Mary Lou Soffa's Reflections
When our department moved into Rice Hall Information Technology Building last summer, it was the culmination of a long-held vision. For years we’d been imagining a new home for the department, a state-of-the-art facility that would be optimized for collaboration. Now, nine months later, I’m pleased to report that we have fully settled into our new surroundings and are reaping the benefits. The intentional design of Rice Hall’s hallways and common areas gives students a place to congregate and work together. These architectural features also spur dialogue and creativity by making it easy for faculty and students to meet and connect.
But we’re not done yet. We’re continuing to make investments in equipment and programs to fortify our already strengthened position as a leader in research. Undergraduate laboratories have been upgraded with new equipment, including eight high-end graphics/parallel workstations. We’ve added 42 new tablets to support new courses focusing on mobile devices and human communication interfaces. And you’ll want to read in this web-only edition of the CS News about how one of our undergraduates is using the new Microsoft XBOX Kinect systems we’ve acquired to aid in Cued Speech with those who are deaf.
After a successful pilot program last fall, we’ll soon be rolling out a new service learning practicum that will give undergraduates the opportunity to apply their skills for organizations in the community. Through the course, student teams will provide service and support to local nonprofits, addressing technical challenges while meeting the requirement that the projects must positively affect the community.
As a department, our priorities are to continue to attract the best faculty and most promising graduate students, increase the representation of women and minorities, and expand our research mission in support of SEAS’s strategic vision. So many of the advances we’ve made in recent years — especially the outstanding new facility we have here in Rice Hall — can be tied directly to the generous support of our alumni. Thank you so much for your continued engagement and investment in the student learning experience. It’s truly strengthening the department and making an impact.
Mary Lou Soffa
Owen R Cheatham Professor and Chair