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New ranking platform says Anne Arundel Community College has most influence, citing alumnus Edward Snowden

Aristotle was a student of Plato at the Academy In Athens.

Thousands of years later, a new website gives the student and not the teacher the ranking of most influential person in recorded history. Plato comes in third.

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While it is an interesting exercise to see which philosopher ultimately had the most influence on others centuries ago, the same algorithm is being used to track who is influencing others at modern-day academic institutions.

Academic Influence, which launched its website last year, ranks colleges and makes subject-specific recommendations to people searching for a school. The rankings are based on how often a school’s professors, students or alumni are mentioned in crowd-sourced databases like Wikipedia.

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Academic Influence ranked 839 community colleges nationwide and gave Anne Arundel Community College its highest rank. Edward Snowden, the fugitive former NSA and CIA employee and ranks as the 119th most influential person by the site, gave his former school a significant boost, said Jed Macosko, president of Academic influence.

The technology used by Academic Influence was initially developed through a $1.5 million contract from the public Defense Advanced Research Project Agency to create a platform to track the “Power of Ideas on the Internet,” or POINT.

Academic Influence’s parent company, Influence Networks, was a subcontractor to Next Century Corporation, an Annapolis Junction-based business awarded the POINT funding. The contract ended in 2019 and Influence Networks has now trademarked the platform, which it refers to as the InfluenceRanking Engine.

Macosko said it is a coincidence that that contract to develop the technology which resulted in the top ranking for AACC was awarded to a nearby business.

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Macosko said they use the InfluenceRanking Engine to look at the influence of anyone connected with an institution, in context. They add up how influential people connected to the school are based on how often they are mentioned, and then to get a school’s total influence, divide that figure by the student population.

They also only count how many times a person is mentioned in the subject that they study or research — for example, if a math professor also was the world’s tallest man, he would only get influence credit for mentions under the math subject.

Macosko said they also factor in articles and papers published by people connected to the university.

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 26: Computer security consultant Edward Snowden in connection from Russia during the Wired Next Fest 2019 at the Giardini Indro Montanelli on May 26, 2019 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Rosdiana Ciaravolo/Getty Images)
MILAN, ITALY - MAY 26: Computer security consultant Edward Snowden in connection from Russia during the Wired Next Fest 2019 at the Giardini Indro Montanelli on May 26, 2019 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Rosdiana Ciaravolo/Getty Images) (ROSDIANA CIARAVOLO/Getty Images)

Snowden is a former Crofton resident who leaked highly classified information from the National Security Agency in 2013 when he was a Central Intelligence Agency employee and computer analysis subcontractor. He currently is living in Russia and faces espionage charges in the United States.

A spokesperson for college said Snowden pursued general studies at the college from 1999 to 2005 and did not earn a degree. Macosko said his company screens out celebrities, who would have an outsized effect on the influence score, but Snowden didn’t meet that standard.

Other notable alumni whose influence factored into AACC’s top ranking are motorsports entertainer Travis Pastrana, Kotaku website founder Brian Crecente and Robin Newhouse, the dean of the Indiana University School of Nursing.

These alumni were not as highly ranked as Snowden overall. Crecente was ranked 59,993th overall, Pastrana was ranked 96,985th overall and Newhouse was ranked 1,435,888th overall.

AACC President Dawn Lindsay said the school was excited and humbled to receive the ranking.

“It affirms the work we do and the impact that our faculty, staff, students and alumni have on our community,” she said in a statement.

The second-ranked community college was Roxbury Community College in Massachusetts. Macosko said that college earned its ranking because of how often other websites linked to the Roxbury Community College Wikipedia page, which he said was unusual for the ranking system.

Baltimore City Community College was ranked 50th by the website. Alumni such as basketball player Larry Loggins and Academy-Award winning director Barry Levinson contributed to the ranking.

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