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University of Massachusetts at Amherst

University of Massachusetts at Amherst


Francine Denise Berman and Ethan Zuckerman


Director of Public Interest Technology and Stuart Rice Honorary Research Professor; Professor of Public Policy, Communications, and Information



As the flagship public university in Massachusetts, UMass Amherst represents a diverse cohort of Massachusetts residents and provides a broad set of academic offerings. The campus includes 12 major schools and colleges spanning a broad range of domains — Nursing and Public Health, Agriculture, Management, Humanities and Fine Arts, Natural Sciences, Computer and Information Sciences, Social and Behavioral Sciences, etc. UMass Amherst attracts a diverse student body who often remain in Massachusetts to build the Commonwealth through positions in the public sector, private sector, and academia.

We believe that social responsibility must arise at all levels of our tech-driven society and in all domains, areas, and sectors. For this reason, UMass Amherst’s Public Interest Technology initiative spans all major schools and colleges. The initiative – PIT@UMass – seeks to develop a variety of educational, research, practica and outreach offerings that empower our students and the broader community with the critical thinking, expertise, and information needed to promote personal and professional social responsibility and the common good in a technology-driven world.

The PIT@UMass initiative will provide a menu of courses, undergrad and grad certificates, research opportunities, experiential learning programs, and community events. These are being developed organically with each major college and school and coordinated university-wide, so that PIT@UMass can be both relevant to specific domains, as well as synergistic across the university. We seek strong partnerships with other PIT-UN institutions, the private sector, and state and local government with the goals of building a meaningful and impactful initiative at UMass Amherst, having a positive influence on our partners and community, and working more broadly to build the nascent field of Public Interest Technology.

Educational Offerings

Classics and Informatics Data Literacy Partnership

Cultural awareness is critical to developing an inclusive public interest perspective. In partnership with a long-standing archaeological field school at Poggio Civitate, Italy and the non-profit Open Context, our project seeks to emphasize cultural awareness and social responsibility in the recruitment and training of data analysts. Three primary products will be formed from the interdisciplinary creation of a data science course that is co-located and integrated with an existing archaeological field school at Poggio Civitate. The first product is the class design itself, which satisfies both an Informatics elective requirement and a requirement for the PIT certificate at UMass. The second product will be a set of data literacy modules created by Open Context. Third, a community college faculty member will use the literacy modules to design and deliver a workshop targeting Bunker Hill Community College students in Boston. Once designed, delivered, and evaluated, this workshop design will become a model for similar future community college student recruitment events.

Principal Investigator

Michelle Trim, Senior Lecturer, Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences