My MSIM Application Essay

While I have posted snippets of my application essay for the MSIM program before, I’ve never actually posted the whole thing, and it occurred to me that this might make for interesting reading.  So here it is!

Peter Ellis, Application Essay for the Master of Science in Information Management Program
University of Washington – Seattle, January 2007

As a college freshman, I became aware of the interconnectivity of the world.  It is far from coincidence that many of those connections are expressed and explored through the exchange of information.  It is only recently, though, that I have realized that much of my work at the college level has been an effort to assist myself and others with visualizing and describing how the information they present should be organized.  As a writing tutor at Evergreen, my job was to reach a better understanding of information, its roots, and its connection to other ideas and facts; realizing a better organization and distribution of the Writing Center’s informational documents is my vision as the Center’s Information Technology Manager this year.

But what is information?  Certainly, there are textbook definitions, but I think of information as collective knowledge passed on by some form of communication.  Information can persist, but not without some method of recording it.  Information necessarily must be interpreted via communication, in addition to being conveyed through such means.  Without a method to interpret what is provided, potentially invaluable resources can be lost forever.  Worse than the loss of information is the loss of information’s meaning.

It is important to remember that information and information technologies are not inextricably linked.  Though information should survive without modern information technologies to manage it, the inverse is not true.  Modern information technologies serve to make the collection and dissemination of information far more efficient, and also make available new methods of manipulating information; still, it is the information itself that is key, and one must not lose sight of this.

Information management has been my work in some form since high school, but communicating information has been a lifelong pursuit.  As a person who wears hearing aids, I have found a natural affinity with the written word and the Internet as a communications medium.  Perhaps because, for me, there are fewer barriers in understanding via instant messaging, that is how I have found myself regularly communicating with others.  My desire to understand more about information stems – at least in part – from this experience.

I have found that information management is not just about the approach, but about the ethical and professional handling of information.  Without a clear and objective preservation and organization of the information crucial to organizations, and without a clear eye towards how such information should be presented, managed, and used, the process of preserving information for future use becomes a losing battle.  As a writing tutor who worked with students to discover meaning in their writing, I allowed them to realize the importance of knowing how what they tried to present should be organized and stated in a clear, concise manner.

As I shifted into my role as Information Technology Manager, I became the steward of digital copies of resources vital to the Writing Center’s daily operation, ranging from publicity documents to yearly statistics reports.  I find myself now in the position of drafting policy and recommendations about how the Center’s computer resources should best be organized, and also writing grant proposals to support that work.  My work on a digital archive of past and present Center documents, as well as my work on a customized appointment system for the Writing Center, has given me a far greater understanding of the centrality of information in work environments.

With this experience, I find myself considering another major interest of mine: sustainability.  Since my freshman year of college, I have been fascinated by this subject, particularly the issue of sustainable economics.  I have found, though, that there is very little baseline by which to measure corporate commitment to sustainable principles.  My experience with information is not yet broad or deep enough to understand well what it takes to measure sustainable performance.  I hope to apply my work in information management to construct a method of assessing companies by their commitment to sustainability.  I envision allowing everyone the ability to understand where corporations stand in relation to implementing more ecologically friendly approaches to business.

When I examined the MSIM program, I was surprised to find a profound intersection between my personal beliefs and the program’s identity statement.  I have made a point of ensuring that all the work I have done to date is human-centered and advances the ability of organizations and people to work not only more intelligently, but more efficiently.  I also have an interest in how information (or the lack of it) can influence everyday action on personal and organizational levels.  My personal mantra – though I have only consciously realized this recently – is that everything is interconnected; without information, those connections can be hard to articulate or even see.