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Heinz College: 2021 Year in Review

Dear Heinz College Community,

This was quite a year! We accomplished a great deal, overcame obstacles, and found much to celebrate. Being back in Hamburg Hall this semester and feeling the energy of our students in our halls and classrooms has been a true joy. But our return to campus didn't happen by accident! I first want to applaud Carnegie Mellon's COVID-19 response team for leading the effort that has allowed us to resume, with confidence, most in person classes and research activity - not to mention some of the social activities we missed so much last year. I also must applaud the Heinz College staff and faculty whose effort was truly heroic in figuring out how to operate our programs, simultaneously, online and in person.

Last December, when I wrote this year-end message for 2020, we were living in a different world. We were grappling with both the personal and professional toll the year had taken. If 2020 was a year marked by disconnection and resilience, 2021 was a year defined by reconnection and triumph. The pandemic is far from over, but we are better equipped to deal with the challenges that will come our way. The pandemic and its amplification of social inequity in our country has also reminded us, quite dramatically in some cases, of how important our work is. Our mission of using data for social good and leveraging advanced technology, social science, and analytics to shape policies that will improve quality of life has taken on greater relevance and urgency than ever before.

Greater connection to policy makers in Washington, D.C. and beyond

On the policy front, I worked with the Atlantic Council on a landmark report on the Geopolitical Impacts of New Technologies and Data, commissioned by Congress and co-chaired by Senators Mark Warner of Virginia and Rob Portman of Ohio, with Representatives Suzan DelBene of Washington and Michael McCaul of Texas. Our Commission’s report provides critical, implementable solutions to support and sustain both the digital and analog economies, ensure our national competitiveness and strengthen our security in an increasingly connected world. I was also honored to be invited by the Government Accountability Office to speak during their centennial celebration on the role of technology and analytics in the future of accountability and oversight.

Other highlights from the policy arena include Professor Christopher Goranson serving on President Biden’s transition team; a student capstone project team working with the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development to build and implement an Innovation Economy Dashboard that is already being utilized in policy decisions; Professor Lee Branstetter serving on a National Academy committee on the security of America's medical supply chain, and Professor Kristen Kurland's election to the National Academies Mapping Science Committee. Several others testified to Congress and the PA State legislature this year:

We also launched the Trillion Dollar Questions policy series which has garnered the attention of legislators and civic leaders. The series features conversations between top academic experts and prominent journalists on urgent policy issues such as repairing the U.S. health care system and energy and climate policy. This series is a perfect example of why we do what we do - to have a practical, data-driven impact on our country and the world.

Ambassador Sarah Mendelson, head of Heinz College in D.C., has worked tirelessly to promote the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at every level - here at CMU, in our local communities and in cities across the world. She has been recognized as a global leader in this area and was named as a Senior Fellow by the Brookings Institution. CMU recently completed its second Voluntary University Review of the SDGs, which places the university at the forefront in sustainability. Sarah also led a wonderful speaker series called "Democracy Now and Next" focused on advancing democracy and countering authoritarianism.

Expanding Academic Programs

Here on campus, we’ve expanded our suite of executive education programs, hosting the inaugural cohorts of our newly launched Chief Data Officer and Chief Digital Officer programs. Just as our existing executive education programs have done in the business technology, information security, and risk management spaces, the CDataO and CDigitalO programs will change the way decision-makers approach data governance and digital transformation to create value at their organizations. Our executive education office also teamed up with CMU’s Traffic21 Institute to create a groundbreaking virtual bootcamp in "Managing AI in Transportation," which was so successful we now intend to offer it annually. Our relationship with the U.S. Army also expanded, with several Army leaders studying in an executive education program we designed for them called Data Driven Leadership. We also welcomed our second cohort of young Army officers into our full-time data analytics master's program. These officers are a wonderful addition to our student body and we look forward to welcoming many more in years to come.

This is an exciting time for Heinz College in terms of our academic mission and programs, including the announcement of an undergraduate minor in Decision Analytics and Systems (DAS). The DAS minor will provide undergraduates with interdisciplinary analytics training in computing, machine learning, economics and operations research. In 2019, we welcomed the undergraduate information systems students into our community and we consider it vital to increase opportunities to educate undergraduates. More to come on this front in the near future, so stay tuned!

