This is the next blog in the continuing series of interviews with top-echelon and renowned professionals. In this blog, I interview “Leading International Authority and Scientist, Dr. Stephen Seidman, Dean Texas State University, CSAB President who talks about software engineering, the computing profession, professionalism and certification, and computing education.”
Stephen B. Seidman is Dean of the College of Science at Texas State University in San Marcos, TX. He received the B.S. degree in mathematics from City College of New York in 1964 and the Ph.D. degree in mathematics from the University of Michigan in 1969. Before joining Texas State in August 2009, he held administrative positions at several universities. These positions include Dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at the University of Central Arkansas (2006-09), founding Dean of the College of Computing Sciences at New Jersey Institute of Technology (2001-05), chair of the Department of Computer Science at Colorado State University (1996-2001), and head of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Auburn University (1990-96). Dr. Seidman also held faculty positions at New York University and George Mason University.
Dr. Seidman has an active interest in computing education and professionalism. He played a leading role in the development of an international standard for software engineering certification, and he has worked with the IP3 effort to develop a program to accredit computing societies certify information technology professionals.
Dr. Seidman is a long-term IEEE Computer Society volunteer. He has been a member of the IEEE-CS Board of Governors (2003-05) and the IEEE-CS Executive Committee (2005-08). He has served the Computer Society as Secretary (2005), Treasurer (2006) and Vice-President for Educational Activities (2007-2008). Dr. Seidman has been a member of the CSAB (US computing accreditation) board since 2006; he is currently (2009-11) serving as CSAB president.
To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link
Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic
Can you discuss your prior roles and some key lessons that you wish to pass on?
"....My research interests have been in social networks, high-performance computing and software architectures. I've also been very involved in professional society activities, primarily dealing with computing education, professionalism, and accreditation...."
What do you consider to be your top contributions?
"....In computer science - developing formal models for module interconnection languages and software architectural styles....Professionally - helping to create an international standard for software engineering certification schemes....Serving on the team that developed an international approach to IT professional certification...."
In your prior roles, what were the most difficult challenges that you were not able to overcome at that time? What would you do differently now?
"....Achieving acceptance for my approach to modeling software architectural styles....Trying to build consensus in a newly created computing college....Dealing with political battles and turf wars in a professional society...."
What were the key disruptive forces driving change in your life and how can we learn from your experiences?
"....The primary disruptive force - the rapid growth of computing, its emergence as multiple academic disciplines, as well as the constructive and destructive conflict between these disciplines...."
In each of your current roles, what are the biggest challenges and their solutions?
"....As Dean of the College of Science at Texas State University, the challenges are to bring the college to fulfill its research potential while preserving the quality of undergraduate education in all of our disciplines, and that includes computer science, mathematics, natural/physical sciences, engineering and technology, and also to nurture the growth of the Ingram School of Engineering within a college of science....As president of CSAB, to continue the growth of computing accreditation in the United States across an every expanding array of disciplines...."
How does the widespread adoption of the phrase "software engineering" since 1968 impact the way software development is taught in universities?
"....The fact that the word is now there has given conventional, traditional engineers a claim over software engineering and has often forced software development to be taught in the colleges of engineering, often separated by academic borders from the teaching of computer science...."
What does it mean for computing/informatics to be a profession and how do views of computing professionalism vary across countries?
"....My work on an international standard for software engineering certification made me aware of cultural and national perspectives on professionalism...."
How does the word "engineering" as applied to computing disciplines differ between countries?
"....In North America, "engineering" is applied primarily to disciplines dealing with physical systems (e.g. computer, electrical, chemical, mechanical, aerospace, etc.). This can be extended to software, but not without difficulty. In Spanish-speaking countries, the term can be used much more broadly (e.g. information technology engineering)...."
What should all undergraduate students learn about computing and informatics?
"....They should become comfortable with negotiating an increasingly information-centric world and with the tools that can help them to do so...."
Can you apply the last question to pre-university students?
"....This is also the case for pre-university students. Unfortunately, most IT offerings at the pre-university level (at least in the US) deal only with the use of familiar business software tools (word processors, spreadsheets, presentation software)...."
What impact does the adoption of international standards have on the development of more reliable software?
"....Most software engineering standards deal with process, not product. This topic needs serious attention...."
How can partnerships improve computing education?
"....Computing education requires a partnership with industry. For example, software engineering students need to work on industrial-strength software systems, just as first-year medical students need to work on cadavers. Such systems are not generally available for academic use...."
You choose the areas - can you provide your predictions of future trends and their implications/opportunities?
"....Embedded systems will play an ever increasing role in all aspects of our lives....Computer games have become an important sector of the computing industry...."
If you were doing this interview, what questions would you ask and then what would be your answers?
"....'What was your first experience with computing?'....'How did you choose computing as a profession?'....'How did this feed back into your academic career?'...."