iSchool Impact Award Honors BLISTS

Jason Mills’95, G’96, Myra Miller ’95, Lisa Lindsay ’93, and Anthony Percival ’95 G’96. Photo credit: Trevor M. John @mrjohn_son

Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies has awarded a 2021 Impact Award to the Black and Latinx Information Science and Technology Support Club (BLISTS). Founded in 1992 by Jason Mills ’95, G’96, Myra Miller ’95, Lisa Lindsay ’93, and Anthony Percival ’95, G’97, BLISTS has been a source of support for iSchool students of color for nearly 30 years. Through mentoring, networking, and opportunities to learn and grow, BLISTS has transformed from a student club to a community of students and alumni, coming together to support each other.

It all started as a study group formed by a few students of color to help them through challenging courses and navigate a changing curriculum. Over time, it developed into a support group that created opportunities for Black and Latino/a students within information management and technology, formally becoming BLISTS in spring 1993.

“Our membership was fairly in line with any incoming class of Blacks and Latinos,” recalls Miller. “We easily communicated with 30-plus students our first year. And by the time we were in our senior year, it was well over 100.”

While BLISTS continued to support Black and Latino/a students at the iSchool, the founding members didn’t want the much-needed mentorship and support to stop after graduation. As Black and Latino/a iSchool graduates entered the workforce, they still faced challenges and could benefit from a network to offer guidance. Around 1998, the group began hosting annual alumni conferences to provide alumni with the opportunity to connect and keep the network growing.

“People change in their adult career probably four or five times, and keeping those connections is extremely important,” says Miller. “We not only reach back to the younger generations and the students on campus, but we also make sure we are looking out for one another in our alumni circle as well. I’m extremely proud of that.”

In 2018, BLISTS held a combination celebration/conference to commemorate 25 years. Mills, by then a veteran tech entrepreneur, gave the keynote address. “I’m most appreciative of the love, unity and connection that has continued on that’s been self-driven,” he said. “We’ve never had to come back and force BLISTS to be, BLISTS has just existed from the pure drive that all of you have had over the years.”

Today, BLISTS continues as a student-run organization focused on educating Black, Latinx, and other students about information science and technology. The name has evolved to the Black and Latinx Information Science and Technology Society and is working to expand its impact by helping start chapters on other college campuses. As of October, 10 schools had expressed interest.

“We’ve been acknowledged in many ways before, but the fact that [BLISTS] continues to grow is absolutely overwhelming,” says Miller of the Impact Award. “When we were students, we didn’t have anyone that we could reach out to who had these experiences,” says Miller. “Of course, 25 years later, the school is fully established and widely known, but it’s still critical to make sure we offer a hand or an opportunity to any of the students. We have built this organization, this community, this family, and we want to make sure that no matter where or how far our tentacles reach, we are always connected.”

Photo: Jason Mills’95, G’96, Myra Miller ’95, Lisa Lindsay ’93, and Anthony Percival ’95 G’96. Photo credit: Trevor M. John @mrjohn_son.