2013 Alumni Award winners announced

The School of Information will be honoring alumni Valeda Dent (MILS ’92) and Nathan Oostendorp (MSI ’09) at the Homecoming Alumni Reception and Awards Ceremony on October 4. Dent, dean of university libraries at Long Island University in New York, will be presented with the school’s 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award. Oostendorp, co-founder of the pioneering manufacturing software company Sight Machine, will be presented with the Entrepreneurial and Innovation Award.

At LIU, Dent oversees a nationally-renowned research library that serves 27,000 students and more than 600 full-time faculty members in a library system that shares more than 90,000 online journals, 200 online databases, 50,000 electronic books and 2.6 million print books.

"I am beyond thrilled to have received this award, especially knowing the caliber of SI alums who number in the thousands,” Dent said. “My experience at SI taught me that being in the profession goes well beyond what we do on a daily basis in our work lives as information professionals—we are in fact responsible for fostering the greater good and making sure that as much as possible, access to information is not bound by politics, poverty, or technology.” 

Dent’s distinguished career has seen her publish numerous articles, papers and two books, with her third book due to be published later this year. She has taught at the University of Michigan and Hunter College at both the undergraduate and graduate levels in addition to presenting research in national and international venues on the role of the rural African village library within its community. She also has written about agent technology and its application within libraries, the user experience, and the evaluation of library instruction.

Since traveling in 2004 to the tiny village of Kitengesa, Uganda, Dent has dedicated her life as a scholar and humanitarian to the people there and in similar rural African communities, exploring how access to reading material through these village libraries impacts even the youngest library users. (See a video of her adopted village and her work there.)

Recently, Dent was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship and will be teaching at Uganda Martyrs University in 2014 while continuing to research the various ways that the Kitengesa Community Library is affecting the community it serves. She hopes her work will support the development of similar village libraries elsewhere in Africa and encourage the growth of educational opportunities by increasing the focus on childhood literacy.

“My work in Africa with rural libraries and literacy was heavily influenced by what I learned as an SI student, inside and outside the classroom, and I couldn't be more humbled or proud to have been selected for this award,” Dent said.

Oostendorp’s Sight Machine is an open-source software company that utilizes Internet technologies to solve a broad array of challenges and provide consistent ease of use while reducing the cost of quality-control vision systems for manufacturing and industrial companies. 

Despite being a relatively young venture, Sight Machine was featured in The Atlantic, where the company was lauded for being “at the forefront of trying to renovate manufacturing” through mobile technology, analytics and data storage, and improvements in computer-vision technologies.

Prior to establishing Sight Machine, Oostendorp worked as a software architect for SourceForge.net and co-founded Slashdot.org, a source for technology-related news. He has developed several other successful online communities and also has worked in industrial controls.

Oostendorp’s nomination cited his innovative and entrepreneurial efforts as a reflection of what UMSI is trying to instill in the community: delivering innovative solutions to connect people, information and technology. 

"It is a great privilege to be recognized with the School of Information's Entrepreneurial and Innovation Award,” Oostendorp said. “The skills and mental infrastructure I gained as a student there put me in a strong position to co-found Sight Machine and I very strongly feel UMSI is positioned to give future leaders the capabilities they need to create enterprises that solve the world’s problems using information."

Posted on Thursday, September 12, 2013