Telecommunications pioneer funds two new faculty positions at U-M

A generous gift from longtime University of Michigan supporter John D. Evans will fund two new faculty positions in the School of Information (UMSI) and the Department of Communication Studies in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA).

The John D. Evans Development Chair in Information will fund a new faculty position in the School of Information, along with the John D. Evans Development Chair in LSA. The chairs will be awarded to recently tenured faculty for five years at a time, to support them as they embark on new, high-risk, innovative research programs. Evans had previously endowed a chair in media technology in 1997, which will be replaced by these positions.

"The reason I endowed these two chairs is to make sure Michigan attracts the best innovative thought leaders to research, teach, and publish in the arena of information technology, social media, and content creation, which touches all of us in our daily lives," Evans said. "How do we deal with the social issues of identity security," he continued, "making sense of big data, cyber security, and connecting all sorts of devices — 'the Internet of things' — to our networks; smart phones and computers and whether to use them to control our homes, our cars, or our daily lives? The chair recipients will span disciplines in UMSI and LSA to bring the best of both to focus on these transformative and critical issues."

The two faculty members who occupy these chairs will collaborate with one another and other faculty in both UMSI and LSA to develop new ideas in the area of digital studies at the University of Michigan, educating future leaders in media and information industries, and influencing research through a growing group of digital information scholars.

"John has been a remarkable friend and supporter of both UMSI and LSA for many years," said Jeffrey MacKie-Mason, UMSI dean. "I’ve greatly appreciated his willingness to listen and advise. With this gift, he is creating a transformative opportunity for our two units. We will consolidate and advance our position as leaders in understanding and shaping the impact of new media on individuals and society."

"John is a catalyst for doing things better. With the establishment of these two chairs and his most recent grant, he is creating a strong line of communication between LSA and the School of Information, which will allow Michigan to continue to be a leader in the study of digital media and emerging media technology," said Andrew D. Martin, Dean of LSA.

"Faculty in the Department of Communication Studies and the School of Information continue to forge stronger intellectual ties as research and teaching in both of our units focus increasingly on the impact of the ongoing digital revolution," said Susan Douglas, chair of LSA Communications Studies. "This important initiative from John Evans further enables and enhances this bridge building between us. We are excited that this gift will allow us to recruit additional faculty doing cutting-edge work on the enormous impact of digital technologies on everyday life, our culture, and society."

John D. Evans is a pioneer and internationally recognized expert in the telecommunications industry. He was one of the founders of C-SPAN in 1977, later served as its chairman, and remains active on the network’s executive committee. He is the founder of the John D. Evans Foundation, which contributes to and focuses on education, connectivity, social justice, and global health (HIV/AIDS vaccine research). In 2011, he was elected to the Internet2 Board of Trustees. He has been a member of the UMSI External Advisory Board for more than 15 years and serves on the U-M President’s Advisory Group and the College of LSA’s Dean’s Advisory Council. He is the longest serving board member of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) and was reelected in 2014.

Chartered in 1996, the University of Michigan School of Information was one of the first modern information science schools (iSchools) in the world. The school offers undergraduate, professional graduate, and doctoral programs that focus on the intersection of people, information, and technology. Among the principal areas of study are human-computer interaction, information analysis and retrieval, and social computing.  

With more than 40 programs ranked in the Top 10 nationally, the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts is at the vanguard of educating tomorrow’s leaders through a rich liberal arts curriculum and the creation of new knowledge through world-class research and scholarship.

 Posted May 14, 2015