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PIDLit Public Interest Data Literacy Initiative

What is Public Interest Data Literacy (PIDLit)?

Public Interest Data Literacy (PIDLit) weds Public Interest Technology and Data Literacy. Students who are skilled in finding, evaluating, analyzing, and using data are better equipped to serve the public good. Communities need thoughtful and well-prepared data experts who can evaluate and use data for informed decision making for the public good. The PIDLit initiative prepares students to be those data experts.

Check out our PIDLit accomplishments in just ONE YEAR!

Our PIDLit Fellow and student assistants in collaboration with the rest of the Research Data Services Department accomplished quite a lot in just one year's time! Here are some highlights:

Read our final report to our PIT-UN funder describing our many accomplishments:

Why PIDLit at Georgia State University?

Georgia State University seeks to prepare its diverse students for in-demand careers, including those in the public interest.

Our student body is richly diverse across race, ethnicity, ability, gender, and socioeconomic status. For almost a decade, Georgia State University has been ranked #1 among all not-for-profit colleges and universities in bachelor's degrees awarded to African American students.[1] In 2016, the university consolidated with the two-year Perimeter College, creating the largest university in the state of Georgia and expanding opportunities in our region for students from diverse racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds and levels of college readiness. As a result of this diversity, many Georgia State University students come from backgrounds and experiences that drive them to seek careers that will “make a difference” in their communities and their world.

The PIDLit initiative is a natural fit for Georgia State University, as it weds creating a career pipeline for our diverse students to develop the technological and data literacy skills to pursue their passion of contributing to the public good.

The following barriers currently hinder undergraduate students’ ability to find and navigate the path to public interest technology careers:

  • Lack of awareness – Standard undergraduate curriculum does not focus on building awareness of what “public interest technology” entails and what career pathways students may pursue that apply data literacy skills for the public good.
  • Lack of engagement and skills-building – Standard undergraduate curriculum rarely involves data literacy application, thus missing the chance to spark students’ interest in developing their data literacy skills for future application for the public good.

The PIDLit initiative is framed around these two primary curricular goals:

  • Building PIDLit Awareness: Increase awareness among undergraduates of potential careers in data science and public interest technology, expanding students’ career horizons
  • Building PIDLit Skills: Provide increased instruction and programs around PIDLit to undergraduates at the Atlanta campus and two-year Perimeter College, with a particular focus on historically marginalized and underrepresented groups [2] 

The Georgia State University Library's Research Data Services (RDS) Team provides support and training on a host of data analysis tools and methods and opportunities via the Data in the ATL and Data Empowered Events talks for students to network with the broader Atlanta community around real-world application of data science. We collaborate with the following campus partners to extend public interest technology opportunities for students:

  • GSU’s College to Career initiative encourages curricular enhancements that help students become aware of career competencies, connect those competencies to the work they do in the major, and demonstrate their proficiency of transferable skills.
  • GSU’s Digital Learners to Leaders (DLL) initiative organizes student-led teams that create digital solutions to real-world challenges, thereby growing students’ digital and problem-solving skills and increasing their career marketability. 
  • GSU’s Experiential, Project-based, Interdisciplinary Curriculum initiative provides GSU students with experiential learning opportunities to develop foundational technology skills to help them become adaptable problem-solvers, creating solutions to the issues they will tackle as they graduate into their professions and lives.
  • GSU’s Social Action Alliance initiative provides practice-based learning opportunities with aims to inspire and prepare the next generation of collaborators to identify wicked social problems, work across sectors and disciplines, and impact the world with innovative solutions. 

By conjoining these campus initiatives, the PIDLit initiative expands data literacy outreach to first-year students, fostering a career pipeline that is stronger and more diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, ability, gender, and socioeconomic status.


[1] Diverse: Issues in Higher Education Rankings. (2019). Retrieved from https://diverseeducation.com/

[2]  This focus on marginalized and underrepresented groups aims to address the clear lack of diversity in the data science community, especially in terms of race and ethnicity, as well as an underrepresentation of women [Business-Higher Education Forum & PricewaterhouseCoopers. (2017). Investing in America’s data science and analytics talent: The case for action. Retrieved from http://www.bhef.com/publications/investing-americas-data-science-and-analytics-talent]

Thanks to our funder, PIT-UN!

New America logo (black and white): At left is a stylized flag image similar to United States flag, with a circle in top left corner where US flag stars normally appear and alternating black and white stripes (three black, 2 white); At right says NEW AMERICA with NEW stacked on top of AMERICAThe Year 2021 PIDLit initiative was funded in the amount of $150,681 by the Public Interest Technology University Network (PIT-UN), which is convened by New America, the Ford Foundation, and the Hewlett Foundation. The network and challenge grants are funded through the support of the Ford Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, Mastercard Impact Fund, with support from the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, The Raikes Foundation, Schmidt Futures, and The Siegel Family Endowment.

The PIDLit Fellow and Co-Directors

The Year 2021 PIDLit initiative PIDLit Fellow and Co-Directors:

  • Ashley Rockwell, PIDLit Fellow (now our Data Literacy & Learning Specialist), Georgia State University Library
  • Bryan Sinclair, Associate Dean for Public Services, Georgia State University Library 
  • Dr. Mandy Swygart-Hobaugh, Department Head for Research Data Services, Georgia State University Library