Professor Thomas A. Finholt, a member of the University of Michigan faculty since 1991, has been appointed dean of the School of Information.

His appointment, approved Thursday by the Board of Regents, takes effect May 1 and runs through June 30, 2021. 

Thomas Finholt

Finholt, a professor and associate dean in SI, has served as interim dean since July 2015. He replaces former dean Jeffrey MacKie-Mason, who left the university to become the University of California, Berkeley’s university librarian.

“Tom combines a clear vision for the School of Information with an impressive ability to build research and educational programs that are among the best in the field,” says Provost Martha E. Pollack.

“He has been an effective leader in every position he has held. We are delighted he will serve as dean and confident that under his leadership the school will be a hub of innovative ideas, strong scholarship and engaged faculty and students.”

Finholt joined U-M in 1991 as an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology. From 1997-2009, his appointments from assistant research scientist to research professor resided in the School of Information.

In 2009, he was appointed professor in SI. Finholt was a co-founder and then director of the Collaboratory for Research on Electronic Work.  Starting in the mid-1990s and continuing for 20 years, CREW pioneered the study of human-computer interaction in organizational settings, including research on many applications that are now commonplace, such as videoconferencing and shared document editing.

His previous roles in the school include associate dean for research and innovation (2006-10), senior associate dean for faculty (2010-12), senior associate dean for academic affairs (2012-15), acting dean (2013) and interim dean (2015-16).

“I am inspired by the opportunity to lead the School of Information and I’m grateful to continue to work with the school’s faculty, staff and students to help people use information with technology to build a better world,” Finholt says.

“UMSI has never faced a greater moment for broad impact given the number and importance of issues that lie at the intersection of people, information and technology — and the strength of the school’s faculty and academic programs.”

Finholt received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Swarthmore College and a doctorate in social and decision sciences from Carnegie Mellon University.  Prior to completing his Ph.D., he held a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

His research focuses on the design, deployment and use of cyberinfrastructure in science and engineering. He was a co-developer of the world’s first operational virtual observatory, the Upper Atmospheric Research Collaboratory, which was a finalist in the science category for the 1998 Smithsonian/Computerworld awards.

He also helped develop several other key systems for scientific discovery over the internet, including the Space Physics and Aeronomy Research Collaboratory and the George E. Brown Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation.

More recently, Finholt has examined the energy signature of maintaining social networks, how ultra-resolution collaboration technology has accelerated research on “next generation civil infrastructure,” and how federal data policies create friction that impedes data sharing.

Since 1992, Finholt has been the principal investigator on grants totaling more than $8 million, and a co-principal investigator on grants totaling more than $9 million, predominantly from NSF. Finholt has co-authored some 50 refereed articles, chapters and conference proceedings.