UMSI Global Information Engagement Program transfers to South Africa in 2016

Eighteen graduate students from the University of Michigan will travel to Cape Town, South Africa in May to spend two months working with four local non-profit organizations on their information challenges. The majority of the students are from the School of Information, sponsor of the Global Information Engagement Program, which is now in its third year at UMSI. This is the first year in which the program takes place in South Africa; in two previous years, students worked on projects in India.

The Global Information Engagement Program offers organizations the opportunity to work collaboratively with University of Michigan master’s students to solve information, design and technological problems which have a broad societal impact in the host country. It offers students the chance to apply their professional education to real-world information challenges.

The program is directed in 2016 by faculty lead David A. Wallace, clinical associate professor, and Kelly Kowatch, associate director of engaged learning at the School of Information.

“The value of these projects is that they are co-developed with the host organization to solve an information problem,” said Wallace. “Our project host organizations take the lead in identifying a pressing information challenge and then work with GIEP instructors to scope it in a manner that leverages the skillsets UMSI and other UM graduate students can bring to solve it. In that way, we build mutually beneficial relationships with our hosts’ organizations.”

The projects and participating students are listed below.

Haven Night Shelter
The Haven Night Shelter supports the social reintegration of homeless adults, serving 1,000 clients in 15 shelters at any given time in partnership with governmental and nongovernmental organizations.

Students working with Haven will improve the group’s client registration system, which was put into place last year, and work to integrate it with confidential data while maintaining security.

Participants: Brittany Hutson (MSI), Verena Getahun (MSI), Maria Medlarz (MSI), and Bader Bajaber (MUP).

The League of Friends of the Blind
The League of Friends of the Blind (LOFOB) serves Western Cape children, youth and adults who are blind or visually impaired. Services include education and early childhood development, independence and employment support, and socio-emotional aid.

One group of students at LOFOB will work with organization staff to survey, identify, protect and mobilize the largely unmanaged archival resources LOFOB has collected over its 83 years of operation. The other group will develop an integrated information management system and associated processes to streamline the management of mission critical information using the group’s current IT and infrastructure capabilities. They will also incorporate and integrate adaptive technologies for the use of LOFOB’s visually impaired staff.

LOFOB Archive participants: Karen Fernandez (MSI), Tricia Chua (MSI),  Erika Linenfelser (MUP)

LOFOB Information management participants: Kristyn Sonnenberg (MSI), Dalton Simancek (MSI), Meng Zhang (MSI), Purva Nikhil Yardi (MSI) [not shown].

UWC-Robben Island Museum Mayibuye Archive
The Mayibuye Archive at the University of the Western Cape houses one of the largest and most important archives documenting anti-apartheid liberation struggles. The archive includes paper, film, video, oral history, art and other collections.

Students will work with staff to process materials while also developing an institutional archival processing manual with guidelines for future processing efforts.

Participants: Eve Bourbeau-Allard (MSI), Aliza Elkin (MSI),  Sarah Lebovitz (MSI)

Yabonga is an NGO serving South African families affected by HIV/AIDS in 12 township communities around Cape Town. Through support centers near local clinics, its staff works to enhance the lives and opportunities of more than 1,000 young people affected by HIV and adverse socioeconomic circumstances.

Students working with Yabonga will create an information system that can identify, track and describe interactions and outcomes for the roughly 400 young people in the program in order to provide better longitudinal services and understanding.

Participants: Lavanya Kumar (MSI), Ayshwarya Balasubramanian (MSI), Danielle Culberson (MHI), Shreyas Ramani (MHI)

[MSI -Master of Science in Information program; MHI - Master of Health Informatics program; MUP -  Master of Urban Planning program]

Posted April 8, 2016