The University Record, March 25, 2002

Program offers CARAT solutions to non-traditional fields

By Kara Bomzer, Record Intern
and Karen Dickinson, ITCS

The Collaboratory for Advanced Research and Academic Technologies (CARAT) has teamed up with Rackham Information Technology (IT) for an innovative pilot program.

The CARAT/Rackham program seeks to develop innovative uses of technology in areas that traditionally have not had IT applications—such as humanities, social sciences and cross-disciplinary areas.

Kerry Larson, senior associate dean in Rackham Graduate School and associate professor of English, says this CARAT/Rackham fellowship program allows a venue for “faculty and graduate students to come together and pursue projects whose use of IT promises to reshape expectations about the applicability of digital media to a wide variety of disciplines.”

A variety of projects are being developed, each consisting of a mentor and mentee working together. Larry Gant, associate professor of social work, is paired with Carla Stokes, graduate student in public health, on one such project. Gant and Stokes are working on a Geographic Information System (GIS) project with applications for health promotion, health education, and planning and delivery of community-based health services. They worked with the Detroit Health Department to explore the efficiency of GIS in this area. GIS allows users to perform very difficult or time consuming spatial analyses. The technology, if successful, will improve sharing of data for community health.

Daniel Brown, associate professor at the School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE), is paired with Jiunn-Der Duh, SNRE graduate student. They are working to extend a National Science Foundation (NSF) incubation grant with “Integrating Interactive Geographic Information Technologies with Online Collaborative Environments for the Study of Society-Environment Interactions.” This project aims to create an environment using existing tools, such as U-M WorkTools and ESRI’s Internet Map Server ArcIMS, to easily and freely share GIS data over the Internet.

Gant says that the multidisciplinary aspect of the program allows students and mentors to “convene a common dialogue around the use of technology among students and faculty from five such diverse schools.” Jiunn-Der Duh agrees. “Information Technology could be perceived and used in so many innovative ways; it stimulates my creativity and imagination,” Duh says.