By: Diane Stirling
To University Professor Carl J. Schramm, The School of Information Studies (iSchool) is the “nuclear furnace” of Syracuse University, and it may also rightly hold a place as the University’s “conscience of truth.”
Schramm, recognized worldwide as one of the foremost figures in entrepreneurship, led the Ewing Marion Kaufmann Foundation for 10 years and is a noted economist and entrepreneur. He was the keynote speaker for the School’s Fall Convocation last week. As Syracuse University’s sixteenth University Professor, he also is teaching a course on entrepreneurship at the iSchool this semester.
To hearty applause from the knowing faculty and staff audience, Schramm recounted his selection of the iSchool as his academic home. He disregarded suggestions to locate in other SU colleges because “the question for me is what goes on inside the building.” When he discovered the iSchool’s roots,unique mission and character, the decision was clear, he said.
“It is astounding for me that it is in this iSchool where the real passion resides for teaching entrepreneurship and for understanding entrepreneurship,” he said. “What we do in this iSchool is so essential to the new firms–which are essentially all information firms,” Schramm continued. “There is something so magical in this combination of old library schools that sought the facts, with the understanding of where this new economy is going…firms that must be driven by objective information…which is in fact the new highway to expanded human welfare. The people in a library school are the people who husband information, who know how to search, and who objectively and independently seek to find the sources of knowledge.”
Such work is critical now because “we live in a world where fact means less and less,” plus “so much of what goes on and passes for inquiry these days in academia has little to do with the true search for knowledge,” Schramm contended. Additionally, the nature of the blogosphere now is that blogs “push information,” whereas they “should be about knowledge and the transmission of knowledge. We should worry that rhetoric and opinion continues to displace fact” in the blogosphere, he said.
That reality may call for a wider role for information schools beyond their academic functions, Schramm explained. “Given the robust history of this library school-turned-iSchool, perhaps one of our duties is to think about an epistemology of truth-seeking that would lead into all activities—in the classroom, what we witness as important courses, to what we conceive of as the blogosphere, what the leadership that a school like this, and only a school like this, can give to the world – truth, truth, truth. It is central to our jobs; our moral responsibilities in society,” he noted. “Because of its focus on information and fact-finding, in a sense, this [iSchool] may be the nuclear furnace of the university, but it may well be that it needs to be the conscience of truth at the university. And that is a role that iSchools may serve across universities nationwide,” Schramm said.
An internationally recognized leader in entrepreneurship, innovation and economic growth, Schramm spearheaded the Kauffman Campus Program at 17 universities and established the first charter school in the United States to be owned by a grant-making foundation. An entrepreneur himself, as well as economist and lawyer, he founded and co-founded several successful health care, finance and information technology companies. In 2007, Schramm was tapped by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez to chair the Department of Commerce’s Measuring Innovation in the 21st Century Economic Advisory Committee.