Saturday, December 18, 2010

End of Year Update from the Trenches (Area Dean News)

I last posted on Lance's blog about two months ago, so it seems a good time for an update.

My class is (hooray!) finished.  I've sent out grades to the students, and just have to record them in the system.  (Last chance for students to complain.)  This is my survey/seminar/project class, and (as is often the case) there were a number of projects this year that I think have potential to turn into papers.  Some of the students will do it on their own, and some I'll try to help along.  I admit I'm a bit hesitant to see the class reviews -- I feel I didn't put in as much time into the class as usual, because administration now sucks up more of my time.  We'll see if the students felt the same.  (Historically, "Area Deans" have not had teaching relief, but the position has changed some with it seems more responsibility now assigned to the role -- so I think of myself as a test case for whether someone can/should teach while doing the job.)   

Much of my Area Dean time has gone toward hiring and reviews/promotions.  On the down side, we've had to cope with one of our faculty members leaving (see Matt's blog -- my post and his -- if you're interested and weren't aware).  On the plus side, this made our requests for targeted future hiring much more acceptable across the School of Engineering.  (I'm not saying our future hiring plans weren't already largely supported, but our needs were really highlighted.)  Obviously, besides the fact that we're currently running a search, there's not much I can publicly report on hiring right now -- but hopefully we'll have some interesting news going forward.

Other administrative duties have included doing my small bit to make sure our CS 50 Fair went smoothly.  CS 50 is our intro course, taught by the ever-energetic David Malan, and had over 500 students this year.  Students do final projects, and at the fair students set up their laptops, and amid popcorn, cupcakes, music, and balloons show their projects off to each other, to fellow students, and to anyone else who wants to come by (including companies who set up recruiting tables).  With 500+ students, this year required three shifts over the day.  Some writeups on the fair are here and here (with videos!), and many projects are available via links at the class web site.  The fair, now it's in third year, has become quite the winter event.  While all the credit for the great success of this event is David's, I viewed it as my job this year to help, by doing what I could to get administrative barriers out of David's way.  (So I helped get the budget increased, for example.  I'm the administrator as offensive lineman.)

Research-wise, I think I've successfully increased the pace from a few months ago.  Various old items have now made it or are making it through the final stages of the pipeline.  Some re-submissions have taken place.  New projects are now going on.  I'm definitely relying on co-authors and students to push me along -- the research has been a bit more "responsive" than "reflective" -- but I'm happy to be keeping up on research stuff too.  I've also continued doing some side consulting -- some of it is research-oriented, and some of it isn't (some expert witness stuff).  

Some fun, "educational" writing has recently come out.  I have a chapter in Algorithms Unplugged, which is the English translation of the book Taschenbuch der Algorithmen.  This is a version of my "dream book" of a computer science book geared for high school students, that I blogged about long ago (old post on it here with other links to other older posts).  The editors asked me for a chapter for the English translation, and I took one I had written for the dream book, and they included it (with minor edits).  I'm getting my copy soon -- the book, I hear, is about to be released -- and then I'll spring it on my kids to see how good it is.  I also have a little writeup on Human-Guided Search in XRDS -- the ACM Magazine for Students, talking about some of our long-ago work on the subject.

So roughly 6 months down on my administrative stint.  Again, not that I'm counting.  The job is actually just fine -- thanks to both really supportive faculty, and a supportive Dean of the School of Engineering.  I always have the feeling that everyone is trying to make this job easier for me, and they're doing a very good job of it.