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Building the NYU Alliance for Public Interest Technology

Building the NYU Alliance for Public Interest Technology

Public Interest Technology University Network Projects

Member/Grantee

New York University

Author

Charlton McIlwain, vice provost for Faculty Engagement and Development

The NYU Alliance for Public Interest Technology (NYU Alliance) is a dynamic and multidisciplinary group of NYU faculty, administrators, and staff who are experts on the responsible and ethical creation, use, and governance of technology in society. The alliance is sponsored by NYU’s Center for Faculty Advancement, whose mission is to facilitate faculty research, teaching, and ability to make a significant and lasting impact in the communities across the globe with whom we work.

At the Public Interest Technology University Network (PIT-UN) 2020 Annual Convening, Charlton McIlwain, vice provost for Faculty Engagement and Development, discussed in detail the steps listed below that led to the formation of the NYU Alliance for PIT across the university. The alliance sits in the provost’s office of the Center for Faculty Advancement and aligns with one of NYU’s institutional missions around faculty advancement. 

Convening & Imagining

A steering committee, composed of 16 faculty across NYU, began to engage over a core idea:

  • What could we do if we connect all of the faculty doing PIT work across the university?
  • What would that look like, and how could that help define NYU’s institutional commitments and profile with respect to our approach to research and teaching about technology?

Auditing & Scoping PIT at NYU

The steering committee was able to identify 80-100 existing PIT faculty across the university. It also surveyed and developed crosscutting themes in faculty work.

  • Leveraged research from our research & development department to develop a database of funders and funded research and other activities by identified PIT faculty.
  • Identified current PIT initiatives (whether named as such or not) taking place across the university, especially those associated with allied research and practice centers.
  • Identified key leaders across the university whose connections to either PIT-related work at the university or work with key constituencies (faculty and students) would be beneficial to our work. This hub and a distributed network allowed the alliance to engage in and manage the five PIT-UN field-building areas.

Organizational
Structuring

  • Agreed on a centralized model for organizing PIT work that would aid in building out an infrastructure for sustainable, cross-university PIT work.
  • Formed an advisory board of key people drawn from the discovery work in Step 2.
  • Formed and named the organization NYU Alliance for Public Interest Technology.
  • Applied for PIT-UN membership.
  • Invited PIT faculty to join the organization as alliance associates.
  • Embedded the alliance in the Office of the Provost, with the Center for Faculty Advancement, which has a faculty/community engagement mission.

“Embedding the organization within the provost office and our hub for faculty advancement gives us the prerogative to connect to and collaborate with and mobilize the resources of other offices across the institution, as well as institutional leaders to collaborate to do PIT.”

CHARLTON MCILWAIN

Catalyzing
PIT Work

  • Developed an NYU Alliance mission document that included key clusters of PIT-related work our faculty were most interested in pursuing collectively. These included PIT work associated with artificial intelligence, data, civil rights and justice, and education.

  • Applied for and received two PIT-UN challenge grants focused on building capacity for PIT work among faculty and students. Catalyzed a new initiative called the Algorithmic Advisory Alliance, a consultancy that leverages the expertise across the NYU Alliance to benefit private and public sector organizations grappling with challenges related to the fair, ethical, and equitable design and deployment of computing technology.

Visioning
& Expanding

A steering committee, composed of 16 faculty across NYU, began to engage over a core idea:

  • What could we do if we connect all of the faculty doing PIT work across the university?
  • What would that look like, and how could that help define NYU’s institutional commitments and profile with respect to our approach to research and teaching about technology?

Latest Alliance Projects

Career Fair PIT-UN
Challenge 2021

A 1.5 Day Event Bringing Together Undergraduate and Graduate Students with PIT Organizations and PIT Faculty

Public Interest
Technology Institute

A 2-Week Virtual Conference For Early and Mid-Career Faculty Who Seek to Accelerate TheIr Work in PIT 

Divergent
Spaces

Digital Platforms, Gentrification, and Neighborhood Organizing During Covid-19 In New York City