Partnership Matters

It was a fruitful year for partnerships. Fueled by the Heinz Endowments, CMU announced the creation of the Center for Shared Prosperity. A large part of the new Center's charge will be to reimagine the role universities play in our communities, deploying solutions for socio-economic inequities and making measurable progress toward greater economic prosperity and overall well-being of residents. The Center aims to create a new model of community-university collaboration and the Heinz College faculty are excited to bring our expertise to this collaborative effort. In response to the blight of extremist violence in the United States, CMU also entered into a partnership with the University of Pittsburgh this year to create the Collaboratory Against Hate, a research and action center. Our faculty are vigorously engaged in this effort and the center recently presented some of its early research findings at the Eradicate Hate Global Summit.

An exciting new student program called "Hacking for Homeland Security (H4HS)" exposes Heinz College students to national security challenges facing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and engages them in semester-long team-based projects to devise solutions. The partnership includes the DHS's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Transportation Safety Administration and our own CERT Division of the Software Engineering Institute. This is a truly a world-class consortium of partners and I know our students will shine.

Research Centers continue to thrive

The Block Center for Technology and Society represents one of CMU’s most important evolutions in its history. Through the generosity of Heinz alumnus and CMU trustee Keith Block, the center built a very capable staff this year and launched nine faculty research projects focused on the impact of technology on citizens, and especially on the economically vulnerable. Perhaps the most important innovation of the Block Center has been its research approach. The Block Center's staff are expert in connecting faculty research to the policy makers and pundits who will most benefit. Last year, they convened faculty teams to assist PA Governor Wolf on reopening the economy and this year they are convening faculty experts to advise Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm on smart approaches to decarbonization. We are confident that 2022 will bring more innovation and policy impact.

Metro21: Smart Cities Institute and Mobility21 National University Transportation Center both earned significant federal funding this year. Metro21 received a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop zero-emissions curbside management in Pittsburgh; Mobility21 announced $2.8 million in additional funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation. We all look forward to the vital research and innovations fueled by these awards. Metro21 also hosted a fascinating seminar series on Justice and Technology, which has spurred much community interest.

The Initiative for Digital Entertainment Analytics (IDEA) under Professors Mike Smith and Rahul Telang has continued the important work of studying the disruption of one of our country's most important exports - screen-based entertainment. The Motion Picture Association renewed its investment in this research this year, bringing the total commitment over the last decade to $12M. This is truly a testament to the confidence that the MPA has in our work and the research is also of deep interest to policy makers who want to protect intellectual property and business executives who must formulate good strategy in the digital age. It's also important to our students as an exciting source of projects and complements our Masters of Entertainment Industry Management program, based out of Los Angeles.

Corporate partner PwC increased its total investment in its research partnership with CMU to $25M. As part of this renewed commitment, we have expanded the scope of the Risk and Regulatory Innovation Center and renamed it the Digital Transformation and Innovation Center. This update began before the pandemic but could not have been more prescient as almost every organization in the world experienced digital disruption in 2021. These research centers have become such an important part of CMU and will drive excellent cross-disciplinary research for years to come.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

This year, we welcomed two colleagues who will propel our initiatives in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Heinz College and the university. Dr. Wanda Heading-Grant joined CMU as the Chief Diversity Officer and Vice Provost of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, with an appointment here at Heinz as a Distinguished Service Professor. Dr. Heading-Grant joins CMU after a 30-year tenure at the University of Vermont, where she championed similar successful efforts. We also are thrilled to welcome Dr. Dareen Basma as the Assistant Dean of Diversity, Inclusion, Climate & Equity (DICE) at Heinz College. Dr. Basma is an educator, researcher, and clinician who came to Heinz from CMU's Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS) where she provided clinical services to students and served as the DEI Initiatives and Research coordinator. Prior to coming to CMU in 2016, she had an extraordinary career of service, working as a community organizer, advocate, and clinical provider to at-risk youth and families, with a primary focus on refugees and undocumented children. Dr. Basma will ensure that our work here at Heinz is in alignment with CMU's DEI mission and values and grounded in excellence. I am delighted to welcome these colleagues to Heinz.

Along with the Center for Africanamerican Urban Studies & the Economy (CAUSE) at CMU, we hosted a virtual speaker's series, "African Americans, Health, and Policing during the Age of the Corona Virus," which highlighted racial disparities in the American justice and health care systems, featuring some of the nation’s top experts in who study these inequalities. Special thanks to Professor Joe Trotter for his leadership in curating and presenting this essential series.

