Drexel’s iSchool recently hosted its first iConnect, an event created to facilitate an environment where online and on-campus students could connect with faculty and each other.
An opening reception was held at the iSchool’s Rush Building, followed by a busy day of special lectures, breakout sessions, an alumni panel, and plenty of open discussion on Saturday at the Creese Student Center.
“Our programs are in a period of tremendous growth,” said iSchool Dean Dr. David Fenske, noting a $3.5-million increase in funding just this year, “Information is such a large fabric of society today—we are now a part of a knowledge society and our students are the future leaders of that knowledge society. This is a chance to bring everyone together.”
The event was originally conceived by Dr. Eileen Abels, associate dean for Academic Affairs and iSchool professor, and Master’s in Information Systems (MSIS) student Mike Gould.
“I just thought it would be such an excellent opportunity for fellow students,” said Gould, a systems analyst at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “In our field, information and knowledge changes so rapidly—but processes and people are things that don’t change, and it’s extremely important for us to have an external discussion about what we study.”
iConnect was open to both on-campus and online students from all iSchool programs, including Master’s in Library and Information Science (MSLIS), Software Engineering, and Master’s in Health Informatics students, and gave students from different programs a chance to interact in a social and intellectually-stimulating environment.
For online students, though, it was a chance to meet professors and classmates in person for the very first time.
Online MSLIS student Elisabeth Sutton drove from Washington, D.C. to attend iConnect and talk shop with her professors, none of which she had met before. Sutton, who has been specializing in legal research as a librarian at a law firm for the past five years, said, “Sometimes coursework and expectations can be overwhelming so it’s really nice to speak to people face-to-face and meet your professors. It’s great to be here,” she said.
Special lectures at the event included “Philadelphia Brand Bibliometrics” by Dr. Kate McCain and “Foraging in the Universe of Knowledge” by Dr. Chaomei Chen, both iSchool professors. A prestigious panel of iSchool alumni, comprised of a CEO, head librarians and elite consultants was held Saturday afternoon, followed by breakout sessions to inform students about Hagerty Library resources and iSchool academic advising options. The busy day concluded with an “Open Mic Session” between Dean Fenske, iSchool faculty and students.
The weekend attracted hundreds of students and brought many of the students and faculty closer together. Online students especially benefited from iConnect activities.
“I used to go to events or conferences and people would come up to me and say, ‘I took a class with you,’ ” said Dr. Abels. “I hope that this event makes it so that doesn’t happen anymore.”
The iSchool hopes to make iConnect an annual occurrence, especially to reach out to online students.
Gould added, “This opportunity is not just for networking, but to truly personalize our knowledge and experience in this field and put it into our professional lives.”
---Drexel University Online communications staff