UW-M SOIS Announces New Name for Undergraduate Degree

This year, I am the interim director of the undergraduate program at the School of Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. While the School’s largest program is the MLIS degree, our bachelor of science degree has been growing, improving, and gaining attention at a steady rate over the past few years. The degree trains students in the theory and practical aspects of information science and information systems, and prepares graduates for careers helping individuals and organizations effectively use information resources and information technology.

One challenge our students have faced, however, is explaining the name of the degree: Bachelor of Science in Information Resources (BSIR). Potential employers didn’t know what BSIR meant, and they couldn’t easily recognize what skills our graduates could bring to their organization. Similarly, parents and potential students seeing our major listed in university brochures couldn’t connect BSIR with particular job skills or career paths.

To correct this, the School has changed the name of our undergraduate degree program. Starting this fall, our students will earn a Bachelor of Science in Information Science & Technology.

Here’s the press release announcing the change [PDF]:

SOIS Announces New Name for Undergraduate Degree

To better reflect the skills students bring to the workplace, the School of Information Studies (SOIS) at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee will change the name of the undergraduate program from the Bachelor of Science in Information Resources (BSIR) to the Bachelor of Science in Information Science and Technology (BSIST). The change will officially be recognized at the beginning of the 2010-11 academic year.

SOIS Interim Undergraduate Director Michael Zimmer feels that with the way the information-based society has progressed, the BSIST more accurately aligns the program and its graduates with both the discipline and the needs of the economy.

“We haven’t changed the content of the major, only its name,” said Zimmer. “While ‘Information Resources’ made sense when the undergraduate program was first introduced as an off-shoot of the School’s successful Masters in Library and Information Science, we feel that ‘Information Science and Technology’ provides a more meaningful identity for today’s students, and it is more recognizable by potential employers.”

Given the interdisciplinary nature of the degree, SOIS administrators feel that the change comes at the right time for students entering the marketplace, and should provide them a big advantage.

“The new name reflects the dual nature of the degree program: the information science aspect focuses on the nature of information and the impact of information systems in society,” said Zimmer, “while the information technology aspect is centered on practical training in the development of advanced information systems.”

“The BSIST is a burgeoning program and we feel that this new name does it justice,” said Interim Dean Hope A. Olson. “The program is designed to create strong professionals in the information science field. With the new name, more people will pay attention to our quality students and faculty.”

The new name also comes at a time when the program has grown significantly in numbers. Since 2000-01, the school has increased the number of BSIST majors by almost 50%. In the fall, the BSIST expects that growth to continue.

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