This is the next blog in the continuing series of interviews with top-echelon and renowned professionals. In this blog, I interview Dr. Maria Klawe: Distinguished, Celebrated, World-Renowned Computer Scientist, President of HMC, Board Director Microsoft Corp, past Dean of Engineering/Professor of Computer Science at Princeton University, former VP and Dean of Science at UBC in Canada.
Harvey Mudd College is led by Maria Klawe, HMC’s fifth president who began her tenure in 2006. A renowned computer scientist and scholar, President Klawe is the first woman to lead the college since its founding in 1955. Prior to joining HMC, she served as Dean of Engineering and Professor of Computer Science at Princeton University. During her time at Princeton, Maria led the School of Engineering and Applied Science through a strategic planning exercise that created an exciting and widely embraced vision for the school.
At Harvey Mudd College she led a similarly ambitious strategic planning initiative, “HMC 2020: Envisioning the Future.” Maria joined Princeton from the University of British Columbia where she served as Dean of Science from 1998 to 2002, vice president of student and academic services from 1995 to 1998 and head of the Department of Computer Science from 1988 to 1995. Prior to UBC, Maria spent eight years with IBM Research in California, and two years at the University of Toronto. She received her Ph.D. (1977) and B.Sc. (1973) in Mathematics from the University of Alberta. Maria has made significant research contributions in several areas of mathematics and computer science including functional analysis, discrete mathematics, theoretical computer science, human-computer interaction, gender issues in information technology, and interactive-multimedia for mathematics education.
Her current research focuses on the development and use of multi-modal applications to assist people with aphasia and other cognitive impairments. Maria is a past president of the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) in New York, chair of the Board of Trustees of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology in Palo Alto, and a trustee of the Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics in Los Angeles and the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley. In the past Maria has held leadership positions with the American Mathematical Society, the Computing Research Association, the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, and the Canadian Mathematical Society.
Maria is one of the 10 members of the board of Microsoft Corporation, a board member of the nonprofit Math for America, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and past chair of the board for the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology in Palo Alto, Calif. She was elected as a fellow of the Association of Computing Machinery in 1996 and as a founding fellow of the Canadian Information Processing Society in 2006. Other awards include Vancouver YWCA Women of Distinction Award in Science and Technology (1997), Wired Woman Pioneer (2001), Canadian New Media Educator of the Year (2001), BC Science Council Champion of the Year (2001), University of Alberta Distinguished Alumna (2003), Nico Habermann Award (2004), and honorary doctorates from Acadia University (2006), Dalhousie University (2005), Queen’s University (2004), the University of Waterloo (2003) and Ryerson University (2001).
To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link
Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic
The last time we chatted, you were in your first year as President of HMC. Since that time, what were the most urgent issues you dealt with?
“….We launched a pretty high level strategic vision in February 2007….Since then we have been working on a more detailed implementation strategic plan and preparing a fundraising campaign that will provide the resources that we need to achieve the strategic mission….”
How are you making further inroads with HMC and can you spotlight some success stories?
“….Our percentage of female students has increased significantly….We’ve got the largest gift in the history of the college….It’s that gift that’s enabling a lot of the planning going forward….”
Can you talk further about your initiatives for Woman in Science, Engineering, and Technology?
“….Women are still seriously under-represented in some areas of science and engineering….To change this you really have to recruit more women to these fields, adapting the culture in these fields so that they are supportive of non-traditional members as well as the core traditional members….”
What are the outcomes from your international projects and initiatives and where is this work/program heading?
“….This year we have four international collaborations going on. We’ve had two in Singapore (both of them around environmental issues)….We have a collaboration with Iceland (around alternative energy sources)….We also have an on-going project in Kenya (developing better techniques for purifying water in a village)….We’ve also had collaborations working with an AIDS support organization in Uganda (developing databases to store medical information but also doing mathematical modeling on how the epidemic is spreading)….”
How are you working on improving diversity on all fronts?
“….We are working hard (in addition to recruiting people) on working on our culture to make sure it really is supportive of minority students and female students once they get here….We are doing a lot of assessment of outcomes of different approaches to doing things and trying to find out what is most successful….”
Where do you see the education sector heading?
“….I think where the education sector is going is that it’s starting to realize that even for non-science and non-engineering majors, they need to understand computer science, mathematics – all of the things that are influencing the direction of the world….I think that it is starting to realize that we need to graduate different kinds of people from what we have graduated in the past….”
In April you were elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. What did this mean to you and how will it impact your roles?
“…It’s a great opportunity for networking. If there is something I’ve learned over the last several years it is the importance of networking and particularly as president of a college that is not nearly as well known as it ought to be….”
Harvey Mudd College (HMC) is one of the top engineering colleges in North America. Dr. Klawe shares some of the top rankings that HMC has attained.
Dr. Klawe talks about her work with the National IT Taskforce.
You became a US Citizen. Can you share a few stories from this journey and from the ceremony?
“….I have dual citizenship, I’m a Canadian and a US citizen….I am really glad to become a US citizen. As the leader of a college that is in the United States and as somebody who really cares about science and engineering education and research, it’s important to actually step up and say I take responsibility for being a citizen of the country that I’m living in and working in at this point….”
A significant number in our audience come from community organizations of IT professionals. You also are a role model to so many communities. Of particular interest is your prestigious appointment to the Microsoft Board of Directors: first college president, and second woman. Can you describe the process of becoming a board member?
“….I have to say that this is one of the most fascinating things I have ever done in my life….There is so much to learn and it is so interesting….”
What do you hope to accomplish as a Board Director and how will you drive these initiatives forward?
“….Most of the people on the board come from large corporate backgrounds….I think they were looking for somebody who was really a technologist….somebody who would bridge the business culture of the board and the technology culture of the company….”
How will your board position impact your many roles? Can you provide specific examples?
“….There is no question that it has increased my credibility even at Harvey Mudd….I think serving on the board will leverage pretty much everything I do….and is very synchronous with everything that I do….”
How do you manage change?
“….One of the things is the ability to change in response to changing circumstances ….The key is paying attention to what the cultures are and being able to work effectively across the different kinds of cultures….”
Do you continue your work as a catalyst for new startup ventures? In which areas and how will you do this?
“….A lot of it is networking….”
Where do you see volunteerism in the future – what are your recommendations for the audience?
“….Being a volunteer is one of the best ways to network….If there is something that you really care about, find a way to get involved as a volunteer to support that. You’ll meet people with like-minded interests and you’ll make a difference….”
Please make predictions for the future, their implications, and how we can best prepare?
“….We need to start focusing on the major challenges facing the world and we need to do it in all parts of our society from local groups, to large institutions, to major corporations….”
Maria, you are continually selected as one of the top researchers and senior academics. How do you wish to continue to shape the world and contribute to the fabric of history?
“….Change the culture of science and engineering so that it is supportive of everyone – whether it is women, minorities, poets, artists….or whatever….”
If you were conducting this interview, what questions would you ask, and then what would be your answers?
“….’What am I most proud of in my life?’….’To what do I attribute my success?’….’What is my favorite job, ever?’….”