Faculty Accomplishments

Several of our faculty members received high honors from the university this year. Professors Alessandro Acquisti, Rema Padman, and Rahul Telang were all awarded Trustees Professorships; an honor for faculty members who have earned the highest level of trust and commendation from the university Board of Trustees. Professors Rebekah Fitzsimmons, Christopher Goranson, and Haylee Massaro were awarded Provost’s Inclusive Teaching Fellowships for their leadership in creating inclusive classroom environments.

We also bid farewell to University Professor Joel Tarr, who is retiring from CMU. Through his friendship, leadership, and decades of scholarship on the history of urban technologies and systems, and the environmental history of cities, Joel has had an immeasurable impact on Heinz College students and faculty during his career at Carnegie Mellon, including a stint as the acting dean of Heinz College in 1986. The university is celebrating Joel's retirement and his impact on students by renaming a conference room in Baker Hall in his honor. Bravo, Joel!

As always, there are a great number of faculty awards to celebrate. Professor Dan Nagin is currently serving as President of the American Society of Criminology; Ambassador Mendelson’s work promoting the SDGs has been recognized through grants from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Packard Foundation; Professor Ananya Sen was chosen to be a Global Future Council Fellow by World Economic Forum; Professor George Chen was awarded the highly competitive and prestigious Career Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for his work applying machine learning in health care; a team including Professors Lee Branstetter, Beibei Li, and Sean Qian was given a Civic Innovation NSF Planning Grant Award, along with Metro21 Executive Director Karen Lightman and Heinz Ph.D. student Seth Chizeck, for a project to provide transportation options to low-income single mothers; Professors Alexandra Chouldechova and Rayid Ghani received NSF funding for their work in Fair AI in Public Policy; Professors Ghani, Blanton, and I also received a grant from the R.K. Mellon Foundation for a project with Allegheny County to identify people who are eligible for public benefits but do not enroll; Professor Branstetter also received a grant from the R.K. Mellon Foundation to fund an effort to use AI-driven math learning software, combined with human tutoring, to support youth learning in Pittsburgh; Professor Leman Akoglu won an IBM Early Career Award from the Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM); Professor Edson Severnini was selected as a Fellow by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Professor Padman received a grant from the National Institutes of Health for her work on the development of a digital therapy tool for chronic disease management; Professor Gabriela Gongora-Svartzman was elected Secretary of the Women in OR/MS Board of INFORMS; Professor Akshaya Jha won the Young Professional Research Award from the United States Association for Energy Economics; Professor Felix Koenig was awarded the 2021-2022 Wimmer Faculty Fellowship from the Wimmer Family Foundation; Best Paper awards went to Professors Acquisti (Management Science) and Padman (Association of Information Systems SIGHealth); and Professor Li and I were finalists for Best Paper of the year from Information Systems Research, and Professors Acquisti and Sen were nominated for Best Paper at the International Conference on Web Information Systems Engineering (WISE).

Our position as THE school at the intersection of technology and public policy helped propel thousands of requests from media in 2021. Whether cyber security, remote work, or the problems of Big Tech, top outlets including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NBC, and Forbes continually seek out our experts. I want to offer special recognition to three faculty who made major recent appearances - Professor Martin Gaynor appeared in the documentary InHospitable, which recently premiered at the DOC NYC Festival; Professor Jon Caulkins appeared on The Argument, a popular debate podcast from the New York Times; and Professor Edson Severnini was a featured guest on the wildly popular Freakonomics Radio podcast.

Speaking of podcasts, we recently launched Season 4 of our acclaimed Consequential podcast, which thoughtfully examines the human side of technological change. Please subscribe to keep up with new episodes as they are released!

In closing, I leave you with a note of gratitude. Last year, I wrote this message from my home. As comfortable as that is, I'm so thankful to be back sitting behind my desk at Heinz College. I can hear the rush of traffic out on Forbes Avenue. I sense the excitement and the earnest laughter of our students, faculty, and staff outside my door. This place has such a heartbeat, and history, and hope. It's a privilege to be part of it.

Wherever you are, wherever this note finds you, I hope that you and your loved ones are happy, healthy, and looking forward to the year ahead.


Ramayya Krishnan
Dean, Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy