Former IST student now prepares Penn Staters for fast-changing information age

Jessica Hallman
August 06, 2019

Editor's note: This story was originally published in the College of Information Sciences and Technology's spring 2019 issue of iConnect magazine, as part of a feature story on College of IST alumni who now serve as members of the faculty in commemoration of the college's 20th anniversary. Watch for more stories to be posted this summer.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Marc Friedenberg’s interest in the College of Information Sciences and Technology at Penn State began during a three-week residential college experience for rising high school seniors. Through that program, Friedenberg had the chance to visit the University during a field trip.

“I learned a lot from what I got during the trip in 2001,” he said. “It felt like anything was possible. Anything that you could imagine doing or being interested in, there’s a spot for it in IST. That was really appealing to me.”

Fast forward to the following year, when Friedenberg enrolled as a student in one of the first classes to go through Penn State’s then-School of Information Sciences and Technology. He ultimately earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degree simultaneously in 2006, through the college’s integrated undergraduate graduate program.

“It was an exciting time,” he said. “We were building the school, even as students.”

As a student, Friedenberg served in IST student government and as the student chairman of the school’s first Future Forum, held in 2004. That same year, he was among the first students to move into the IST building after two years of classes in Boucke.

“It was like coming home,” he said. “It was, and still is, nice to have everybody in one place.”

Friedenberg said that the community feel is the main reason that he is back at the College of IST today, now as an assistant teaching professor. He returned in 2012 to teach, following a career as a lawyer in New York City.

“The reason I went to law school is because of what I learned in IST 442 with Professor [John] Bagby,” Friedenberg said of the course, which focuses on intellectual property, patents and copyrights. “That class is what made me interested in the law in the first place. Now it’s a class that I teach at IST.”

“It’s pretty rewarding to be teaching that class,” he added. “It’s a way to honor the legacy of Professor Bagby. I really respect him.”

Now, Friedenberg is one of many College of IST professors making an impact on the next generation.

“Learning networking from Marc Friedenberg was the most useful class I ever took,” said James Hatzell, class of 2015. “I learned so much, and it helped me break through and teach myself a lot more once I understood how the internet really worked.”

Information literacy is something that Friedenberg strives to instill in his students, acknowledging that with smart devices and social media, students are exposed to significantly more material on a daily basis compared to when he was in college.

“There’s so much more information and data, and it’s important for students to have the ability to distinguish reliable versus unreliable sources,” he said. “IST is really well-positioned to help students grow the skills to make that determination. That’s something that crosses all of our majors. It’s a timeless skill.”

He put many of the skills that he learned as a student in the college to use during his career as a lawyer, when he worked to solve clients’ problems, and also in his 2018 run for Congress, when he utilized sophisticated techniques to analyze voter data in his high-tech campaign. 

While that campaign did not yield the results he’d hoped for, Friedenberg looks forward to continuing passing his knowledge to future IST students.

“We are the stewards of Penn State for however many years we’re here, then we pass it on to the next generation,” he concluded.

Last Updated January 22, 2020