This is the next blog in the continuing series of interviews with top-echelon and renowned professionals. In this blog, I interview “Distinguished Scientist, Educator, Author, Artist, Leader, Activist; Dr. Netiva Caftori shares her insights into computing, education, the global condition, the future of technology, and career and life lessons.”
Born in Tel-Aviv, Israel, Netiva Caftori lived her youth in Paris, France, and graduated from École Alsacienne High School there. Returning to her native land she served in the Israeli air force at first as a math and physics teacher to young recruits, then as a 2nd lieutenant in charge of 300 female teachers.
After completing her compulsory military service, Netiva studied math and French at Tel-Aviv University for 2 years, then married (an American tourist) and moved to the US to obtain her 3 degrees at the University of Illinois in Chicago. All the while she worked in the IT industry and devoted nearly 30 years of her life to teaching and research.
While spending another year in Paris with her young family (91-92) working on her doctoral thesis, Netiva started painting, a path she instinctively pursued in her father David Caftori’s footsteps, who had more than 50 year career as an artist. In the following years she participated with her own works exhibiting in dozens of art displays.
Dr. Caftori, Professor of Computer Science and Woman’s Studies, has a long career as an activist and leader. She has served as a:
- Guest editor on Women in IT for Computer Society of India (CSI) Communications
- Board Member of CPSR (Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility)
- Member of ACM Professional Development committee
- Fulbright Scholar to Benin National University in Benin, Africa
- Editor on Bell News Letter Editorial Board
- Reviewer for Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering and other journals
- Doctoral Thesis Discussant for numerous ACM Sigs
- Cable Commissioner for City of Skokie, Illinois
- Officer on BOD of Temple Judea Mitzpah in Skokie, Illinois
- On the regional BOD of the Association of Reform Zionism of America (ARZA)
Dr. Caftori has written or contributed significantly to 8 books ranging from highly technical to highly personal. For instance, she wrote large portions of a book on computer security published on her website. She also wrote and illustrated 2 books relating to the loss of her *** to cancer. These are now being translated into French and German.
Dr. Caftori has developed about 40 major papers and presentations for journals and conferences, as well as designed and taught at a university level many courses during her tenure at NEIU. Netiva Caftori maintains an extensive life journal of her work and travel on her website www.neiu.edu/~ncaftori.
In addition to her own professional work, Dr Caftori has raised 3 daughters who have contributed significantly to their generation in areas ranging from art and theater to medicine and archeology. Dr. Caftori and her husband have as a team headed parent fundraising for the University of Chicago. They have worked for their Temple Judea-Mitzpah in Skokie, and walked and crewed for Avon, 2-3 day walk for *** cancer, and the European AIDS vaccine ride, among other worthwhile community outreach programs.
To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link
Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic
Netiva profiles her remarkable history.
Can you tell us more about École Alsacienne High School that you went to in Paris?
“….That school really recognized the value of foreign people. I was treated with respect and was well accepted and welcomed and that made a big difference. I still keep in touch with my friends there…..”
What career and personal lessons do you wish to pass on from your journey of many successes?
“….Perseverance and patience….Love, a smile, lend a hand, be a good friend….Balancing career and family are very important….”
What one defining lesson can you pass on from each of your many roles?
“….To volunteer, initiate, to take risks….To listen to others because they have a story to tell….Integrating into a new culture….Trust yourself, take initiative and do well….Be a role model so that women more than ever before can do more in this area of technology….”
What were the key disruptive forces driving change in your life and how can we learn from your experiences?
“….One disruptive force is all my moving about….Moving around forced me into the computer science, into the mathematics….Children are another disruptive force. I would never give up on that. My children were the happiest moments of my life…..”
What are your research interests?
“….Women in Computing ….Ethics ….Security….Computing Education….”
Please share your most important insights distilled from your many articles and presentations?
“….My first discovery, just through doing research, was that men and women had totally different answers to my questionnaire….Another area of research was in Computers and Privacy – that email is not private….Computers in Education – One paper I wrote was on operating systems. I taught operating systems to my students and it can be a boring topic. I found a way of teaching it involving role play….”
Which courses do you enjoy teaching the most and why?
“….I learned that I had to combine the many loves that I had with the job that I had….So what I did was I created interdisciplinary courses. Over the years it has matured; right now at Northeastern we are developing a whole program of interdisciplinary studies. ….”
What are your thoughts on online and hybrid learning?
“….Throughout the country rural areas have a hard time accessing a computer or university so online classes can be very attractive….There are other advantages to having online courses….Online, everybody gets equal chances and usually a good teacher will ask the students to participate so many times a week so people will be compelled to participate….Another advantage is the self-pace….The one big disadvantage for me is the social contact. So in a way a hybrid is a nice combination between the two….Communication is happening a lot online….I hope we are not totally giving up on the person-to-person touch….”
Can you comment on your presentation on Women in Computing?
“….Every year I do a presentation on Women in Computing at my school….Women like to attach the technology to the real world. We like to do things that can help other people (that’s why there are so many teachers, nurses and librarians who are women), so why not combine that with the technology….We can also look at it from the diversity and democracy point of view….In business and in industry, if only one kind of person works on a product, you get a product which is not well-balanced….I think a team that works on a product should be diversified….”
Netiva shares some interesting stories from her time in Africa.
“….I invite you to go to my website at: www.netiva.net and look for my Benin Journal….If you find something in my pictures or my experiences from my year in Benin, go ahead, I am inviting you to use it. Just give me credit for what you take….”
In each of your current roles, what are the biggest challenges, and their solutions?
“….Keeping up with my students….I’m also looking forward to being retired in a year and a half. I believe that I have another half-life ahead of me, and I’m looking forward to doing new things and it is a big challenge to find something very motivating….”
What are the major technology trends and what do we need to do to take advantage of them?
“….Being in the clouds….Sharing more easily with others and doing collaboration…..The storage capacity together with the cloud computing can go hand in hand and work together and help each other….I think collaboration is the world of the future and we can create new things that can save us all….”
Which are your top recommended resources for IT professionals and why?
“….Association of Computing Machinery (ACM)….Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR) Activist’s list….New York Times….I listen to NPR….”
Do you have any added stories that you want to share from your work?
“….We were one of the first to use email on a daily basis and that was back in the late 70’s. Now the social networks are the way for the young to communicate….”
Why is art so important to you?
“….It occupies my mind and yet the creativity is such a wonderful thing. Men and women are born to be creative and this is my venue. I think everybody should find a way to express themselves….”
If you were doing this interview, what questions would you ask and then what would be your answers?
“….’Do you have any regrets?’….Do you have any advice for the young?’….”