Fifteen new universities and colleges join New America’s Public Interest Technology University Network

Press Release
Feb. 24, 2020

Fifteen colleges and universities have joined the Public Interest Technology University Network (PIT-UN), bringing the total membership to 36 in the Network’s 2nd year. The expansion of the Network reflects New America’s ongoing commitment to work with higher education to build the field of public interest technology by growing a new generation of civic-minded technologists and digitally fluent policy leaders.

New members of PIT-UN include Boston University, Cal Poly State University, Cornell University, George Washington University, Georgia State University, Nazareth College, New York University, Rochester Institute of Technology, UC Santa Cruz, University of Arizona, University of Pennsylvania, University of the South, University of Washington, Virginia Tech, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

The Network seeks to equip tomorrow’s computer scientists, information architects, engineers, data scientists, designers, lawyers, policy experts, and social scientists with the skills to create public policy that centers the needs of people and their communities. These fifteen new members join their colleagues from the previous year in recognizing the special obligation of colleges, universities, and institutions of higher learning—where many tech and policy leaders are trained—to ensure that future leaders and innovators consider, evaluate, and consciously address the social, political, and economic dimensions of technological innovations.

The following quote can be attributed to Anne-Marie Slaughter, CEO of New America:

“Last year, we successfully launched the Public Interest Technology University Network with 21 charter members. Many had already begun their own efforts to educate students at the cross section of technology and policy through certificate programs, joint degrees, new majors, institutes, and schools. Yet, the work of transforming their educational institutions is a long, isolating, and arduous task, operating at a pace ill-suited for the dramatic changes wrought by technology. However, these 36 colleges and universities have committed to working together to address society’s most pressing problems through the rigorous and thoughtful application of the best tools developed by the best minds at their institutions. As a Network, they are then poised to leverage and amplify the most effective models for the broader community to adopt.”

The following quote can be attributed to Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation and a founding sponsor of PIT-UN:

“We are delighted to partner with these colleges and universities to build the field of public interest technology and cultivate a generation of tech leaders equipped to use technology to challenge inequality in all its forms and expand inclusion and opportunity. This remarkable collaboration sets a precedent for the type of partnerships that will be essential in tackling new and enduring problems such as poverty, discrimination, and environmental degradation that plague our society and require the full commitment of institutions to make lives better for all.”

PIT-UN members commit to launching or strengthening initiatives on their campuses that:

  • Support curriculum development and faculty hiring needed to provide students with interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary education, so they can critically assess the implications of new technologies and develop technologies in service of the public good.
  • Develop experiential learning opportunities, such as clinics, internships, and fellowships at the intersection of technology and public interest.
  • Find new ways to encourage and support graduates who pursue careers in public interest technology, recognizing that financial considerations and debt pose barriers to entering the field.
  • Provide faculty with the infrastructure, support, and resources to build this nascent area of inquiry and training.
  • Share institutional data that allows the network to assess the effectiveness of efforts to develop the field of public interest technology.

They join a group of charter members already working together through Network projects, including a Public Interest Tech Case Study platform collaboration between Howard, Georgetown, and Stanford universities; University of Texas at Austin and University of Michigan’s joint conference and online community of undergraduate researchers and educators in informatics education; and Harvard University’s network of technology science educators and researchers exploring the adverse consequences of technologies for society.

Collaboration between members of the Public Interest Technology University Network is made possible by its partners in the philanthropic and public policy sectors, including the Ford Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, and New America, a think and action tank dedicated to renewing America in an age of rapid technological and social change. New America will manage the network, providing technical support and assistance and advising on how to enhance the exchange of information and resources between network members.

The Public Interest Technology University Network will have a fall 2020 enrollment period for universities and colleges who are interested in becoming members in 2021. Learn more here.