Thinking about the iSchool, one of the first things that comes to mind is the course IST 195 – (Introduction to Information Technologies). First year students in the iSchool’s Information Management & Technology undergraduate program have weekly small group advising sessions with faculty and peer advisors and large groups sessions with staff, but they get another opportunity to come together as a unified class in IST 195.

The course was designed by Interim Dean Jeffrey Stanton, using a “T-structure” which serves to give students a little material on many topics. Imagine the horizontal line, the top of the “T” – this ensures that each student has the flexibility to dive deeper into the topics they find the most stimulating – the vertical line of the “T.”

Seniors are still reaping the benefits of this class, because for many, it shapes their first iSchool interests. “It provided me with different lessons every week that taught me what my strengths, weaknesses, and interests might be in the program,” feels senior peer advisor Andrea Ryerson. “I personally fell in love with the web design week and now I’m focusing on a web design concentration.”

Professor Jeff Rubin

Professor Jeff Rubin

Giving students a taste of technology is the goal of this class, and the future of it, according to Jeff Rubin, IST 195’s core professor. Jeff’s philosophy is simple: “I believe that every student needs to be able to graduate and have a general understanding of technology.” He aims to give students a little bit of information, enough to interest them, about a myriad of topics, and devotes each week to a possible career path. You might know Professor Rubin as an alumnus, and the founder and president of SIDEARM Sports, a digital media company that provides over 800 U.S. college athletic teams with websites, live statistics, live streaming, and more. SIDEARM is headquartered in the iSchool’s Hinds Hall.

The course has changed a bit over years to accommodate changing technology culture, both globally and within the iSchool. With approximately 200 students in his section, it’s important to find ways to keep the class engaged. A good way to describe Jeff’s approach to teaching is “edutainment,” a word that hints at some of his classroom procedures. Jeff has been known to tweet and snapchat bonus exam questions, which never have to do with the course and – are you surprised – are often sports related.

Jeff has certainly succeeded in interesting students with the wide variety of technology topics he shares with them. I spoke with some first-years, enrolled in the course, who already felt that the course was helping them narrow down their interests. Jeff’s course piqued an interest in security for freshman MacKenzie Silvia, who was surprised to learn that a career path following security could mean working as a professional hacker for a firm looking to find its weak points. Jenny Kauffman, a freshman, is hoping to complete a minor in animation and a dual with graphic design in Newhouse. For her, like Andrea, web design fit in with her interests, and helped her see the intersection between animation and information. She plans to concentrate in web design.

So what does the future look like for IST 195? “Bigger, better,” Professor Rubin articulates. He envisions every SU student taking IST 195. “You won’t survive in the workforce by saying ‘technology and I don’t get along,’ or ‘I don’t get computers.’ Technology intersects with everything.” Jeff can’t imagine not teaching the course, and while he’s at the helm, IST 195 will continue to be an essential and enjoyable part of every iSchool student’s time here- and possibly a part of every Syracuse University student’s experience.