In this blog series , we continue our talk with Dr. A. Joseph Turner: internationally regarded computer science authority and educator; Professor Emeritus, Clemson. The blog series started on Friday with Dr. Turner’s profile.
Stephen: Joe, you bring a substantive history of significant and considerable contribution to education, society, industry, and computing science to this interview. With your very tight schedule, we are fortunate to have your share your many deep experiences with the audience. Thank you!
Joe: Thanks for your compliments. I am pleased to participate in the interview, and I hope that I can contribute some worthwhile responses.
Stephen: You served as Professor of Information Systems from 2001 to 2003, and as Dean of the College of Information Systems from 2003 to 2004 at Zayed University in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. What insights did you pick up from this period?
Joe: I have known of people who described similar experiences as “life changing”, but I am not prone to such dramatic descriptions. However, it was a wonderful experience that affected me in many ways, and I wish that more people from North America could have a similar experience.
Zayed University is a Federal university for female citizens of the UAE, and it was very interesting to see the transition of the women students from a traditional Arabic educational background, which consists mostly of rote memorization and authoritarian teacher-student relationships, to a Western-style education while learning to learn in an English-based (second language) environment. My belief that students are basically the same everywhere, and can learn an amazing amount if properly motivated and capable, was definitely reinforced by this experience.
Perhaps more interesting than the academic experience was the cultural experience. I lived not in a compound, but in normal apartment buildings with a variety of cultural and ethnic occupants. The UAE is very progressive, and Dubai is very dynamic and modern. I received strong reinforcement to my previously-held beliefs that there is more than one side to issues such as the Israel-Palestine conflict and that neither side is completely “right”. I also came to see that there is more than one “right” way to do things, and that our (U.S.-Western) way is not always the best way in all contexts. It is discouraging that Western politicians, especially in the U.S., can’t see this or believe that they can’t afford to admit it politically.
Stephen: Can you share your experiences from your time consulting for Boeing
Joe: My consulting for Boeing involved identifying undergraduate computing programs that produced graduates with the capabilities that Boeing needed. It was interesting to see the process, in which Boeing produced a profile (specification) of its needs and then asked us to identify programs whose graduates should satisfy this profile. It is not unlike the process toward which ABET and other accreditation in the U.S. has moved, with an emphasis on student expected outcomes and measuring how well those outcomes are achieved. This experience also demonstrated how important well-qualified graduates are to industry, and how industry often takes a careful, analytical approach to making decisions about how to meet its needs.
Stephen: Can your profile your past involvement as a member of “Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR).” What did you hope to achieve? What were and still are the major issues? How should professionals rethink their roles for the coming decades?
Joe: Actually I am no longer a member of CPSR and some other organizations as well, due to my retirement and absence from the U.S. for the three years that I was in Dubai. However, this lapse in membership (and others as well) does not indicate a decrease in interest in, or appreciation for, the organization. CPSR serves as an important social conscience for the computing community and it expresses important points relevant to computer applications in general. It is essential that computing professionals recognize the social issues and potential problems of computer applications such as electronic voting and life-affecting medical processes, and CPSR, along with other organizations such as ACM and the CRA, play very important roles in bringing these important issues to the attention of computing professionals, government, and the public.
In the next blog, Joe will talk about the major challenges/trends in computing education and with accreditation plus his work as journal editor.
I also encourage you to share your thoughts here on these interviews or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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