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iSchool club launches program to assist women in IT training

For years, women have supported themselves and their families by working from home. But it was only after working closely with a student who prepared medical transcriptions at home that SU School of Information Studies (iSchool) professor Susan Dischiave began to realize how women like her student could benefit from formal business training. As an advisor for Women in Information Technology (WIT), she knew that several of the group’s members had been teaching computer basics at the Women’s Opportunity Center in Syracuse and believed they could take their involvement a step farther by teaching women the skills needed to start a home business.

 

This year, with help from a grant from Enitiative (the Syracuse Campus-Community Entrepreneurship Initiative), the members of WIT will begin to put Dischiave’s ideas to work as they launch BOOST—Bolstering Original Opportunities & Self through Technology. A collaboration between WIT and the Women’s Opportunity Center, BOOST will focus on helping women and men overcome obstacles to gain employment or start a home business. The program will focus on teaching technology skills and accounting software, as well as promoting entrepreneurial spirit to members of the local community.

 

Agnes Imecs G’08, a student in the library and information science program and a co-chair of WIT, describes BOOST’s target participants as women who have been working from home already or who are thinking about starting a home business, but who lack the formalized education to implement a self-sustainable business plan. The training BOOST provides will focus not only on tangible business skills, but—just as importantly—on attitude. “We’re well aware that it’s not that simple for somebody to venture into a new and different type of job,” Imecs says, “so the project will also focus on giving confidence to participants. They’ll prove to themselves that they can manage their businesses and meet the expectations of their clients.”

BOOST’s organizers hope to tap the expertise of the local business community as they put together the technical side of their curriculum. To ensure that the skills they teach are practical and relevant, they plan to gather lists of real requirements for local jobs and past experiences of successful job applicants. Members of the Women’s Opportunity Center will also be key to the project, as they draw on the experience and contacts generated from years of teaching computer skills to women in Syracuse. After spending the spring gathering and synthesizing information, Imecs says that she hopes to see BOOST begin in earnest by the end of the semester.

 

According to Imecs, BOOST meshes perfectly with WIT’s mission to increase participation by women in the information technology field. The project is designed to support women willing to take the initiative to master new skills and technologies and to increase collaboration between the University and the community. It also provides an opportunity for students at the iSchool to get involved with the local community, sharing their knowledge and presenting positive images of women in IT.

 

Barbara Settel, one of the WIT advisors, commends the program: “The BOOST initiative is a perfect application of the Chancellor’s focus on Scholarship in Action. Students will be able to go beyond what they have learned in the classroom by playing an active role in developing and delivering the BOOST curriculum. I am also happy to see our WIT members engaged in a project that will benefit the Syracuse community.”

BOOST was made possible, in part, through an Enitiative award. Enitiative is funded by a grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation of Kansas City, Mo., focusing on entrepreneurship in the arts, technology, and our neighborhoods. To learn more Enitiative, visit http://www.entrepreneurship.syr.edu.

For more information on WIT, check out the club website at http://wit.syr.edu.

The School of Information Studies at SU is ranked No. 1 in the nation for information systems, second in digital libraries, and fourth in the nation in school media. It is a nationally ranked center for innovative programs in information policy, information behavior, information management, information systems, information technology, and information services. The school offers an undergraduate degree, certificates of advanced studies, three professional master’s degree programs, and a Ph.D. The School of Information Studies was established in 1896 as the School of Library Science and is accredited by the American Library Association (ALA). For more information, visit the school’s web site at http://ischool.syr.edu.

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