The College of Computing and Informatics (CCI) is celebrating 20 years of innovation in thinking, teaching, and engaging with the world. Twenty years ago, Chancellor James Woodward foresaw how computing was fundamentally transforming all key human enterprises: education, scientific inquiry and discovery, health care, communication, and transportation. This warranted a dedicated college housing two departments dedicated to the science of computing and to the design and use of computing systems. A few years later, he added the Department of Bioinformatics and Genomics, thus combining our electronic, information, and biological worlds. Interestingly, the continuous osmosis between these three spaces and the blurring of boundaries between them may very well be the most important signature of our times.
Dr. Mirsad Hadzikadic, was the inaugural Dean for the college and made social good an integral part of the mission of CCI. He was followed by Dr. Yi Deng, whose legacy includes the Data Science Initiative.
The genesis of our college, its people, and its enduring footprint, continue to be a source of inspiration and a cause for pride and humility.
Three major enduring themes emerge in examining our history: Curiosity, Action and Care. These themes will also shape how we navigate our future.
The production and dissemination of knowledge are our business. We nurture expertise in our faculty, develop competence in our students, and contribute to our communities through impactful research and meaningful engagement. For 20 years, CCI has been distinct, not only through its immediately visible outcomes, but as importantly, in its focus on the important issues of our times in a rapidly changing world. Our students graduate competent, ready to be immediately productive, but they also graduate with the desire and the capacity to learn and innovate throughout their lives. The specific technologies and skills they learn may become outdated, their curiosity and intrinsic motivation will endure them for life. Our researchers and faculty are attracted to CCI for its success and reputation, but as importantly, they are attracted to CCI for its culture of curiosity and love of exploration and innovation. The faculty and staff we attract and retain continue to reshape and define our culture keeping it rooted in our values and focused on our collective future.
Knowledge and understanding are their own reward; they satisfy a deep human need to question, discover, and create. In CCI we strongly believe that knowledge must also compel us to act; we believe that with knowledge comes the responsibility to use it to light the way and improve the quality of all lives, present and future. It is our collective responsibility to understand the grand challenges and disrupt and reverse them; it is our collective responsibility to discover and design alternative models and processes that are sustainable, equitable, and mindful of the present and the future. CCI has a tradition of transcending disciplinary boundaries, collaborating with all other disciplines with a focus on actions and actionable outcomes. We are proud of this tradition and will continue to nurture it and expand it in everything we do. Throughout this year, we will highlight success stories of impactful actions of CCI’s first 20 years, and create a vision for action for the next 20. Beyond any other metric, we will continue to hold ourselves accountable for our collective impact on the significant issues of our time.
CCI has always been grounded in a strong sense of mission and unshakable commitment to social good. Recently we have formalized three values that capture CCI’s guiding compass: equity, ethical computing, and eco-centeredness. The three values capture what CCI has always stood for and will continue to do so. CCI’s commitment to equity continues to lead to extensive research and innovative practices by our faculty and staff in curriculum design, pedagogical approaches, physical spaces, student services and communications, and learning technologies. Most importantly, we are diligently working at questioning our assumptions and discovering hidden barriers based on socio-economics, gender, ethnicity, age, and other attributes. Our students, staff, and faculty come with different experiences, different assets, and different needs. We celebrate these differences, and challenge ourselves every day to make everyone reach their highest potential in a nurturing inclusive environment adopting new pedagogies, technologies, and student services.
The growing ubiquity of computing in all aspects of our lives in ways sometimes visible and oftentimes not is another challenge and opportunity for our discipline. In CCI we take the impact of the theories we formulate, the algorithms we create, the data we collect, and the systems we design very seriously. We commit to equip all of our students with the cognitive skills and the habit of mind to wrestle with ethical and social implications of computing as an integral part of their assignments, their research, and their professional practice.
The third value of CCI aligns perfectly with the theme used this year at convocation. Our sense of community is indeed a driving force in everything we do. The students we teach, the colleagues we work with, and the constituencies we serve are valued, respected, and cared for. What touches one of us touches us all. As we were shaken to our core this past spring by the tragedy that led to the loss of two lives and the disruption of many more, we were reminded of the importance of valuing every day, every interaction, and above all, every person. As we welcome a new cohort of students and welcome back returning students this fall, we must remind ourselves and everyone else of the importance of self care, the importance of physical and emotional well being of all of our students. As faculty and staff, we care about our students’ learning, health, sense of purpose and worth, and overall well being.
I am personally very excited to a year of celebration, retrospection, and prospection with all the people of CCI.
-Dean Fatma Mili