Tapia earns 2017 Community Engagement and Scholarship Award

April 04, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Andrea Tapia, associate professor of information sciences and technology in the College of Information Sciences and Technology, has received the 2017 Penn State Award for Community Engagement and Scholarship.

The award recognizes a project that best exemplifies Penn State as an “engaged institution,” which the Kellogg Commission defines as an institution that has redesigned teaching, research, and extension and service functions to become even more sympathetically and productively involved with its communities.

Tapia’s work has addressed critical social problems facing the world today including emergency response, social and economic development and scientific coordination. Her work includes detailed studies of social problems with a specific focus on the implementation, uses and effects of information and communication technologies related to social issues.

Tapia developed a course called Crisis Informatics, which brings students to the 911 Dispatch Center, the Emergency Operations Center, local ambulance and emergency medical services and fire and police services. Through these real-life learning experiences, students get an in-depth and up-close look at the communication needs of each organization. Later, students are tasked with designing solutions for these organizations’ communications challenges.

“This interaction between the students and the potential end users of communications tools is eye-opening for both the students and the practitioners,” said a nominator. “The practitioners are able to provide useful feedback to the students, and students expose the practitioners to innovative solutions for real-world problems.”

For lessons on dealing with large-scale disasters, Tapia brings in speakers from organizations such as the United Nations, NetHope and The Red Cross headquarters in Geneva.

Using funds from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Tapia also partnered with the Organization for Tropical Studies in Central America and the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden in China for research focused on enabling the use of mobile technologies for public participation in sustainability, biodiversity and conservation efforts.

“These efforts are an example of research being driven by and impacting public policy,” said a nominator. “Tapia’s work has contributed directly to the policymaking bodies of the United Nations, the Obama Administration and the largest international relief and development organizations.”

Tapia also lent her expertise during the Ebola crisis, using an NSF grant to identify unique network structures and barriers that exist during crisis coordination during a disaster. Influencing science and 53 publications and presentations resulted from this work, a nominator said.

“Tapia has contributed to the solution of one of the stickiest problems facing disaster response organizations: the inability to take advantage of an abundance of citizen-produced social media data,” said a nominator. “Her work has made a direct contribution to practice by enhancing the ability of crisis responders to make use of crowd-sourced data with a high level of confidence.”

  • Andrea Tapia, associate professor of Information Sciences and Technology at Penn State.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 04, 2017