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University of Michigan School of Information


MSI student honored with prestigious Westin Scholar Award

2022 Westin Scholar Award. J.R. Robert Real. Master of Science in Information (2023).

Wednesday, 08/03/2022

Master of Science in Information student J.R. Robert Real is the University of Michigan’s 2022 Westin Scholar Award recipient.

The honor, given annually by the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP), supports students at affiliated schools who are considering careers in privacy and data protection. IAPP allows each school that participates in their program to select one Westin Scholar Awardee. 

Rob was nominated for the award by University of Michigan assistant professor Florian Schaub. Schaub’s research and courses focus on privacy and security as well as empowering users to effectively manage their privacy in complex socio-technological systems. 

“I’m grateful to the IAPP for providing us with the opportunity to honor and recognize outstanding students in privacy such as Rob with the Westin Scholar Award,” Schaub says. “Rob is clearly passionate about privacy and data protection. Thanks to his background in law and his industry experience in data protection he shares many perspectives and experiences that enrich our understanding and appreciation for the nuances of achieving privacy.” 

The Westin Award is named after Dr. Alan Westin who was instrumental in shaping U.S. privacy law and leading global data protection efforts. Honorees receive a $1,000 cash award, a copy of the book “Privacy and Freedom,” by Dr. Alan Westin, two years of membership with IAPP, three complimentary exams for IAPP certifications (CIPP, CIPM, CIPT) and unlimited access to IAPP online training

Rob is an international student at UMSI with a background in law and business administration from De La Salle University and Far Eastern University in the Philippines. As a U-M student, Rob is pursuing dual degrees in law and information science, allowing him to specialize in data privacy from a legal, technical and ethical perspective. 

The reason why I wanted to do privacy in the U.S. is because it's an emerging field,” he says. “There's a lot of opportunities to help shape the future and the environment of privacy protection in the U.S.” 

Rob initially became interested in privacy and the laws around privacy while doing international law and studying how countries navigate — or don’t navigate — big tech and how this impacts consumers. The field isn’t something Rob encountered in law school, so he decided to pursue his MSI. 

He says UMSI’s program and its flexibility in allowing students to take classes in other schools attracted Rob. 

“What I like about UMSI is that it's not purely theoretical,” he says. “How do you work with clients? How do you apply what you’ve learned? What’s different about UMSI is we have clients, we’re able to execute projects, we get feedback.” 

Schaub’s privacy in information technology (SI540) course helped Rob think about information privacy both from a law and user design perspective, solidifying Rob’s interest in the field. 

“In class, we addressed the ethical use of data,” he says. “For example, if you believe people should be able to control what information they give to companies, and companies should be able to address this, then how, as technologists, can we facilitate this for a better society? How do we listen more, how do we think about user experience, how do we develop products that address what customers want. It’s a consumer centric approach that is empowering to users” 

After graduating from UMSI in 2023, Rob is interested in working with tech companies as a consultant and helping them think about cyber security and data privacy and protecting from a UX perspective. 

“Receiving the Westin Scholar Award is very validating,” he says. “This award encourages me as a data privacy professional and motivates me to continue exploring innovative ways - technologically and administratively - to protect our personal data.”

Learn more about the Westin Scholar Awards.

Connect with Rob on LinkedIn.