This is the next blog in the continuing series of interviews with top-echelon and renowned professionals. In this blog, I interview Dr. Joseph Turner, Internationally Awarded Authority in Computer Science and Education, Fellow ACM/ABET/CSAB, Chair of the Seoul Accord, Vice-President and Chair of the Publications Committee of IFIP, Chair of the Accreditation Council Training Committee for ABET, and Team Chair for ABET Computing Accreditation Evaluations.
Joe Turner currently serves as Chair of the Seoul Accord, an international organization for the mutual recognition of accreditation agencies for computing programs. His current activities also include serving as a Vice-President and Chair of the Publications Committee of IFIP (International Federation for Information Processing), Chair of the Accreditation Council Training Committee for ABET (the US accrediting agency for programs in applied science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology), and Team Chair for ABET computing accreditation evaluations. He has previously served as Vice-President of the ACM, President of the Computing Sciences Accreditation Board (CSAB), Chairman of the ACM Education Board, and as a member of the Boards of Directors of the Computing Research Association, the National Educational Computing Association, and the Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors. He has served more than 20 times as a consultant and on evaluation teams for computer science programs at the undergraduate, masters, and doctoral levels both for individual institutions and for state agencies, and has chaired more than 25 accreditation evaluation teams.
Joe received the PhD in Computer Science from the University of Maryland in 1976. He also received BS and MS degrees in Applied Mathematics from Georgia Tech in 1961 and 1966, respectively. He joined Clemson University in 1975 as Assistant Professor of Mathematical Sciences, served as Head of the Department of Computer Science from 1978 to 1992, and retired as Professor of Computer Science in 2000. He also 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.
Joe's honors include the ACM Outstanding Contribution Award and the ACM SIGCSE Award for Lifetime Service. He is a Fellow of the ACM, ABET, and CSAB.
To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link
Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic
Joe, can discuss your prior roles and key lessons that you wish to pass on?
"....I'm fortunate to have had active roles at many levels: local, regional, national, international. These experiences have provided different perspectives on similar problems and objectives and I've learned a lot...."
What do you consider to be your top 3 contributions?
"....Contributions to the establishment of the Seoul Accord....Contributions to establishing cooperation between the ACM and the IEEE-CS in curriculum development efforts....Contributions to the establishment of accreditation for computing programs in the United States...."
What were the key disruptive forces driving change in your life and how can we learn from your experiences?
"....I can think of some events or guiding principles in my life....Attending college a reasonable distance from home helped instill the importance of open-mindedness and analytical thinking....Living more than briefly in another culture reinforced knowledge that what works well in one culture doesn't necessarily work well in another....Taking the long view that it is better to do things that will have lasting and long-term benefit and value than to do things that produce more immediate results...."
In each of your current roles, what are the biggest challenges, and their solutions?
"....For the Seoul Accord, it is for it to become well established and recognized internationally as the leading authority on quality standards for post-secondary computing education....For the IFIP Publications Committee, it is to improve the quality and recognition for the IFIP publications....For the ABET Training Committee, it is to provide training that improves the quality and effectiveness of the program evaluators and team chairs for accreditation evaluations...."
Can you define Seoul Accord? Who are the members of the Seoul Accord and how did it come about?
"....It is an agreement among accreditation agencies in various countries for mutual recognition of the accreditation process insofar as it adequately prepares graduates of accredited programs for entry into the computing profession.... The primary purpose is to establish some sort of mechanism that can be used to identify programs that could be considered substantially equivalent in various areas of the world as far as producing competently prepared computing professionals ...."
IFIP is a UN-founded body and an official UNESCO consultative body. Can you comment further about IFIP itself?
"....IFIP is the International Federation for Information Processing. The members of IFIP are computing societies.... It is a confederation of computing organizations that are trying to provide a forum and a way for cross country co-operation and efforts relative to information technology and information communications technology....."
Can you define ABET?
"....ABET is a US organization for accreditation in applied science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology. ABET has four commissions which carry out the evaluation and accreditation activities for the programs in different areas...."
Can you talk more about the accreditation of academic degree programs and how this work is progressing in the US and internationally?
"....I think that it has had a very big impact on the overall quality of computing education. It has caused many programs to strengthen in order to achieve accreditation and overall this has been a benefit to the students...."
What are your views on the education of computing professionals?
"....In general I think it is a difficult thing to achieve a good balance between theoretical foundations and practice...."
Can you extend the last question to include your views on international credentials for computing professionals?
"....In general there are two kinds of credentials for professionals. The diploma from an accredited program to enter a profession and the certificate of achievement or license. Currently both kinds of credentials are provided independently in different ways in different countries, although some certifications in certain areas are offered by computing companies and apply uniformly around the world.....The Seoul Accord seeks to establish a kind of equivalence - at least an equivalence in terms of outcomes relative to preparation to professional practice. Similarly IFIP has organized a consortium of computing societies with industrial partners to establish a certification process for IT professionals that will apply across national boundaries...."
How is work progressing on international standards for computing education? What do you hope to achieve?
"....What we've done with the Seoul Accord is that we've established a set of attributes....These attributes specify the capabilities that should be achieved by graduates of accredited baccalaureate-level computing programs. By specifying the final output regardless of processes, (what the graduates should have), we avoided the need to try to define equivalence of criteria or processes or standards for different accreditation agencies and avoided having to address any differences in educational systems etc....We are still very early in our development and are still very busy at doing a lot of routine work on procedures and organization and just getting the framework and mechanisms established, but we are pretty optimistic about the future...."
How can partnerships improve computing education?
"....It is important to have partnerships with companies that employ a computing professional because this provides an important link with those who will hire the computing graduates and helps to keep the program more relevant and more aware of needs for improvement....It's also important to have partnerships among organizations (eg. ACM and IEEE Computing Society) which has been recognized around the world as establishing important recommendations for computing programs. The work through IFIP on an international level is really a partnership of organizations and the IP3 work is also a partnership in that it brings in international computing companies as well as some professional organizations from various countries...."
You choose the areas--provide your predictions of future trends and their implications/opportunities?
"....Having observed the inaccuracy of most predictions of the future in computing, I try to avoid making any predictions. Although I do not have any idea what the advances in technology will be, computing and communication will continue to merge, become more ubiquitous, and become more cost-effective. This will bring new opportunities and challenges for education...."
Which are your top recommended resources and why?
"....For information resources, the publications and conferences of the major computing societies....There's no substitute for good people...."
Joe shares some stories to share from his many roles and experiences.
"...We need to be reminded that there are a lot of things that make for successful contributors...."
If you were doing this interview, what 3 questions would you ask and then what would be your answers?
"....'Why would anyone want to devote so much effort to volunteer professional activities?'....'Should everyone try to be a volunteer in professional activities?'....'Should every computing program seek accreditation?'...."