offers several online degree options through Penn State World Campus, which allows for students to pursue a degree while maintaining full-time employment, maintaining personal or family responsibilities, and living remotely. The online degrees offered by the College of IST include[9]:

  • Master of Professional Studies degrees in Information Sciences, with an option in Cybersecurity and Information Assurance; Enterprise Architecture and Business Transformation; and Homeland Security, with an option in Information Security and Forensics
  • Postbaccalaureate certificate in Information Systems Cybersecurity
  • Graduate certificates in Enterprise Architecture and Enterprise Information and Security Technology Architecture
  • Bachelor of Science degrees in Information Sciences and Technology and Security and Risk Analysis
  • Associate in Science degree in Information Sciences and Technology
  • Undergraduate certificates in Information Sciences and Technology and Security and Risk Analysis

U.S. News & World Report's 2018 Best Online Programs report ranked Penn State World Campus eighth for best online graduate computer information technology programs.

Faculty and Research[edit]

The College of Information Sciences and Technology is an interdisciplinary college that integrates a variety of perspectives from computer and information sciences, psychology, social science, economics and public policy, to study the interactions between information, technology, and people, to inform the design of innovative information technologies, and their societal impact. Faculty research focuses on artificial intelligence, informatics (including social informatics, health informatics, security informatics, and community informatics), big data, human-computer interaction, security and privacy, cognitive science, and socio-technical systems. The resulting interdisciplinary research drives major advances in areas such as medicine, energy, environmental monitoring and crisis management.

The college has more than 50 tenured, tenure-track and fixed-term faculty. Some faculty of note include:

Student organization[edit]

There are more than a dozen student organizations in College of Information Sciences and Technology[10], including:

  • Competitive Cyber Security Organization (CCSO)
  • Information Assurance (IA) Club
  • IST Consulting Group
  • IST Diplomats
  • IST Benefitting THON
  • IST Honors Society
  • IST Interest, Special Living Option
  • IST Student Government
  • Nittany Data Labs
  • Red Cell Analytics Lab
  • Security and Risk Analysis (SRA) Club
  • Women International Racial Ethnic Diversity Intercultural Network (WIRED IN)
  • Women in IST (WIST)
  • World Campus Technology Club

Undergraduate Academic Services[edit]

The College of Information Sciences and Technology offers a variety of services designed to support undergraduate student learning, personal growth, and professional development[11], including:

  • Office of Career Solutions, which supports students’ career goals through a mandated internship program, career fairs, corporate information sessions, and job preparation workshops.
  • Office of Undergraduate Advising, which helps students make informed course choices, explore degree options, and stay on track for graduation.
  • Office of Inclusion and Diversity Engagement, which works to foster a more diverse and inclusive community through programming and strategies that recruit, engage, and retain individuals from underrepresented groups.

Penn State Startup Week[edit]

The College of Information Sciences and Technology founded "IST Startup Week" in 2012[12]. The event was created to celebrate a $400,000 gift from David Rusenko, a 2007 graduate of the college who along with Chris Fanini and Dan Veltri co-founded the drag-and-drop website building company, Weebly, while they were students at Penn State. The gift — the largest from a graduate in the college's history — created the "David Rusenko Emerging Entrepreneur Scholarship" and the "David Rusenko Entrepreneur-in-Residence Scholarship," both of which continue to help IST students launch their own companies while they are still in school.

The event grew to include other colleges and units across campus, and it was renamed to Penn State Startup Week in 2017. Penn State Startup Week is a weeklong series of events that brings entrepreneurs and innovative thought-leaders to campus for presentations, workshops, mentorship, and student pitch competitions. Past events have drawn speakers from around the country, including the founders of and leaders at high-profile companies like Weebly, Dropbox, Reddit, Lands' End, IBM Watson, and Microsoft.


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°47′37″N 77°52′05″W / 40.79368°N 77.86812°W / 40.79368; -77.86812